Trump’s Second Impeachment

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the House of Representatives voted 232-193 to impeach Trump, making him the only president ever to be impeached twice. ¬†Most Republicans in the House voted against the measure, but ten Republicans voted with the Democrats to impeach, making this the most bipartisan vote on a presidential impeachment in the country’s history. ¬†Some other Republicans, even while voting against impeachment, had sharply critical words for the president. ¬†House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that he would support a censure resolution.

“Impeach,” of course, merely means accuse. ¬†There still has to be a Senate trial. ¬†In this instance, the Senate trial will begin when Trump is already out of office, the first time this has happened in a presidential impeachment. ¬†The big point of that trial is that if a two-thirds majority can be mustered up to convict Trump (which would take 17 Republicans voting with the 50 Democrats), the Senate can then vote by a simple majority to disqualify Trump from holding office again.

It remains to be seen whether 17 Republicans in the Senate can be persuaded to vote to convict Trump. ¬†However, Senate Minority Leader (formerly Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell has said that he will make his decision after he hears the evidence, which is more than he was willing to say and do last year, in Trump’s first impeachment. ¬†Back then, he said it was “dead on arrival” (McConnell’s own words) and that he was going to “coordinate with the president (also McConnell’s own words). ¬†It should be noted that back on Wednesday, January 6, only six Republicans voted against accepting the results of the electoral vote.

And what, exactly, did Trump do? ¬†Let’s start with what he had been doing for the past two months, ever since the election. ¬†He had been declaring, not even that the results were questionable and should be investigated, but that it was an absolute fact that the results were fraudulent and he was the rightful winner of the election. ¬†He thus encouraged his base–a base that we know includes (though is by no means limited to) militant extremists, a subset of whom are hard-core ideological racists, members of groups that make the Ku Klux Klan look like the Rainbow Coalition–to feel that something had been stolen from them and to feel enraged about it. ¬†During those two months, he also contacted numerous Republicans in positions of authority or influence in the swing states that he had lost (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia), tried to manipulate them into finding some loophole or technicality with which to change the results and make him the winner, and lobbed attacks on their character when he did not get what he wanted from him.

January 6 was the day that the House and the Senate, in joint session, counted the electoral vote, which is usually a very routine and mundane ceremonial act. ¬†It should be noted that none of the states submitted conflicting returns or registered any dispute over the results. Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, would be presiding. ¬†Pence had previously made speeches supportive of Trump’s claim that the election was stolen from him, which apparently got Trump’s hopes up that Pence would try to change the outcome (even though he couldn’t). ¬†On the eve of the count, he told Pence that he would go down in history as either a patriot or a pussy, and that morning he sent out a tweet that he hoped Pence would do the right thing. ¬†Later in the day, he sent out a vicious tweet blasting Pence for not coming through.

Now, about the rally: ¬†Trump organized that rally, calling it the “Save America Rally.” ¬†He sent out repeated reminders on Twitter, and many tens of thousands showed up. ¬†He delivered a 75-minute speech in which he repeatedly said that the election was fraudulent and that his listeners had good reason not to “take it.” ¬†He referred again and again to “weak Republicans.”

“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrats which is what they are doing and stolen by the fake news media. That is what they have done and what they are doing. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.¬†Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about.”

He then dispatched them to the Capitol. ¬†His words suggest that what he wanted them to do was shout: just stand outside the Capitol, in the area where they had the right to stand, and shout, let their feelings be known. ¬†If we look at it in the light most favorable to Trump–assuming that that really was all he wanted them to do–we’re still left with the fact that he was showing complete complete contempt for the independence of Congress and for the judgment of individuals–including many Republicans–who had decided that the vote was legitimate and that Biden had won. ¬†What is more, if Trump was confident that all they were going to do was shout from outside, then he was completely disregarding the obvious fact that there were militant extremists in the crowd. ¬†With that in mind, it should still be clear how Trump’s own words could easily be taken as encouragement to do more than shout.

“We’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol– And we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.¬†Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.¬†We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated. Lawfully slated.”

And now, let’s consider what Trump’s first message to the rioters was, when it became clear that there was a riot.

“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.

“It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us ‚ÄĒ from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil.

“I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”

He had changed his tune by Thursday evening.  At that point, he made a video in which he totally condemned the attack on the Capitol and said that the perpetrators would be punished.  He also announced that there would be a peaceful transition of power on January 20.  He appeared to have been a bit chastened, warned that he was going to be in serious trouble for the events of January 6.

Now, there are reports that more violence is feared, and that security on inauguration day–which even under normal circumstances would be very tight–is going to be considerably tighter, with a huge military presence guarding the area of the Capitol.

It’s very abnormal for the president of the United States to be encouraging insurrection, or even encouraging a crowd to protest with their voices a proceeding on Capitol Hill. ¬†What is more, the claims that Trump is making about the election are false by any reasonable standards. ¬†There will always be some who would say that I should be “objective” on the subject, maybe suggest that there are two schools of thought as to whether the election was fair and two schools of thought as to whether Trump’s efforts to pressure Republicans into finding a way to declare him the winner are justified. ¬†Sorry, I can’t. ¬†I would be lying. ¬†And there’s enough lying going on already.

Article in Politico about the impeachment vote, January 13, 2021

Transcript of Trump’s speech at the rally

Transcript of Trump’s message after the riot began

The Stakes in Georgia This Tuesday

Tuesday, January 5, under an unusual set of circumstances, there are two runoff elections in the state of Georgia for U.S. Senate.  If the Republicans win even one of those races, the Republicans will have the majority in the Senate.  If the Democrats win both of them, then there will be 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats (or Independents who caucus with the Democrats) in the Senate, a perfect tie, in which case Vice-President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, will be the tie-breaker, giving the Democrats the majority by just one vote.

For both parties, the stakes are high.  Both parties have been doing massive fundraising and pouring millions into the campaigns.  The Democrats, of course, want a majority in the Senate to work with the Democratic majority in the House (razor-thin as it is) and with the Biden administration.  The Republicans, meanwhile, are telling voters that a Republican majority in the Senate will be the only thing blocking the radical socialist agenda that they associate with the Democrats.

But Republicans in Georgia have been getting mixed signals from Trump.¬† He’s telling them they should turn out and vote Republican, of course (and he’s holding a rally in Georgia Monday night), but he’s also saying that these runoff elections are illegal, invalid, and rigged.¬† Democrats are delighted; they’d love to see the Republicans boycott the polls that day.¬† That isn’t likely to happen, though, and while the races could go either way, I’m definitely not betting any money on the Democrats winning both of them.

If the Democrats do get a majority in the Senate, they will still have to abolish the filibuster if they want to get any major legislation passed without Republican cooperation.  They may well be reluctant to do that, though without abolishing the filibuster it will take 60 votes to pass most bills in the Senate.  And which party has the majority will make a big difference in whether Biden can appoint the people he wants as cabinet officers and federal judges.  For a number of reasons, both parties consider the stakes to be very high.

Article in Politico, January 3, 2021

Trump and Congress at the Dawn of the New Year

In the final days of 2020, there were two significant bills from Congress:  one that Trump threatened to veto and then signed, another that Trump vetoed and Congress passed over its veto.

The bill that Trump threatened to veto, or at least grumbled about on Twitter, was the COVID relief package.¬† After months of haggling between Republicans and Democrats, it was passed with a direct relief disbursement of $600, an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits, and other measures designed to infuse money into the sagging economy.¬† Trump, after having kept himself out of the negotiations with his treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin representing the White House, suddenly announced–after both chambers of Congress had already passed the bill–that the relief payment should be $2,000.¬† The Democrats were quick to embrace that idea, but Republican leaders shot it down, and Trump grudgingly signed the bill.

The bill that Trump vetoed was the National Defense Authorization Act.¬† Most of it was the usual routine funding, including raises for military personnel, but there were two things about it that troubled our president.¬† One was that he wanted an amendment in it (though completely unrelated to defense spending) repealing the provision of the Communications Act of 1996 that protects social media outlets from liability for content that users post in their channels.¬† Trump has been irate at companies like Facebook and Twitter since they started posting fact-checking notes on some of his tweets.¬† His point of view is that if they’re going to exercise any control over content, then they should be responsible for exercising complete control over it.¬† He was not able to get that included in the bill.

The other aspect of that bill that Trump didn’t like was the renaming of military bases that currently have the names of Confederate generals.¬† In the early twentieth century, the federal government and the North felt the need to make all kinds of conciliatory gestures to the South–that is, the¬†White¬†South–and that included honoring officers who served in the Confederacy in the Civil War of 1861-65.¬† The trouble with that is, the Confederacy was defending slavery, and thus these generals were defending the idea that persons of African descent should not have the rights of human beings and as Americans, but rather should have the status of property to be trafficked and exploited for their unwilling labor.¬† The trend toward rethinking the use of Confederate names on federal military property has been happening for some years already but got an extra push this year from all the racial justice protests following the killing of George Floyd and others.¬† Again, Trump objected to the renaming of those bases, and objected enough to those two aspects together to veto the bill.

It’s rare that Congress overrides a president’s veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers, and it’s rare in the present climate in Washington for Republicans and Democrats to agree on anything, but that rarity happened.¬† On New Year’s Day, that vote was finalized and the bill was passed.

But there’s another action coming up in Congress that Trump will undoubtedly be paying more attention to.

To review a key point, Biden won the presidential election by any reasonable standards.¬† Ted Cruz is undoubtedly right when he says that there were “unprecedented allegations of voter fraud,” but there isn’t unprecedented proof, or any proof at all, of voter fraud happening to anywhere near the level that it would take to change the results of the election, and anybody who understands how elections work should understand how hard it would be to produce such a massive level of fraud.¬† What is more, in several of the states involved, the officials who oversaw the election were Republicans–people who¬†wanted Trump to win.¬† But this has not stopped Trump from demanding that Republicans do whatever they can–find strings they can pull and loopholes and technicalities they can use–to declare him the winner, and he has openly attacked the character of anyone who wouldn’t do that, including the secretary of state and the governor of Georgia, both Republicans.¬† And nationwide, the majority of Republicans in the electorate seem all too happy to join Trump in this nonsensical fantasy world he’s living in.

That brings us to what’s about to happen on Wednesday, January 6.¬† That’s the day when the two chambers of Congress come together, under the ceremonial leadership of Vice-President Mike Pence (in his constitutional role as president of the Senate) to count the electoral votes.¬† According to prevailing statute, if at least one representative and at least one senator challenge the electoral votes that have been submitted, Congress has to debate that challenge for up to two hours and then take a vote.¬† Now, there is no realistic chance that this is going to change the outcome, but what it¬†is¬†going to do is force every Republican in the House and Senate to take a position.¬† From the point of view of Trump and his loyal base, that means every Republican in Congress has to go on record as being either loyal or disloyal to Trump.

Indeed, that is what the Republican Party has turned into since Trump got the nomination in 2016: the party of personal loyalty to Trump.  Republican primary elections in 2018 and 2020 were largely contests of which candidate was most personally loyal to Trump.  And more and more, being loyal to Trump has meant buying into narratives that simply are not true, in this instance the narrative that the election was stolen and that Trump is the rightful winner.  Republicans who go against Trump are likely, in the next congressional election cycle, to be challenged in the primaries by hard-core Trump loyalists.

We’re living through bizarre times, and in terms of his influence over the Republican Party in Congress, we may well still be in the Trump era long after Trump leaves office.

Article about the defense bill in Space News, January 1, 2021

Article about the outlook for January 6 in Politico, January 3, 2021

Trump Increased His Black and Latino Vote This Time

It’s well known that a substantial majority of African American voters are consistent Democrats.¬† It’s also well known that most African Americans regard Donald Trump as a racist.¬† However, exit polls show that 12% of Black voters in this election voted for Trump, and that’s an increase from 2016.¬† What’s more, 32% of Latino voters went for Trump in 2020, also an increase.

It needs to be noted that “Latino” is an artificial category, because it includes immigrants and their descendants from many different countries, having little in common besides a language.¬† It includes Cubans, many of whom have been Republicans right along due to their hatred of the Castro regime and their desire for hardline US policies towards it.¬† It also includes Venezuelans, many of whom are persuaded by the notion that the Democratic Party in the US, if given unchecked power, could turn the US into the same kind of socialist dictatorship that they fled from in Venezuela.

Now, about African Americans.¬† Obviously, African Americans don’t all think alike, and it would be insulting to suggest that they should.¬† But probing a little deeper, let’s consider for a moment the differences between the two parties in their approaches.¬† The Republican Party believes that what’s best for Black Americans is the same thing that’s best for White Americans:¬† unfettered opportunity for economic self-advancement, with the government staying out of the way.¬† The belief is that what’s good for the overall economy is good for everybody, Black and White.¬† Moreover, the Republicans accuse the Democrats of overemphasizing “identity politics,” the notion that particular affinity groups–Blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ persons, etc.–should be seen as special groups with special needs requiring special attention from government and from candidates running for office.¬† My point isn’t who’s right or wrong; my point is, the Republican approach, even with Donald Trump at the helm, seems to be working with some number of nonwhite voters.

With these results, you can expect to see both parties doubling down on their efforts to woo nonwhite voters, because as the population becomes increasingly nonwhite, the nonwhite vote–which is clearly not monolithic–is going to make more and more of a difference in election outcomes.¬† And it may well be that both parties have something to learn from each other in their approach.

Exit poll numbers in the New York Times, November 5, 2020

Report on NPR, November 5, 2020

The Prognosis for the Senate

While we hear in the media that party control of the Senate for the coming term is still up in the air, I would suggest that it isn’t very far up in the air.¬† I think it looks pretty clear that the Republicans will be keeping their majority.

First, some math.¬† Right now, the count of officially called races is a tie, 48 to 48, leaving four seats theoretically unresolved.¬† The Republicans need 51 seats to hold a majority.¬† The Democrats only need 50 seats for that, because that would be a tie, and the vice-president–who in this case is going to be Kamala Harris–breaks the tie.¬† However, as I’m about to demonstrate, there’s every probability that the Republicans are going to have 52 seats in the Senate when the dealing’s done.

Of the four unresolved seats, two are in North Carolina and Alaska.¬† In each of those states ,the Republican candidate appears to be winning.¬† The other two are both in Georgia.¬† Georgia had the rare occurrence this year of two Senate elections in the same state, one regular and one special.¬† And in each of those Georgia Senate contests, with no candidate getting an outright majority, there’s going to be a runoff election in January between the top two vote-getters.¬† Both parties, of course, are pouring millions into the campaigns for those two seats; from the point of view of both parties, the battle for the soul of America is continuing.

As of Monday morning, the presidential contest in Georgia has not yet been called for either candidate, but Biden is ahead.¬† That might appear to look good for the Democratic candidates.¬† However, here’s the kicker:¬† in the same state where Biden is ahead in the presidential contest, in each of the Senate contests, though there’s no single candidate with a majority, the Democratic candidate is behind.

In the regular election, Republican David Perdue has 49.7% of the vote while Democrat Jon Ossoff has 47.9% and Libertarian Shane Hazel has 2.3%.¬† In the runoff, the Libertarian will be gone, but I highly doubt that even one Libertarian voter is going to vote for the Democrat.¬† Libertarians, while they tend to be liberal on the subjects of abortion and legalizing marijuana, are against all social welfare programs and most government regulations of business; they oppose government intervention and intrusion across the board.¬† They will most likely either stay home or vote for Perdue; they’re not going to vote for Ossoff in any significant numbers.

In the special election, by a quirk in the setup, there were two Republicans and one Democrat all running at once last Tuesday.  The Democratic candidate is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is African American and the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.  He has 32.9% of the vote, but he is outnumbered by the two Republicans combined, Kelly Loeffler with 25.9% and Doug Collins with 20%.  So, Warnock will be up against Loeffler.

In each of the runoff races, the Republican candidate is the incumbent.¬† (Loeffler was appointed by the governor to fill a vacant seat in mid-term.)¬† Incumbents usually have an advantage to begin with.¬† What’s more, in Georgia, Republicans have an advantage as well.¬† Although Biden is ahead in the still-unfinished vote count for president in Georgia, that state has not been considered a swing state before, but rather, a solidly Republican state.¬† Stacey Abrams has substantially increased the Democratic electorate in Georgia with a massive voter registration drive, and that undoubtedly made a difference in the presidential electoral vote, but again, it didn’t stop the Democratic candidates from being outnumbered last week.

Assuming that the Republicans win the unresolved Senate seats from North Carolina and Alaska–which it very much appears they’re going to do–the Democrats need both of those Georgia seats to have a majority, with Vice President Harris tie-breaking vote, in the Senate.¬† In order for that to happen, there would have to be an even greater Democratic turnout at the polls for the January runoff election than there was for the presidential election last week.¬† And while the Democratic Party is trying hard to make that happen, it doesn’t seem particularly likely.¬† It’s important to remember that turnout is usually considerably lower in nonpresidential elections, and that low voter turnout tends to favor Republicans, because Republicans are the more consistent and reliable voters.¬† ¬†Another important thing that needs to be remembered is that some of the people who voted for Biden are Republicans who would have voted for a Republican candidate for president if that candidate had been anyone other than Trump.¬† Those voters are still going to want a Republican majority in the Senate.¬† As a matter of fact–and here is the really key point where those voters are concerned–the narrative among Republicans is that a Republican Senate majority will be the only thing stopping Biden and Harris from turning the United States into a socialist dictatorship.

So again, the Democrats (like the Republicans) will be pouring millions of dollars into these two runoffs in January, in the hopes of taking a majority in the Senate, but they have every strike against them when it comes to the chances of victory there.

Article in Politico, November 8, 2020


Friday, 1:30 p.m.: Looks Like It’s Bye-Bye Trump (but not officially yet)

Biden needs 270 electoral votes.  How many electoral votes does he have now?  That actually depends on which news site you look at.  Associated Press and Fox regard Arizona, with its 11 electoral votes, as decisively won by Biden even as the vote count continues, but the New York Times is being more cautious.  Thus, the Times tells that Biden has 253 electoral votes in the bag, while other news outlets are calling it 264.

If Biden has 264 votes, then all he needs is Nevada. ¬†But the way things look now, Biden seems on track to win Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, in which case any other states would be bonus. ¬†Here’s the thing about Pennsylvania: ¬†Two days ago, Trump was ahead by at least 7 percentage points. ¬†However, we were assured, once the absentee ballots were counted, Biden would win. ¬†So far, that seems to be correct, because Trump’s lead over the last two days kept inching down, and this morning Biden overtook the lead. ¬†Given that all that’s left to count in any significant number in Pennsylvania is mail-in ballots, and given that the mail-in ballots so far have been overwhelmingly in Biden’s favor, it doesn’t look plausible that Trump can retake the lead.

There’s yet another state that Biden may win, which hasn’t been considered all that much of a swing state, and that’s Georgia. ¬†Biden pulled ahead of Trump there this morning, and as in Pennsylvania, since it’s mainly the mail-in ballots being counted, and since Biden voters were the ones who trusted mail-in voting, Georgia is looking pretty good for Biden. ¬†And again, Biden doesn’t need Georgia. ¬†Pennsylvania alone will give him a win, and without Pennsylvania, if he can keep his lead in both Arizona and Nevada, he will have won.

Trump, meanwhile, seems to think he’s rightfully won the election and thinks that the counting of mail-in ballots that takes away his lead in those key states is a big colossal fraud. ¬†You’ve heard me say before that I can’t pretend to be neutral about Trump, and his behavior at present fits right in with the complete lack of dignity that he has brought to the office of the presidency and the complete lack of respect that he has for the responsibilities of the office, which include taking loss in an election a bit more gracefully.

There’s a lot that still needs to be said about the Senate, but for now, I’ll just note that it doesn’t look very promising for the Democrats to retake the majority. ¬†I’ll post more on that after the counting is farther along, but I can say right now that two races in Georgia, one regular and one special, are heading for run-offs in January, and even if Georgia’s voters vote for Biden, that’s no predictor that they’ll vote Democratic in these two January contests. ¬†Again, more on that on a later date. ¬†Meanwhile, please keep watching the news updates; the major political news feeds are on the right of the main OpenLab page.


Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.: Biden Can Still Win, but So Can Trump

The news site that I’m checking throughout the day is the New York Times: ¬† ¬†Here’s how it looks at the moment.

Trump has definitely won Florida, which keeps him in the race. ¬†He has also won Ohio, which Biden tried to flip back to blue but that wasn’t a state he could count on. ¬†It looks now as if Trump will be winning North Carolina, though it hasn’t been called yet. ¬†On the bright side for Biden, he appears to be winning Arizona, which is one of the states that Trump won in 2016.

Biden is counting on winning Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. ¬†Now, if you look on the Times¬†site, you see Trump ahead in Pennsylvania by 11 percentage points with 75% of votes counted. ¬†However, that doesn’t mean a whole lot, for this reason: ¬†the 25% of votes that still remain to be counted (over a million), and that may take until Friday, are mail-in votes, and so far the counted mail-in votes have been overwhelmingly for Biden. ¬†Biden absolutely needs Pennsylvania, and if he doesn’t win both of those other key states, he’ll need another toss-up state like Arizona, which again looks favorable for him.

But what we’re definitely not going to see is a landslide victory for Biden. ¬†Biden’s best hope now is for a narrow victory. ¬†While a majority of voters nationwide clearly favor Biden, about half the voters in the crucial swing state are for Trump. ¬†So again, this election can still go either way.

Edited (at 10:30 a.m.) to add: ¬†According to some rough math that I just did, I¬†think that if Biden wins Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Arizona (where he is currently slightly ahead, and mail-in votes may keep him ahead), but loses Pennsylvania, he will have won by exactly one electoral vote. ¬†Again, that’s the math I just did. ¬†Biden currently has 227 electoral votes, he needs 43 more to win, and the electoral votes of those four states add up to exactly 43. ¬†So if he loses Pennsylvania, he needs those four states. ¬†If he wins Pennsylvania, he still needs most of those other four states.

Here are the numbers.

Again, Biden needs 43 more electoral votes.

Pennsylvania has 20.  Wisconsin has 10.  Michigan has 16.  Nevada has 6.  Arizona has 11.

In all of those states except Pennsylvania, Biden is slightly ahead. ¬†If it’s true that what remains to be counted is mail-in ballots, and if it’s true that the mail-in ballots are mostly Biden votes, then Biden has a good chance of winning, though again, not by any landslide. ¬†But Trump is still in the game. ¬†Stay tuned.

Tuesday Night: What to Watch For

I want to make this posting very quick and concise. ¬†I trust everybody will be looking for updates tonight (Tuesday). ¬†We’re not going to know the results tonight from Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin, all of which are considered crucial for Biden. ¬†However, we will be getting the results from Florida and North Carolina, and those states are important too. ¬†Here’s the scoop on those two states:

If Biden wins Florida, then it will be a very strong probability that he has won the election.

If Biden wins North Carolina but loses Florida, that will be a good sign for Biden as well.

If Biden wins both North Carolina and Florida, then the election will be his no matter what else happens.

If Trump wins both Florida and North Carolina, the election will still be wide open, but now Biden will really need to win all three of those crucial states Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Now, about the Senate. ¬†We probably won’t know the final results in the Senate until the end of the week, and we may not even know until January, but I’m going to give you two contests to watch tonight as an early harbinger: ¬†North Carolina and Maine. ¬†If the Democrats can win both of those Senate races (that is, if Cal Cunningham beats Thom Tillis in North Carolina and if Sara Gideon also beats Susan Collins in Maine, then things will look reasonably promising for the Democrats, but there will still be more results that we have to wait for. ¬†If the Republicans win both of those contests, the Democrats will still stand some chance of retaking the Senate, but it will be a much slimmer one.

The Democrats will almost certainly be keeping their majority in the House of Representatives.  Of course, they want to increase their majority while the Republicans hope they can cut into it.

Among the places to look for regular updates is ¬†And again, feel free to post your thoughts on the OpenLab discussion board. ¬†We are living through history-making drama tonight and all of this week. ¬†Let’s all help each other make sense of it all.

Notes on the Eve of the Election

Over the last few days, I’ve heard a few people suggest that we should be well stocked with provisions for the rest of the week, so that we won’t have to go out if there’s massive rioting over the election.¬† Some business owners have prepared by boarding up their storefronts.¬† There may or may not be civil war raging in the streets this week, but at minimum, it does appear that there will be some court battles.¬† What also appears clear is that we are not going to know for certain Tuesday night, or even any time Wednesday, who is going to be our president for the next four years, because the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will have the counting of the mail-in ballots going on for the next several days.¬† (On the other hand, Florida may have its results sooner, and if we find out that Biden has won Florida, that will be a reasonably good sign that he has won the election.)¬† It may take even longer–maybe even a lot longer–for us to know which party will have the majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile, a few things have already started heating up.

Today (Monday) in Texas, a group of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to persuade a federal district court judge to invalidate 170,000 ballots that had been cast through a drive-through system in a predominately Democratic county.¬† Now, it’s good news that the judge did not grant their request, but a couple of things need to be noted.¬† First, Republicans were trying to get a large number of votes thrown out, votes that had been cast in good faith by citizens who were following procedures that state officials had told them were safe.¬† Secondly, before the judge made his ruling, there was some discussion of whether the fact that this judge was a conservative Republican might influence his decision.¬† It didn’t, but there is at least the fear among some people that judges appointed by a president of a particular party will give that party everything it wants.¬† And I should also take note that the judge¬†did grant the Republicans’ request to have the records preserved of which votes were cast through that drive-through method, in case of appeal, which means the case may not be entirely closed.¬† (Article in Politico, November 2, 2020.)¬† In any case, there are likely to be battles in court this week (and maybe after) over which ballots are and aren’t valid.¬† It is, of course, the Republicans who see fraud in mail-in voting and in delayed counting of votes.

There may also be some attempts at voter intimidation on Election Day.¬† Trump has encouraged his supporters to “watch” the polls, and many interpret that as a call to make trouble.¬† This past Saturday, Trump supporters surrounded a Biden/Harris campaign bus in Texas, making it impossible for the campaign to hold a scheduled event in that state that night, and there was also an incident of Trump supporters blocking traffic on a New Jersey highway.¬† Trump has made clear that he thinks these actions are wonderful.¬† (Article in The Hill, November 1, 2020.)¬† He has also given the impression that if the early returns favor him on election night, he’ll declare victory right then and there.¬† (Will he concede the election Tuesday night if the early returns favor Biden?¬† Sure, he’ll do that right after the cow jumps over the moon.)

And now a word about the Senate: it’s a tossup.¬† It could go either way.¬† For one thing, I am under the impression that there are some Republicans in the swing states who will vote for Biden because they can’t deny that Trump is crazy, but who think the Democratic administration of Biden needs to be kept in check by a Republican Senate.¬† For that reason, for example, in Michigan, even if Trump wins the state’s electoral vote, we may see Republican challenger John James beat Democratic incumbent Gary Peters for the Senate seat.

Here are some more links you may find helpful, along with the news feed here on this page that’s constantly being updated:

NPR report on Trump and Biden’s prospects, October 30, 2020

NPR report on key Senate races, October 29, 2020

Fivethirtyeight site

Fivethirtyeight on the Senate races

As things unfold, I invite all of my students, past and present, to feel free to post their thoughts and observations on the OpenLab discussion board.


Some Quick Facts about the Current Situation

With Trump in Walter Reed Hospital, though he’s claiming to be feeling fine and doctors say he may be released today, the news outlets are reviewing the legal and constitutional contingencies for what will happen if his condition gets worse. ¬†I offer this post as a brief summary. ¬†I urge you to read it.

Obviously, if Trump dies, Vice President Mike Pence becomes president.  Moreover, if Trump becomes temporarily incapacitated, Pence will become acting president.

It is the opinion of many that Pence, given his sensitive position, should stay in Washington and keep his distance from others. ¬†He has tested negative for COVID so far, but the words “so far” are potent. ¬†As it happens, he’s not staying put, but rather, he’s flying west to make campaign appearance on behalf of Trump. ¬†Wednesday night, he’s scheduled to be in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the vice-presidential debate against Kamala Harris.

Because Pence is taking those risks, we’re being reminded of what provisions are in place if the president and vice president both die. ¬†That’s not in the Constitution, but a 1947 act of Congress provides that the line of succession after the vice president goes to the speaker of the House (currently Nancy Pelosi from California, a Democrat), then the president pro temporary of the Senate (currently Chuck Grassley from Iowa, a Republican), and then the members of the president’s cabinet according to seniority of when their position was created, which puts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the top. ¬†Since nobody is expecting Nancy Pelosi to die any time soon, the point is that if Trump and Pence both die, Nancy Pelosi becomes president.

If Trump dies and Mike Pence lives, then the 25th Amendment to the Constitution calls for Pence to appoint a new vice president, who has to be confirmed by both the House and the Senate in a simple majority vote.

Assuming that Trump lives, the big question is how his illness will affect the election. ¬†On the one hand, his loyal base still loves him. ¬†On the other hand, outside of his loyal base, some may start to think that Trump should have been able to protect himself from the virus if he wants to claim to be able to protect the country. ¬†A number of bad choices made by Trump, including having that reception for Amy Coney Barrett where people were interacting at close range–and where several others besides Trump were present who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Speaking of Amy Coney Barrett There’s one more important situation that needs to be addressed. ¬†Three Republican senators have just been diagnosed with COVID-19. ¬†If they all recover within the next few weeks, they should be able to cast their votes for the confirmation of Judge Barrett for the Supreme Court (the seat held by Ruth Bader Ginsburg). ¬†If they don’t recover in time, then her confirmation in jeopardy. ¬†The Republicans can only afford to lose two Republican votes for her, and two Republican senators (Susan Collins of Maine and Amy Murkowski) have said they’re going to vote against her confirmation

Under the current Senate rules (which were not written with a pandemic like this in mind), senators have to be present on the Senate floor to cast their votes.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that the Senate floor is closed for two weeks, but committee hearings will proceed, including the confirmation hearings of the Judiciary Committee (although two of the afflicted senators are on it).  Senators can take part in committee hearings by Zoom.

You should follow the updates regularly.  For your convenience, news feeds from several key outlets are here on the OpenLab page.  I also recommend for updates and analysis.