We were wrong. Most of us thought the 2020 election was a race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. That’s the way presidential elections usually work. But it was not a usual night.
Trump showed through his unhinged actions (declaring premature victory, calling for an end to ballot counting and threats to go to the Supreme Court) that he was running against democracy and the idea that every vote should be counted.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden and the Democrats seemed to be running against the electoral college, that antiquated system devised 233 years ago by a constitutional convention heavily influenced by states righters and slave owners. Today there are few who disagree that the electoral college system is badly flawed and needs to be changed to preserve our democracy. Cures such as the popular vote compacts favored by many states and just approved by Colorado voters (voluntarily agreeing to vote the state’s delegation according to who wins the national popular vote) deserve backing. But, as Tuesday night showed, there are unlikely to be any easy fixes soon.
If we learned anything from the 2020 election it is that Trumpism still commands a vast minority of U. S. voters (some 60 million plus), more than polls and pundits were initially willing to concede.
Assuming, as many now do, that Biden eventually will reach the magic 270 number of electoral voters, it will be necessary to steel ourselves for the hard work of bridging the division between Trumpism and democracy. A Biden administration would find it necessary to govern from the middle, a dangerous part of the road to occupy.
A couple of thoughts on what else we learned:
- Voters apparently like mood-altering substances. They opted to approve marijuana use in Arizona, Montana and New Jersey. In Oregon, voters went a step farther and looked favorably on magic mushrooms and possession of small amounts of hard drugs.
- Women matter. In Washington state, women voted overwhelmingly for Biden — 66 percent to 32 percent, while menfolk headed the opposite direction, splitting 48-46 percent in favor of Trump.
- Even during a pandemic and economic recession, Puget Sound voters (as usual) opened their wallets and approved money measures. In Seattle voters opted for a transit sales tax; in Kirkland for an upgrade of fire and emergency services, and in King County for a measure to build a new medical tower and upgrade services at Harborview Medical Center.