Election Day in the US

by Harry on November 3, 2020

In 2016 I was blithely confident that Clinton would win right up till about the last 3 or 4 days. It wasn’t exactly because I believed the polls: I just couldn’t really believe that swing voters would vote for someone as manifestly nasty and ill-suited to office as Trump. Previous Presidents during my time in the States were not manifestly nasty, and whereas I assume that Nixon was, he was also obviously capable of doing the job, and anyway those were different times. I understood perfectly well, because Nate Silver kept insisting on it, that statistically there was a non-trivial chance that Trump would win. But I didn’t believe that enough of my new compatriots were either reckless or vicious enough to make him President.

Then, in the final few days, I became uneasy. (I think this unease informs the post that I made on election eve, which I thought was lighthearted and optimistic, but which my daughter interpreted as a prediction that Trump would win). Sure, there was the intervention by a major government agency attempting to influence the outcome. But what made me feel worse were i) noticing that my Republican, but previously never-Trumpish, relatives seemed to have become Stepford Wives/Husbands and ii) observing the complete lack of energy that students on campus seemed to have around the election. On the day itself, from the moment I walked to my office, I just felt dread.

Last week a 22-year-old told me that her best friend has thanked her to making her vote in 2016. Her friend had still not voted by 30 minutes before the polls closed, and K told her she had to go, that it would only take a minute, and that an election isn’t over till its over. Her friend says that, given that Trump won Wisconsin, she would never have forgiven herself if she hadn’t voted against him in her first election.

This time around? Well the previously never-Trumpish relatives are still in Stepford. And while I spend most of most working days on campus, its a very lonely place — I never see colleagues, and the students are sparse. Even so the early polling stations that were up over the past couple of weeks were full of students voting whenever I passed (often at not-at-all peak times). I predict that on my campus the student vote will be very high indeed. My instagram feed is packed with students and former students urging their friends and family to vote, telling them exactly how to do it, and for whom to vote. Even the young Sanders enthusiasts whose friends were anxious that they would not vote for Biden have fallen into line. Whereas in 2016 Nate Silver was constantly emphasizing how likely a Trump win was despite the polls and his own model’s projection; in the last few weeks he has constantly been emphasizing how unlikely a Trump win is despite the polls and his own model’s projection.

I hope you all have a plan. Good luck, everyone.