Here is where the country stands two days from Election Day
After a long summer filled with social distancing, civil protests, fanless baseball and acrimonious political attacks, we finally arrive at the moment of national choosing. Polls will open in the Election of 2020 in less than 48 hours as both sides appear confident in the outcome. Although final polling shows Biden maintaining a steady 5% national lead, the swing states that will determine the election remain difficult to forecast. 35 Senatorial elections will dictate the balance of power in the upper chamber and all 435 Representatives of the House will be chosen. The political direction of the United States government is once again in the hands of the American people.
Democratic unity has been strong since putting on a professional, yet socially distanced National Convention in Milwaukee. The entire spectrum of democratic values and ideas was on display in speeches by Senator Cory Booker, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris. But as expected, it was former President Barack Obama who brought the house down with a devastating, yet nuanced attack on Trumpism and a passionate message for a return of American leadership. The prime-time speech was delivered with the articulation and panache the former president is known for.
Enthusiasm has surged around the Biden campaign after Kamala Harris joined the ticket in late July. The tumultuous events of the summer, particularly the twelve days of civil unrest and the heavy handed police response, clearly delineated what four more years of Trump might look like for minorities in America. The President’s mishandling of multiple crises led to disproportionate deaths in the African American community and has erased any perceived shortcoming in enthusiasm for Democrats, especially for voters of color.
The progressive wing of the Democratic party has been able to shift the party’s platform slightly to the left, with a modest tuition debt forgiveness plan and national legalization of marijuana. These minimal concessions delivered the necessary ideological cohesion behind Biden, bolstering a sense of confidence going into the election. The TwitterQuake of approval that followed Joe Biden’s convention speech is one of many positive omens for the Democrats.
The Biden campaign played more political hardball in the media and at the podium than the Democrats are traditionally known for. Regular appearances by Barack Obama and blistering attacks by the Lincoln Project have had an outside influence on campaign messaging and advertisements. Kamala Harris’ viral evisceration of Mike Pence during the lone Vice Presidential debate drew comparisons to Lloyd Bentsen’s take down of Dan Quayle during the 1988 cycle. Pence has since been relegated to the sideline for much of the summer. Ultimately, it took ex-Republicans to show Democrats how to bring at least a BB gun to a nuclear missile fight.
On the right, the Republican convention was a chaotic, multi-city event. Originally planned for Charlotte, the main nominating portion of the four-night event was moved to the Pensacola Bay Center in Florida’s panhandle where Governor Ron DeSantis waived all forms of public health restrictions allowing Trump to have the fully populated coronation he was looking for. Throughout the campaign, Trump has been cultivating his supporters into an alternative-reality frenzy. The political attacks on Biden have been voluminous, conspiracy laced, and mostly ineffective on the generally well liked candidate as the race has remained remarkably steady despite an onslaught of global news events.
Trump’s latest hyperbolic euphemism has been in heavy rotation on the tail end of the campaign trail. “Everyone has been saying I will win in a landslide” the President declared once again in his final public appearance before the election. Despite a complete lack of polling to support such an outcome, Fox News has been relentlessly echoing this unsubstantiated claim. Since late spring, Trump and his media apparatus have been gaslighting supporters into believing if he is not reelected, then something nefarious must have occurred. He's spent much of the campaign priming them to defend his contention should it be necessary.
COVID-19 remains a constant threat and disruptive issue for the election. Multiple vaccines continue to make progress in encouraging clinical trials, but it has become clear any vaccine is unlikely to be universally effective and COVID-19 will be with us for some time. Further news has been scarce as the Coronavirus Task Force has made few appearances as of late. Coronavirus anxiety has subsided in some parts of the country during the summer of 2020—but with the oft predicted fall resurgence upon us, there is no reason to relax the protective measures that some states readopted at the beginning of the second wave. With over 3,000,000 cases and 200,000 deaths in the US, going to the polls will come with a certain degree of risk.
Prior to the 2016 Election, only five states had no-excuse vote-by-mail as an option for all registered voters. In the face of the pandemic, almost forty states have greatly expanded vote-by-mail provisions. Five states, all with Democratic governors and GOP state legislatures, were met with lawsuits challenging the expanded vote-by-mail provisions. None were successful and the Supreme Court declined to intervene reaffirming the constitutional authority the states have to govern their own elections.
The US Postal Service remains significantly underfunded after being excluded from the fourth stimulus bill. Most state administrations are reportedly unprepared for the surge in ballots that will be cast in absentia. Georgia, with two Senatorial seats and sixteen electoral college votes on the line, failed to deliver a large number of requested ballots in urban districts. Governor Brian Kemp claimed the state did not anticipate the popularity of vote-by-mail and simply did not print enough ballots. Stacy Abrams and Fair Fight, the voter’s justice group, have already injected their suspicions into the social discourse. If it’s close, Georgia may well become a center of controversy.
The country remains on a knife’s edge. The stakes are an order of magnitude higher than they were in 2016. The political and social atmosphere is extremely volatile. And, lest we forget, there’s a pandemic. In forty-eight hours, the most significant election in modern history will take place.
In the words of Samuel L. Jackson, “hold onto your butts.”
Dispatch270 will provide live coverage of Election Day starting at 6:00AM.