THEY'VE CALLED IT. FINALLY. NBC, ABC, AP, NYT, every fucking media acronym you can think of now projects Joe Biden to win the Keystone State and therefore the presidential election of 2020. After five days of high-velocity edging courtesy of cable news, we've finally cast off an openly racist tyrant, and, if nothing else, we all feel four years younger. In a historic achievement of representation in politics, we have also elected the first Black and South Asian woman as Vice President.
In trying to determine the formula that led to the Biden/Harris victory, as if such a formula could be replicated in a lab and distributed to every state in the country and work just as well, a predictable woke vs anti-woke debate has broken out, complete with its predictable false choices.
The anti-woke say white suburban Independents who flipped from Trump to Biden gave us Biden. The woke credit members of the Democratic base—Black women, Latinos, and activists who worked to get out the vote for Biden, etc. This dichotomy forecloses the possibility that both kinds of groups, and therefore appeals to both sorts of rhetorics and ideologies, were necessary to drag Biden over the finish line.
Though it's still way early, and though there's still tons of precinct-level data to work through (once it eventually comes out), here's who seem to be the heroes of this Democratic victory.
The Educated-White's Alliance With People of Color
The "Blue Wall" was reactivated thanks to two counties in Michigan. Biden won the state by a little more than 2.5 points, but it was the double-punch of Washtenaw County (home of the University of Michigan) and Wayne Country (home of Detroit, the Blackest city in the U.S.) that knocked out Trump. Combined, both counties sent 70% of their votes to Biden. A part of the current left in the U.S. has been characterized by an alliance between educated/cosmopolitan white Americans and people of color. Evidence of this alliance, which the French economist Thomas Piketty claims is new (educated white Americans voted Republican before the 1980s) could not be better expressed than the results in Michigan.
This novelist of romances and thrillers (a new one is coming out in May 2021) has become an icon of American politics. Her story has all the right elements for iconography. She ran for governor against a "good old boy," Brian Kemp, and lost by a small margin because of voter suppression. Did a little soul searching (“I sat shiva for 10 days") after the loss, then she "started plotting.” Two years later, the nonprofit she runs, Fair Fight Action, is in the news because Georgia turned blue. By a few votes, true. But it looks like Abrams rose to her feet after defeat and helped beat an unusually popular white mess of a president. Though this iconography is impressive, it excludes, as all icons do, a lot of important details. One, Georgia is not far from becoming a majority-minority state. Its white population, excluding hispanic whites, is 51%. Its Black population is 36%. This means that Georgia is actually less white than Florida and Texas and more like rainbow California. Another detail is that a program activated by the state in 2016 automatically registered people through the "the driver’s license application form." This vastly expanded the state's voting pool. That said, Abrams's activism undoubtedly excited the Black vote and gave the struggle against voter suppression in Georgia and the U.S. its much-needed icon.
@StaceyAbrams!! This American citizen would love to thank you from the bottom of her heart!! 💛💛💛#GodBlessGeorgia #ThisIsWhatVisionLooksLike #ProudToBeABlackWoman pic.twitter.com/NTAnvgr61n
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) November 6, 2020
The Spirit of George Floyd
There has been a lot of talk about the spirit of John McCain and of John Lewis. The former, who was savagely insulted by Trump on several occasions, sent his supernatural vote-Biden vibes to Arizona, the state that made his political career. The latter sent similar vibes to his neck of the woods, Clayton County, Georgia. But there is probably a much bigger spirit to consider in this presidential election. It is the spirit of George Floyd, a Black man killed on May 25, 2020 by the knee of a heartless Minnesota police officer. There's much talk on the center-left about how Trump claimed a larger part of the white vote this time around because many whites were scared away from Biden by all of the Black Lives Matter protests that the video of Floyd's murder initiated. But this view may not contain much reality. In May and June, the GOP was actually out-registering Dems. It's only after Floyd's death and the BLM demonstrations that Dems experienced a voter registration spike. George Floyd might turn out to be the most important spirit of this presidential election. Also, he may have left a powerful and possibly lasting impression on Minnesota's voters (Biden won the state by seven percentage points). May the force be with him.
John Roberts Jr.
This is not a happy thing to say, but it must be said: An important figure in the presidential election and Trump's untergang is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts. On October 19, he sided with the justices on the left and sent a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court back to that court. As a consequence, the state was allowed to count votes for three days after the election. The GOP's plan was to block counting until election day (that worked), and to end the counting on election day (that did not work). Four justices of the highest court of the land were fine with this obvious scam. And if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling was snapped liked a twig by five SCOTUS votes, Trump would likely have pocketed Pennsylvania. It's bizarre that anyone on the right thought this plan would work, and it's more bizarre that it almost did. Roberts once in a while (and really only once in a while) drifts to the left.
Latino Activists in Arizona, and a Lot of TV
This year Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win Arizona in 24 years. NPR chalks up the win to a variety of factors—an influx of younger, more liberal tech workers from California seeking cheaper rent in a similarly sunny locale; a failed Trump campaign strategy of avoiding cities for the rural areas, and a decade of Mexican and Central American activists organizing to boot Sheriff Joe Arpaio and push back against the county's anti-immigrant laws. There's a lot of support for all that. Politico reports that 18 to 29-year-olds made up the highest percentage of new voters this year, and Biden won big in the cities and college towns where those young voters typically live. On the activism side: according to the Intercept, it's looking like Biden won 70% of the Latino vote in Arizona, increasing Hilary Clinton's 2016 share by nearly 10 points. Bernie Sanders's "Latino strategist," Chuck Rocha, told the outlet that groups such as Living United for Change (LUCHA) and Aqui Se Vota were on the ground, battle-tested, and ready to go, which helped a lot. And those voters voted early. According to Politico, "As of Friday, there was a 62% increase in Latino votes cast early statewide compared to the same point in 2016, according to data provided by Hawkfish, a Democratic research firm." Biden also significantly out-performed his 2016 margin in a couple rural counties that overlap with Native Nations, according to High Country News. And though we’re not sure yet, a high proportion of urban Natives likely voted for Biden in the cities as well. Finally, the person in the Biden camp who decided to spend so much money in the Phoenix media market also deserves a hat tip. Biden flooded the zone for the last six weeks of the election.
The Culinary Workers Union in Nevada
The guy to read on Nevada is Jon Ralston, who obsessively followed the early voting and polling in the state throughout the race. He highlights the the Culinary Workers Union, who represent the beating heart and legs and arms of Nevada's Democratic machine, and their work registering Democratic voters in the field. Biden ended up basically matching Clinton's numbers in Clark Count (Las Vegas), but he out-performed 2016 numbers in Reno. Why? Multiple Biden and Biden surrogate visits, plus a core of Latino activists who "doubled down" on door-knocking in a county that's 25% hispanic.
Madison and the 'Burbs in Wisconsin
The Cap Times argues this one's easy. Basically, the cities of Madison and Milwaukee got bigger, and so did Biden's margins compared to 2016. The people pushed out of those cities—and those who chose to move to the surrounding suburbs—brought "their liberal views with them," according to a Republican strategist quoted in the piece.
Grassroots organizing in PA
The story in Pennsylvania looks to be the same as the story elsewhere in "Blue Wall"—Biden drove up margins in the cities and in the suburbs. We'll have better data later, but according to exit polls from 2016 and 2020, Biden did better with Black and Latino voters than Clinton did. Tenacious organizing from grassroots groups over the course of the last four years no doubt played a roll in this win:
If you appreciate Pennsylvania delivering Trump a historic defeat, please support the people-powered grassroots organizations that made a plan to win and have been working their asses off for four years to bring it home.
Organizations (with links) in thread:
— Jonathan Smucker (@jonathansmucker) November 6, 2020
We will end with Van Jones in tears. For real. Trump was that awful.