For those of you who follow my writing in the Sentinel newspapers, you are probably aware that as far back as September of 2019, yes, 2019, that I, like many other pundits, expected a Joe Biden candidacy to likely be successful in the Midwest states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan and, in winning those states, be on track to win the presidency in the next election. That, of course, is what has taken place in the 2020 election.
I anticipated this result for two main reasons both involving voter turnout, especially turnout in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. First, Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton. Whether justified or not, Hillary Clinton was not a likable candidate regardless of her qualifications. It was more than reasonable to expect that a Joe Biden candidacy would attract a larger turnout of African American voters who had voted for Barack Obama but stayed home for Hillary Clinton in these three large population cities thereby overcoming the 77,000 total votes which turned these three blue states red in 2016.
The second reason to have expected a larger turnout in 2020 was the turnout in the 2018 midterm elections. It was more than reasonable to assume that if the Trump presidency motivated an anti-Trump turnout in 2018 resulting in an historic blue wave in the House of Representatives, that turnout would be even greater in an election year to defeat Donald Trump.
To a great extent, I was correct in these assumptions as evidenced by the overall increase in voter turnout across the entire nation resulting in an increase from approximately 66 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to approximately 74 million votes, a record number for any candidate ever to run for president, for Joe Biden in 2020. What I did not anticipate, however, was that just as Trump motivated a large turnout against him, so, too, did he motivate a large turnout for him increasing his 2016 vote total of some 63 million to almost 70 million in 2020. If nothing else, Trump can at least find comfort in the fact that he finally amassed a greater popular vote than did Hillary Clinton.
What I also did not anticipate is the degree to which pollsters could get the results so wrong once again. Granted, the excuse in 2016 was that, even though Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls, pollsters claimed that their numbers were still within the margin of error. That is not the case in 2020 which saw the polls put Biden ahead in critical swing states well above the margin of error. The result: no turning Ohio, Florida, Texas and the like blue from red and no landslide called election eve AND any chance of Democrats taking back the Senate relies on long-shot wins in two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5th.
So, where do we now find ourselves even with Joe Biden in the White House? Answer: In an ever widening political divide in our nation, but with the hope and expectation that Joe Biden is the president who will be able to narrow that divide. Will his 47 years experience in Congress and the White House give him the know how, the relationships, the understanding to be able to diminish the obstructionism experienced by Barack Obama during the last six years of his presidency? Will Joe Biden be as effective as LBJ was in turning Congressional resistance into compromise to pass needed legislation?
Maybe even more important than a focus on Congress is the need to understand exactly who the Trump voter actually is. The Trump voters can't be thrown into one basket. Yes, if you are a racist, you voted for Trump, but Trump voters are also people who want no restrictions on gun ownership, immigrants who do not want any other immigrants coming into the country more easily than they did, people who place more importance on the life of the unborn than those already born, the ultra wealthy who are happy with their 401Ks and their tax breaks and place their importance above anything else, those who believe moving Israel's capital to Jerusalem somehow makes Israel more secure, and, yes, you also have cult members who believe anything coming out of the mouth of their cult leader is real.
With such a varied group it is hard to make inroads but that is the challenge ahead if the divide is ever to be narrowed. Moreover, the challenge to narrow the divide is compounded by the presence of a disgruntled ex-president who will continue to widen the divide with his relentless divisive rhetoric.
This creates another major decision that will have to be made by the new president. The Special Counsel investigation conducted by Robert Mueller concluded that, because the investigation was under the auspices of the Department of Justice, their findings had to be consistent with department policy which includes the Office of Legal Counsel's policy that sitting presidents cannot be indicted. Now that Trump will no longer be a sitting president, should the new Attorney General go forward with indictments? Would to do so widen the divide or would indicting Trump be the only way to shut down his attempts to undermine the Biden administration similarly to how Trump undermined the Obama administration with his birther claims?
These are the challenges ahead if we will ever be able to tackle the real issues that face the nation both domestically and internationally.