November 5, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Stop saying America is divided. It isn’t
A massive majority saw the danger and put a stop to it.
The vote counting continues. The former vice president is in the lead after taking Wisconsin and Michigan Wednesday. Joe Biden needs one or two more states to win. (There’s some dispute over Arizona; the AP, Fox and Bloomberg called it for Biden but other outlets have not yet.) The Democratic tally is growing in Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. I’m told Biden’s odds are good in all. If he wins them, he will have flipped five states Donald Trump won. The way I see it, that’s a blue wave.
The president, meanwhile, is betting on a court fight. But as Bloomberg’s Ryan Teague Beckwith noted this morning: “The Trump team is fighting in too many states with too many arguments and not enough evidence, and it needs to win every one of them to pull this off.” My friend Seth Cotlar, a historian of white-wing politics, was less polite: “Trump is dealing with state election officials the same way he deals with contractors he’s stiffed. Just scream BS accusations at them and sue the hell out of them and hope they relent. It’s not gonna work in this context [of state election law].”
All of which is to say, it’s happening. We must be patient. But it’s happening.
This attitude isn’t changing. You don’t forget when millions of Americans vote for your and their own death by covid.
What’s always been certain is Biden winning the popular vote. What’s surprising is his winning more votes than anyone. I mean, like, ever. He’s at more than 71.7 million votes, as of this writing. That breaks Barack Obama’s record in 2008. The number is going to go higher as votes come in from California and other western strongholds. Some estimate that his final tally, when it’s all over but the shouting, could top 80 million. That plus the Electoral College victory equals not just a landslide defeat of one lying, thieving, philandering sadist. It’s a wholesale rejection of GOP orthodoxy. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 50.7 percent of the popular vote. Biden could eclipse 52.
Reagan built an enduring conservative coalition on the ashes of the mid-20th century liberalism. The future is unwritten, but it may be that Biden builds a new liberal coalition on the ashes Trump left behind. No one said the country was “closely divided” after Reagan stomped Jimmy Carter. No one said that after he stomped Walter Mondale four years later. Everyone agreed, even the Democrats who controlled the US Congress, that he and the Republican Party were establishing a coalition that would define politics for a generation. For this reason, congressional Democrats played ball. They wanted a seat at the table. Importantly, Reagan saw the opposition as having the right to sit at it. Today’s Republicans long ago stopped recognizing the political legitimacy of the Democrats. They forfeited conservatism. Despite Biden appearing to have stomped Donald Trump, they are preparing to sabotage him.
Here’s the tip jar! Put something nice in it!
This is important to point out for obvious reasons. Biden will have a popular mandate. There is no doubt. When Republicans obstruct Biden, and they will the way they did Obama, they will be obstructing America. But a less obvious reason for pointing this out is this. The conventional wisdom continues to insist that the country is divided symmetrically. Chris Hayes wrote Wednesday: “It’s a closely divided country. No political coalition can maintain dominance indefinitely, because the coalitions shift in response to events and competition. With all that said, the Democratic presidential candidate has gotten more votes in seven out of the last eight elections” (the italics are mine).
In fact, the country isn’t divided. The electorate is. But the electorate isn’t 50-50, not when one of the candidates nets a record-shattering number of votes. Biden is on track to win the biggest coalition this country has ever seen. He’s on track to best the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious coalition of his former boss. Continuing to insist uncritically that the US is divided down the middle not only blurs the line between country and electorate, it minimizes Biden’s and his coalition’s achievement. The majority has ruled. There is now a consensus. The incumbent should have one term. America should be a democratic republic, not a white-wing autocracy.
Some ask why 40 percent of the country voted for dictatorship. It’s simple. Democracy empowers people that 40 percent—representing 69 million voters—don’t like. As I argued Monday, it brought us Barack Obama. It will bring us Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. If you can’t accept that, if you can’t accept the political legitimacy of non-white people in positions of power, you’re probably willing to do anything to “right that wrong,” even if that means killing yourself. Yes, we came very close to seeing the reelection of a chaotic tyrant. More important, however, is a massive majority saw the danger and put a stop to it. I don’t see that attitude changing. You don’t forget when millions of Americans vote for your and their own death by covid. If the Republicans don’t play ball with Biden the way the Democrats once played ball with Reagan, they will be found out, and they will be punished on the next Election Day.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.