Two big myths may be in danger of getting busted after the 2020 election.
First, that President Trump is invincible, a political Houdini who would exhaust any means necessary to stay in power — and would inevitably succeed. And second, that if he somehow failed, it would spell the end of his creation, Trumpism, the alternate-reality politics and ethno-nationalist populism that have taken over the Republican Party.
Both of those assumptions may have been wrong.
Joe Biden has now won 253 electoral votes and has multiple routes to the White House, with five swing states still undecided and uncounted votes in several likely to favor him. While Trump has not indicated that he has any plans to concede, and his campaign insists he could still prevail, at this point a path to victory would most likely run through the courts. It’s a hard road ahead for him.
At the same time, if Democrats end up declaring a victory over all, it will be a beleaguered one. Not only did Trump outperform their expectations in the battlegrounds, but Democratic candidates for both the House and the Senate also lost races — some in states that split their tickets and favored Biden for president — that the party had been fairly confident about. They included the fight for Susan Collins’s Senate seat in Maine, a House race in Miami-Dade County and another in eastern Iowa.
In a letter to House Democrats yesterday, Nancy Pelosi acknowledged that it had been “a challenging election.” Which means that for Republicans, almost all of whom ran with their arms wrapped around the president’s politics this year, Trump’s brand is not altogether invalidated. That’s in spite of him looking increasingly likely to lose his re-election bid, a rarity for United States presidents.
If he moves ahead with legal challenges to the counting of votes, Trump could have one big advantage: Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom he appointed in September and the Senate confirmed last month. She never committed to recusing herself in any election-related cases that might come before the court involving the man who had appointed her.
Barrett’s presence on the court means that the conservative wing wouldn’t need Chief Justice John Roberts, who has shown more reluctance than others to endorse Republican voting challenges, to form a majority.
But Biden has an advantage too: The results have been all but settled, as far as some states are concerned. Michigan and Wisconsin officials have released close to 99 percent of the votes to be tallied, and there is little uncertainty about the results. Without the public perception advantage that George W. Bush had in 2000, it becomes far more complicated for Trump to demand something as drastic as overturning an election.
The president’s remarks in the wee hours of election night, when he brazenly accused election officials across the country of fraud for allowing mail ballots to be counted, became the subject of broad condemnation the next day.
Biden delivered brief, prepared remarks to reporters, with his running mate, Kamala Harris, at his side as he reiterated that his campaign saw an all-but-certain path to 270 electoral votes.
“Yesterday once again proved that democracy is the heartbeat of this nation,” Biden said, pointing out that turnout had broken records. “I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished we believe we will be the winner.”
As Trump and members of his team made false claims that Pennsylvania was being stolen from them as mail ballots were counted, the state’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, vowed to tally every last vote.
“Pennsylvania will have a fair election, and that election will be free of outside influences,” Wolf said. “I will vigorously and we all will vigorously defend against any attempt to attack that vote in Pennsylvania.” The state, which was widely seen as a likely linchpin of this election, will continue until Friday to accept mailed ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 3.