What an interesting day it has proved to be today. Meg and I were somewhat late this morning and we would not have been surprised if our little newspaper shop had run out of our regular newspapers. But the Gods must have looked kindly upon us for we got the last copy of The Times and the second last copy of The Guardian. Although the road traffic seemed relatively quiet this morning (lockdown finally having an effect?) the park seemed to be as busy as usual with young mothers, toddler children and dogs in every shape and variety. We met one of our regular friends who comes to the park as we do almost every day and we exchanged little bits of news with each other. When we got home, we had a light lunch of soup and settled down in front of the rolling news programmes as it was evident that the US elections were coming to some sort of climax.
Just before the inevitable announcement came, there was a bizarre announcement coming from the Trump camp that his lawyers were going to hold a kind of ‘press conference’ in an industrial estate and the rumours were rife that the lawyers might be able to produce a witness to an election fraud that they were going to parade in front of the media. However, just before the scheduled time of 4.30 the BBC ‘called’ the election, perhaps slightly in advance of the rest of the media conglomerates. As you might imagine when the news broke that the Biden camp had received another tranche of votes that pushed his lead to 34,000 the dam broke. The world’s media went mad (with joy?) at the news of the Biden victory and there was massive of ‘vox pop’ with crowds in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and elsewhere. In the meanwhile, Donald Trump was filmed off playing golf in Virginia – news of the lawyers’ press conference absolutely disappeared off the media agenda. (For conspiracy theorists, is this why the BBC ‘called’ the result in Philadelphia some five minutes before the lawyers’ press conference?)
In the meanwhile, a little bit of background (courtesy of Associated Press) to explain why the result was called when it was. The election officials knew that were only 60,000 votes left to process and to overcome this the Trump vote would have to have been about 75% of this. As all the postal vote had actually been 75% in favour of the Democrats and the election officials knew that the remaining vote was from very Democrat inclined areas (urban Philadelphia) then it would have been unlikely in the extreme (although not impossible) that Trump could garner these votes. The election officials waited until the gap between the candidates was 0.51% at which point an automatic recount could not be called (as it has to be 0.5% gap or smaller) and then gave ‘the nod’ to the media. I think this is the most likely explanation but election nerds might have to consult the finer print of the quality newspapers.
The political implications of all of this are tremendous. It could well be that Donald Trump serves one term (he will be 78 at the time of the inauguration) at which point Kerala Harris (now the Vice President elect, who incidentally is the first woman and person of colour to successfully occupy the office of VP) will win the next Presidential election and if she has two terms, the the Democrats will have the presidency for the next twelve years. President-elect Biden has been sounding extremely Presidential and is making all of the right noises about ‘healing the nation’ whereas the Trump team are still breathing fire and brimstone and threatening all kinds of appeal to the Supreme Court next Monday (which they may not actually carry out) Amidst the welter of other media interviews there was one that stood out in my memory as he opined ‘if the Democrats were so corrupt and intent on cheating, why did they not do it four years when Trump was elected and it wouldn’t have taken many ‘frauds’ to deny him?’ The other point to make is the absurdity of the Republican position who are almost uniformly crying ‘foul’ but some of them are saying ‘Stop the Count' (in states in which Biden was ahead) but other Republican crowds were shouting ‘Count the Votes‘ (in states in which Trump was ahead). Just an interesting afterthought to all of this – who will be the brave Republican who is delegated to go into the room and say to President Trump ‘The game’s up – you have lost!’
A final statistic – the participation rate in this election has been the greatest since 1900 and 75 million voters (more than any other candidate in history) voted for Biden. This equates to a lead in the popular vote of some 4% (which could be 5% when all of the final tallies have been completed).