Wednesday, November 25, 2020

BTRTN: The Search for a Vaccine to Protect Our Democracy

It took 17 days, but the GSA’s recognition that Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” ended the final spasms of Donald Trump’s effort to undermine American Democracy. The good news: the system worked, thanks to the intense commitment of ordinary citizens… and with absolutely no help from Washington Republicans. Tomorrow, we will have reason to give thanks, but there is still so much work to be done to protect our democracy from future Trumps.

On Monday, AstraZenica joined Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech in becoming the third Pharma giant to announce a vaccine that appears highly effective against COVID-19. 

Also on Monday, a Republican on the Michigan Board of Canvasses did the right thing, voting the certify the state's election results, which triggered the GSA to formally initiate the transition to the Biden administration.

Suddenly, in this remarkable month of November, the dam of misery that has been 2020 seemed to be bursting, as a cavalry of science, fact, math, and reality had joined America’s battle against the two pandemics that were threatening our very way of life and our faith in government.  

Yes, two pandemics.

The COVID-19 pandemic still rages wildly across America as we all prepare for a quieter Thanksgiving, but we do see a light at the end of this long, bleak tunnel. Sometime in 2021, vaccinations will be scaled, and life will begin to creep back to normal.  

It is hard to be as sanguine about the trajectory of our other pandemic, the rise of authoritarianism that sets in when our representatives in government decide that the preservation of their own power is more important than the preservation of democracy. For four long years, we have watched Donald Trump subvert our principles, norms, laws, and our very democracy. Yet somehow worse still, we watched as the leadership of the Republican Party allowed it to happen.

The blight of authoritarianism is like one of those raging, horrible genetic mutations that can cause a body to destroy itself from the inside. It is the sad tale of a cancer not being diagnosed until it was already at stage four, a metastatic bonfire that is already too late to cure, and is fated to remain, at very best, a crippling chronic illness for the rest of our lives.

Patient zero for this second pandemic was Mitch McConnell, who began the community spread when he assumed Majority leadership in the Senate and announced that his first and only goal of his stewardship was to ensure that Barack Obama would fail. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," McConnell declared in October, 2010. That’s when we all should have been smart enough to diagnose the cancer of polarization, a zero-sum vision of government in which the only way that I win is if you lose.

Trump morphed the disease into a cult of personality, and he has spent four years – and the last seventeen days in particular -- doing everything imaginable to undermine the will of the electorate in order to stay in office, and Mitch McConnell stood by in silence.

Consider that every single one of the following events occurred after CNN called the election for Biden.  

The President of the United States, apparently represented by the law firm of Bozo, Doofus & Giuliani, filed over three dozen specious, baseless law suits, all with the intent of negating legitimate votes, casting doubt about the legitimacy of the election, and spewing laughable conspiracy theories on whatever media would afford a platform. MSNBC reported that 37 legal cases resulted in one inconsequential positive ruling for Trump.

The Republican Party specifically targeted voter disenfranchisement efforts in geographic areas with a high concentration of Black Americans, their latest display of overt racism. One of the most senior Republican officers of government – Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina -- was caught overtly trying to disqualify voters in entire counties the state of Georgia. He should not simply be expelled from the Senate. He should be in prison.

The Secretary of State, the White House Press Secretary, and a senior advisor to the President were all quoted as saying that they were proceeding with planning for a “second Trump term," thereby conveying their overt contempt for the obvious will of the American people as well as for arithmetic itself. It is a high voltage shock to our understanding of patriotism that the Secretary of State of the United States of America stood on a podium for all the world to see and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the the U.S. election.

The President of the United States fired a host of senior officials in government, leaving some vital governmental departments decapitated, and filling other senior roles with unqualified toadies, weakening our nation at the cusp of transition, a point of real vulnerability.

The President’s attempt to subvert democracy was fortified and amplified by a television network and social media platforms that profit handsomely by serving as efficient distribution systems for deceit. These organizations disseminated the disinformation, the conspiracy theories, and the overt lies intended to undermine faith in the election itself. These organizations aided and abetted an assault on the very Constitution that guarantees their unmitigated first amendment right to spew garbage.

The President remained inaccessible, cowering, refusing to face questions from the press, and hiding behind his twitter feed to continually claim that the election was fraudulent and stolen from him. In the metaphoric denouement of a White House that was mailing it in, Trump left a virtual meeting of the G-20 to go golfing, and made a rare public appearance to pardon a turkey.

All the while -- and at the most egregious -- the President refused to allow the President-elect his rightful access to national security briefings and vital transition communication, a petty and spiteful gesture intended solely to hinder the new administration.

Finally, the President of the United States summoned two election officers from Michigan, plotting in plain sight to see if he could convince them to undo the will of the voters in their state. His gambit almost succeeded: one of the two chose to “abstain” from the essentially automatic task of certifying that the votes had been tallied correctly. No one quite knows how messy and ugly things would have gotten if both Republicans on the Michigan Board of Canvasses had refused to certify the election results.

In short, the President of the United States had been committing treason in plain sight, and as he did, Republican leaders in Washington coddled their toddler-in-chief, their eyes clamped shut, avoiding reporters for fear of having to say anything on the record either for or against Trump. Rather, they have recoiled in fear of his wrath, pretending that it was appropriate to give a 73 year-old a child’s “time-out” to sulk and pout. And they did so knowing that it meant endorsing his abdication in the fight against the coronavirus, his feverish scheming to undermine and discredit our election, and his destructive refusal to allow his successors access to the funds and briefings they will need to hit the ground running upon inauguration.

For seventeen days in November, Republican leaders reached the epic apex of their cowardice, bowing before a petty would-be dictator rather than serving the needs of the nation they are sworn to protect.

But the days passed, the lawsuits were dismissed, the conspiracies swirled on Fox without gaining traction in the world of reality, the usual occasional Republican objectors (Romney, Sasse, Collins, and Murkowski) spoke up, and then finally, on Monday, one of the two Republicans on the Michigan Board of Cavasses did the right thing, voting to certify the election results.

This apparently convinced Emily Murphy, the head of the Government Services Administration, that it was time to authorize the transition and enable open communications between the current administration and the President-elect’s team.

And suddenly, it was over.

For four long years, the system had been tested to the max, but ultimately, it worked. Donald Trump and his host of flunkies did not get to decide whether he gets a second term in office.

We did.

We, the people.

In the end, the intense involvement of citizens was the vaccine that saved democracy.

This was the election when everyday Americans showed up to make sure that their government was finally of the people, by the people, and for the people. This was the day that we acted like owners, not subjects.

Monday was the decisive day that Trump folded his tent. it was the day that we took back our land.

What, exactly, do we mean by “the intense involvement of the citizens?”

More Americans voted in 2020 -- 156,831,480 as of the latest count -- than in any election in our history. That number is a full twenty million more voters than 2016. Joe Biden received ten million more votes than the very popular Barack Obama received in the groundbreaking election of 2008. This is a vital fact to know: there are more Democrats than Republicans in the United States. If we simply get all of the Democrats to vote, the odds are extremely high that we win. Period.

Consider just how impressive that vote count is when we remind ourselves that this election took place in the thick of a global pandemic. Americans voted in record numbers in a year when it took an extra effort – securing and executing a mail-in ballot, or taking the health risk of voting in person – to make their voices heard.

A second measure of the intense commitment of ordinary citizens: 6,800,000 Americans made a cash contribution to ACTBlue in the third calendar quarter of 2020. Those small donor contributions to Democratic candidates at every level of government totaled – wait for it – one and a half billion dollars.

And then there were the legions of volunteers who gave their time and effort on “turn out the vote” efforts, undertaken by mailed post cards, texts, and phone calls.

On Election Day itself, ordinary Americans of both parties volunteered to work in polling places to ensure that this election was the “most secure election in American history.” Donald Trump, of course, would fire CISA Director Christopher Krebs for making this statement, as it directly contradicted his myth of a fraudulent election.

But it would turn out that the efforts of ordinary citizens leading up to and including Election Day were just the half of it. Since Election Day, we’ve seen the naked efforts by the President of the United States to attempt to overturn the results. These efforts are failing, rebuffed repeatedly – not by leaders in Washington, D.C – but by we the people.

Some three dozen law suits brought by the President have been adjudicated, and virtually all have been dismissed as scurrilous, baseless, and unsupported by fact. All across the nation, judges of both parties stood and listened to the allegations of Trump’s lawyers, and coolly dismissed baseless claims.

The system worked, because ordinary citizens have the backbone, the character, and the decency so lacking in cowardly Washington Republicans. We, the people, batted away Trump’s lightweight legal arguments like so much cotton candy.

There has been no finer example of citizenry than Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has been taking vicious unfriendly fire from his own party for the apparent sin of failing to figure out how to skew the election results to deliver Republican victories.

This citizen – who is, by the way, a staunch, early, and continued supporter of Donald Trump -- has given a civics lesson to the supposedly more senior members of his own party. “It is not the job of the secretary of state’s office to deliver a win,” Raffensperger declared in a stunning rebuke to members of his own party. “It is the sole responsibility of the Georgia Republican Party to get out the vote and get its voters to the polls. That is not the job of the secretary of state’s office.”

It is particularly ironic that Raffensperger is giving his civics lesson in the state that has now become the epicenter of the political universe. Nothing is more important now than the two run-off Senate races that are taking place in Georgia, as these will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control he Senate… which will in turn dictate how much Joe Biden can accomplish in his Presidency. This is incredibly important, and both races are winnable.

Indeed, Georgia Republicans are mired in internecine squabbling and dubious Trump-doting at just the moment and in just the state where they most need to have their act together. Both Republican candidates have doubled down on their support for Trump at a time when the presidents’s approval is sagging and his behavior is embarrassing. Both Republican candidates have excoriated Raffensperger at a moment when he is being viewed as the only principled grown-up in the room. Trump himself appears to have little interest in helping the Georgia Republican candidates. Lindsay Graham stands accused of a racist raid to disenfranchise Black Americans in Georgia. And Georgia Democrats tasted a stunning victory when the formal recount proved that Joe Biden had won the state. It is a huge opportunity, citizens! Please open your checkbook, write your postcards and texts. Bring the vaccine of intense citizen involvement to bear on these critical races.

As we look beyond Georgia, the newly established Biden administration will have its hands full cleaning up the septic tank of shame filled by Trump. The coronavirus, the economy, climate change, healthcare, restoring our global stature, and immigration reform will all be urgent priorities.

But this new administration must find the bandwidth to focus on to the long term battle against authoritarianism in our country. How do we inoculate our democracy from the next Trump who would seek to take our freedoms away? What laws must be enacted, what changes must be made so that we are no longer so nakedly vulnerable that a two-bit con artist could come that close to ending democracy in America?

There must be serious focus on the flaws in our system of government that have been revealed by the Machiavellian scheming of Donald Trump. We cannot allow the rule of law to be optional. Congressional oversight -- subpoenas and confirmation processes -- cannot just be ignored by a despotic executive branch. We can no longer tolerate swearing in presidents who did not win the popular vote. We cannot allow the Supreme Court to become be just a third political branch of government. We cannot allow a would-be dictator control over the Department of Justice, able to weaponize its investigative powers against political opponents. We can no longer count on quaint customs, protocols, and traditions… if we believe that the President should reveal his taxes, it must be made law. We cannot allow polarization to make it impossible to amend the glaring weaknesses in our Constitution.

And somehow, we must figure out how to put the evil genie back in the bottle: we must figure out how regulate mass media outlets that profit from disinformation, distortion, and deceit. In the long term, a renewed investment in education can create more informed, more discerning consumers of news, but we cannot wait for that. Disinformation is the cancer that has metastasized. We must hold media outlets accountable and responsible for the deception they elect to convey.

There is so much to fix.

The authoritarian cancer of Donald Trump, fanned by the pandemic of polarization of Mitch McConnell, still rages. In 2020, we won a battle. We are fighting a war. This chronic illness will no doubt be raging within this nation for another generation.

The only good news is we have rediscovered the vaccine that can protect our freedom. It is a government that is truly “of, by, and for” the people. A government in which we act like owners, not subjects. 

We have learned that if we apply the intense pressure of our citizenship, we can prevail. On to Georgia. And then, yes on to 2022, and 2024.

Which brings us back to grumpy Donald Trump, who quit doing his job and is now just moping in the White House – our White House. He is still – GSA be damned -- no doubt trying to figure out what he can do to undermine the will of the American people, retain his power, and avoid the prospect of prison.  Hey, Trump, keep pouting, keep tweeting, and keep golfing. Keep pretending that you are going to have a second term. Continue to refuse to concede…all you are doing is proving, once and for all, what a loser you are.

Keep sending out angry, deranged tweets… we’ll make sure everyone in Georgia sees them, and we’ll keep reminding Georgians how tightly the two Republican Senate candidates are bound to you.

Sit there and sulk. We don’t care. Joe Biden has already moved on. He’s focused on saving the country. 

Yes, Trump, you are entitled to sit in your bitter little funk in your lonely White House bunker until noontime on January 20.

That’s the day when the people channel Harrison Ford in that great final scene of Air Force One.

We’ll be happy to give you that last shove.

Hey Trump! Get out of our house!

If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Monday, November 16, 2020

BTRTN: Lost In Transition... We Have Seen the Future of the GOP, and It Is Still Donald Trump

The election is history, but a grumpy Trump is attempting to hold the Presidency hostage, refusing to concede, and not allowing the processes that ensure a peaceful transition of power to commence. Steve thinks Trump’s weaponization of denial is more than a tantrum... it is the ultimate loyalty test for Republicans.

Sure, everyone knew that even in defeat, Donald Trump would continue to exercise out-sized influence on the Republican Party. But the combination of asserting that the 2020 election was “stolen,” the refusal to concede, stonewalling the transition, ignoring the virus, and now the rumor that Trump may announce that he will run again in 2024 is playing to fawning Republican acquiescence and only the most timid of dissent.  It sure makes us wonder if there is a “post” in the  “post-Trump” Republican Party.

Just when you thought you might see crocuses of conscience poking through the ground in the aftermath of defeat, you realize that it is only the canary in the same old coal mine of hypocrisy, sycophancy, self-interest, and political calculation. Donald Trump has moved quickly to establish to Republicans that just because he will no longer be President, it does not mean that he won’t still have their vital body parts in a vice.

The soon-to-be former President of the United States has been sheltering-in-place in the White House -- apparently in order to avoid being contaminated by the actual election results -- all while demanding that the Republican sheep bleat, excrete, and retweet his deceit. Dutifully, those sheep are falling in line behind Trump’s demand for herd stupidity.

A number of the most senior officials in Trump’s White House are busy advancing  the President’s preposterous posturing that he had indeed won the election.

A full week after CNN called the election for Biden, Kayleigh McEnany, Mike Pompeo, and Peter Navarro have each gone so far as to discuss their planning for a “second” Trump term.  Countless reckless, feckless, and clueless jackass Republicans have repeated a mantra about the need to count all the “legal” ballots, clearly implying that there is an unknown number of “illegal” ballots, somehow leaving open the possibility that this number may have reached 160,000 in Michigan, 50,000 in Pennsylvania, and 30,000 in Wisconsin. We have yet to hear evidence of a single “illegal” ballot, let alone a quantity approaching a quarter of a million.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy went on Fox and said “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.”  Good dog, Kevin. Here’s a treat.

We had wondered if some traditional Washington Republicans were secretly hoping that Trump would be defeated – perhaps even badly spanked – so that they could get their lives back. Perhaps one or two of the big-name Republicans who resoundingly trashed Donald Trump before he won the nomination in 2016 – Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz – were aching to be freed from their indentured servitude. These men had served four long years in purgatory for the sin of selling their souls to hold their jobs, and one wondered if they would have found liberation in a Trump defeat.

In late 2015, a resolute and grounded Lindsey Graham called Donald Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” who “does not represent my party,” and who “doesn’t represent the values that the men and women in uniform are fighting for.” It is a tragedy that a man who appeared so principled, serious, and dignified in that video clip has been reduced to a life that amounts to carrying around Donald Trump’s spittoon. We just had to believe that Lindsey Graham could not wait to embrace Donald Trump’s defeat and be counted among those who would seek to reclaim the party of hillbilly elegy back from a family of utterly disingenuous Beverly Hillbillies. 

And then there is Ted Cruz, a guy who allowed his loved ones to be savagely torched by Donald Trump, and then had to crawl on his knees begging for Trump to help him get re-elected to his Senate seat. Trump didn’t just brand Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted,” he crudely insulted the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, and he actually accused Cruz’s father of being part of a plot to assassinate JFK.

Does Ted Cruz really like and admire Donald Trump?  Well, here’s a clue. This May, 2016 quote from Ted Cruz is so juicy we just had to quote in its entirety:

Ted Cruz: “I’m going to do something I haven't done for the entire campaign, for those of you all who have traveled with me, all across the country. I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump…

"This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And he had a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook. His response is to accuse everybody else of lying. He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying, and it's simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen. Donald Trump is such a narcissist, that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, ‘Dude, what’s your problem?’ Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar, and I say pathological because I actually think Donald—if you hooked him up to a lie-detector pass, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he'd pass the lie-detector test each time. Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it, but the man is utterly a moron.”

Hey, nobody hates the smarmy, smug, oily Ted Cruz more than me, but you gotta admit… that was one tidal wave of a take down, packing the punch of an NFL punter delivering a sharp kick between Trump’s Towers.  You would have thought that Ted Cruz would be savoring Trump’s defeat.

But not even Graham and Cruz – with recent Senate wins cementing their positions – could muster the slightest push back on Trump’s crazy claims. Graham, who apparently donated his moral fiber to science when John McCain died, went on Hannity to issue an utterly unsupported condemnation of corruption in Philadelphia elections. He endorsed the idea that Republicans should implore the Pennsylvania General Assembly to override the popular vote and award the state's Electoral College slate to Trump. “Everything should be on the table,” said the answer to the Jeopardy question, “Who is the biggest hypocrite on the face of the earth?”

And Ted Cruz?

Yes, that same Ted Cruz who appropriately vented his rage when Trump ominously threatened to “spill the beans” on this wife, tweeted a photo intended to denigrate her physical appearance, and accused his father of murdering JFK, is now just another little frightened puppy hiding under Trump’s skirt. Asked his position on Trump’s contentions that the election was stolen in widespread voter fraud, Cruz fell in line: “I am more than a little frustrated that every time they close the doors and shut out the lights, they always find more Democratic votes.”

To be fair, there are Republican leaders who were willing to discretely whisper to the Emperor that he was experiencing a minor wardrobe malfunction. The Republican Gang of Four – Romney, Collins, Murkowski, and Sasse – have let it be known that Trump’s behavior is not acceptable, but those four may as well be AOC plus three to Trump loyalists. And, yes, some Republicans have asserted than Biden should been given intelligence briefings “until things are sorted out,” which sounds a little like a note of independence from Trump until you realize that they are actually fueling Trump’s core contention that there is doubt about the outcome of the race.

And so goes the story of the new post-Trump Republican Party: there is no "new" and there is no “post.” There had been some hope that if and when the Electoral College door slammed down on Trump, the Republican party would gradually begin the mitosis process and split into two:  the permanent residents on Trump’s Fantasy Island, and a resurgent band of traditional Republicans who would use the occasion of Trump’s defeat to try to move on.

Not happening.

Sure, we expected Trump to react to his defeat with the grace and equanimity associated with rottweilers, cable television phone representatives, and two-year old children at bedtime.  He has refused to concede defeat, refused to speak, refused to release the funding and briefing process that enables a smooth transition of power, and refused to pay attention as a pandemic now explodes wildly out of control on his watch.

And then there's this...

Yes, there is talk that the way Trump intends to “save face” after his loss is to never concede defeat, to continue contended that the election was flawed, and to announce his plans to run again for President in 2024.

Fun fact: the last time a major party candidate who did not win the White House was renominated to run for President was Richard Nixon, who ran as the Republican but lost in 1960 and then won in 1968. The last time a major party candidate lost an election and was nominated again four years later was in 1956, an exact rematch of the 1952 election… and Dwight Eisenhower beat Adlai Stevenson both times.

By and large, in the past 50 years, the major party candidates who did not win the White House have been labeled as failures or disappointments who lost because they ran flawed campaigns.  You lose, you snooze. Be it Mondale, Dukakis, Dole, Gore, McCain, Romney, or Hillary Clinton, the rule has been one and done. You get one shot at winning, and if you fail, you become damaged goods.

Ah, but today’s Republican Party may as well rebrand itself the “Trumpublican Party.” Trump, who is damaged goods incarnate, is one of just three elected incumbent Presidents in the last 100 years to fail to be re-elected, and the only elected President in American history to be impeached in his first and only term. Yet he appears to be in a position to call the shots about whether or not he will be the party’s candidate again in 2024.

Sure, we’ve heard all the attempts at Trump-splaining what is really going on. Fine: some Republicans think that it’s best to let Trump work through his 43 stages of denial, and that we should all pretend to agree with him so little Donnie doesn’t get angry and send ICBMs flying. Then there’s the rationale that Trump is smart to refuse to concede so that he can continue to do fundraising. Heard this one too: no Republican wants to call bullshit on Trump for fear of alienating the Trump base in Georgia prior to the two run-off races that will determine control of the Senate. No question about this one: the man is so petty that he is refusing to green-light the flow of transition funds and intelligence briefings just to try to damage Biden’s Presidency. We doubt this one but are duty bound to report it: Trump's Hail Mary is that Republican States legislatures in key states might try to overturn election results and send an alternative slate to the Electoral College. Still an outlier possibility: he thinks that he can cobble together all this obstruction, attempts at delegitimization, delay, and annoyance to force Biden to agree to a deal with him that frees Trump from the worry of prison time.

It could be all of the above, but above all that, it could be just a big, sloppy loyalty test. Donald Trump is just testing everyone in the Party to champion his utterly outrageous claim of election fraud in order to make clear that he still owns these people.  Anyone who crosses him will be excommunicated, primaried, or – God forbid – banned from appearing on Hannity or Carlson.

Maybe the simplest explanation is the best: were Trump to make an announcement that he was planning a 2024 run, it gives him a substantially elevated platform from which to bask in the limelight of FOX interviews, rejuvenate his bitter soul with more super-spreader MAGA-A rallies, all while keeping the spotlight off every pretender to inherit his leadership of the party.

And what exactly does this mean for the dozens of Republicans who were positioning themselves for a “post-Trump” era? Good luck getting any traction when the “post Trump era” looks exactly like the “Trump era” itself.   

Take Mike Pence, Sycophant-in-Chief and pretender of deep Christian faith, who sold his deeply discounted soul to Trump, sticking with him through thick and thin even as he committed the most heinous acts. Hypocrites like Pence probably justify their abdication with some quasi-legalese argument that there is no overt commandment in the Bible that specifically precludes ripping babies from their mothers.

Pence was playing the long game. He was thinking that if he’d rode shotgun on the Trump bus, he would be next in line for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue… either as natural heir to a defeated Trump in 2020, or as the man carrying forward the winning torch in 2024 after two terms of Trump.

Imagine Pence’s surprise to wake up and find that his constant enabling has now simply enabled Trump to continue to hold Pence’s future in his hand.

Mike Pompeo is another guy who has made no secret of his designs on the White House. You got the feeling that Pompeo was just playing angles, feigning fawning respect for Trump while smugly enjoying his thinly-clad belief that Trump was his intellectual inferior. In his memoir, John Bolton recalls receiving a note from Pompeo in a White House meeting saying that Trump “is so full of shit.” 

Now, Pompeo – like every other Republican with eyes on the prize – must sit back and totally cool his heels, waiting for Trump to decide what he is going to do. No casting about for campaign staff, no feelers sent to big donors, nothing. Stand on the sidelines and wait.

Any Republican who makes a move on 2024 before Trump makes his decision is just flying a kamikaze mission on the entire Fifth Fleet. Who knows? That could last for two years... crippling any candidacy.

Before Trump’s White House allowed that little rumor of another run at the White House in 2024 to slip, pundits were expecting a Republican field in 2024 that would dwarf the 25 candidates who made a run at the Democratic nomination in 2020. Now you won’t hear a peep, as every Republican will be obligated – on penalty of Party treason – to say that they are waiting to see what Trump intends to do.

Good luck raising campaign money, Marco. Better keep the powder dry, Nikki. And all of you shrill, penny-ante micro-Trumps (Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz. etc., etc.): shut up and get back on the bus.

What’s fascinating – but utterly impossible in the Trumpublican Party --  is that now is actually the perfect time for some heretofore unknown Republican to make a name for him or herself by being the one who calls BS on Trump. Someone who stands up and says, “Can we all stop kidding ourselves? Our guy lost. Incumbents are supposed to win, and he didn’t.  And do you know what? If we nominate him in 2024, we lose again.  We can spend the next four years doubling down, repeating his fantasies, and generally pimping for him, or we can start thinking about what it will actually take to win in 2024.”

Ah, wouldn’t that be sweet. But don't worry... it ain’t gonna happen.

Trump is making clear – and the Republican sheep are enabling it – that Trump alone will decide who runs in 2024.

And boy, won’t it be something if Trump finally makes his decision and announces it from the inside of a Federal penitentiary. Not a glam look for the Grand Old Party.

Trump lost, but he has retained stunning leverage in the Republican Party, for one simple reason. They let him.

He is the grift that will keep on grifting. He is the party guest who got bombed, slept on the couch, and now demands breakfast. He is at once the ghost of Christmas past, and yet also the ghost of Christmas yet to come.

We have seen the future of the Republican Party, and its name is Donald Trump.

God help us, everyone.



If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

BTRTN: Post-Election Reflections...and How We Did With Our Predictions

Tom has caught up on his sleep sufficiently to offer some post-election thoughts and a report card on our BTRTN predictions.

There are two natural questions to address after any major election.  One is to try to understand how and why the winners won.  And the second is to see how the actual results compared to pre-election expectations, as set traditionally by polls, and more recently by election forecasters who aggregate polls and build prediction models, including BTRTN.

The first question is worthy of deep analysis, and it is a bit too early for that.  But we will give some initial reflections on the election results, what happened and what they mean.  And for the second question, we offer our “report card.”  Even though a number of races have yet to be called, we think we have enough to paint a general picture of how we did.

The basic facts are clear, if not the precise final results:  Joe Biden won the presidency; the Republicans held on to the Senate, subject to a challenge in Georgia in January, the Democrats held the House, albeit losing at least five net seats, and the GOP flipped one governorship.

For the purposes of what follows, we will assume, with respect to the uncalled races, that Biden will win Georgia and Arizona, while Trump will win Alaska and North Carolina, and the Senate races in Alaska and North Carolina will go to the GOP.  We will make no assumptions about the remaining 21 House races, except that the Democrats will indeed retain the majority, even though they are two seats short of control right now, at 216 called seats (versus 198 for the GOP).



Perhaps the most interesting factoid of the entire election is that of the roughly 175 Republican incumbents that ran for re-election in 2020, only three were voted out of office:  Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado, Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, and President Donald J. Trump.  Not a single Republican member of the House of Representatives lost a House seat (the Democrats have flipped three seats so far, but in each the GOP incumbent had retired), and not a single GOP Governor was voted out of office.  This election was hardly a repudiation of the Republican Party, which has been completely recast as the party of Trump.  But it was a repudiation of Trump himself.

Joe Biden won the presidency, and while it was a close race, the final tallies will not be that close.  He will win the popular vote by five million votes, and compile a 306-214 win in the Electoral College.  While it is true that he won four states by a point or less, that is likely to be the norm in any race of this polarized era that does not feature a transforming candidate (such as Barack Obama).  It sure felt closer, due to the agonizingly slow motion count of the mail-in ballots in multiple states, which gave the illusion of a “comeback.”  But this was not a 270-268 nail biter.

Biden ended up flipping five states from 2016.  These included the famous troika of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that Trump won by a combined 78,000 votes in 2016, flipping three states the Democrats had taken since 1992.  Biden also flipped Arizona and Georgia.  It is worth noting that Hillary Clinton outperformed Barack Obama in only three states, and two of them were Arizona and Georgia.  Clearly they were on a trend to turn blue at some point, and this appears to be the year.  The third state?  Texas.  Romney won Texas by +16 in 2012; Trump won it by +9 in 2016; and now Trump won it by +6 in 2020.  Those 38 electoral votes will certainly be in play again in 2024.

There will be much deep analysis of this election, when valid post-election research is done.  (I urge caution in putting too much stock in “exit polls,” which have a far more sordid history than polling itself, and given all the voting process dynamics in play in 2020, I have less confidence in them than ever.)

But I will put forward a few simple propositions.

The first relates to Trump defectors.  In the early months after his inauguration in January, 2017, Donald Trump lost a few points in his approval rating, dropping from 47% down into the low 40% range.  And he never recovered – not only did he become the first president to never achieve an “above water” (50%+) approval rating, but he never got back to 47%.  He seemed totally locked in the 43% range, and as we pointed out time and again, no incumbent has ever won reelection with such a low rating.  (George W. Bush pulled it off with a 48% rating in 2004, materially above Trump).  “Trumpgret” set in with a crucial sliver of Trump’s 2016 electoral support – and that modest defection essentially prevented Trump from pulling off another “inside straight” win in 2020.  Instead of winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 78,000 votes, he lost them by over 200,000.

And the second relates to Trump supporters.  The question I have been getting more than any other this past week is: how could almost half of America – 70 million and counting -- vote for Trump when his fingerprints are all over the scene of the crime of the COVID deaths of more than 240,000 Americans?  Frankly, I do not think the answer is terribly complicated.  Trump has made it clear to his followers that he will absolutely make their jobs, their ability to earn an honest wage, his first – even his only – priority.  His message, when you scrape away all the histrionics?  “I will not let COVID-19 get in the way of your job – no lockdowns on my watch.  I will not let the environmental threat get in the way – I will scrap those costly green regulations.  I will not let undocumented immigrants get in the way – I will build a wall so they will not take your jobs.  I will bring back manufacturing jobs.  I will cut your taxes.”  It’s the economy, stupid…right?  Trump’s followers believe in his economic program, including his tax cuts, and they also favor the judges he appoints, his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and apparent alignment with their value system, in word if not in deed.  They are willing to overlook his many character flaws because, to them, he is so clearly on their side, fighting for them.  They don’t care about character flaws, lies, Constitutional niceties...or Joe Biden.  It’s not that complicated.

With respect to COVID, think of it this way.  Say an average town in the US has 20,000 residents.  Such a town would have had about 600 COVID cases by now (3%, the national average), and six residents would have died from the scourge (1% of the 600).  Such a town might actually conclude that they would rather stay open for business and risk losing a few more lives, than locking down, sacrificing thousands of jobs.  That is how Donald Trump portrayed the choice, when you get right down to it.  The tragedy is, it’s a false choice -- if he just told them that they could keep their local businesses open if they wore masks and practiced social distancing, they could have had their jobs and virtually eliminated loss of life.  That will be Joe Biden’s plan.  But the Trump voter listens only to Trump, so they bought into the false choice he presented. 

Biden won because he wasn’t Trump, and also won because he was also not Hillary Clinton.  He ran as Joe Biden, an authentic character, borne of Main Street, Scranton, Pa., a human being who knows pain, even tragedy, makes mistakes (call them gaffes, if you must), overcame a stutter and embraces old-school political values like working across the aisle and the incremental change that the Senate of the United States embodies.  David Axelrod said that in the 2008 campaign, they parked Joe Biden in the Midwest.  In some sense, that is actually where they found him, where he always was on the political map, and where he has been running since the day he first announced his candidacy for the presidency back in 1987.  But after two failed runs in 1988 and 2008, this time, America was looking for him.

Biden did not have Obama’s magical touch, though, and so the Democrats failed in their bid to gain control of the Senate, picking up only one net seat instead of the three they needed, losing Alabama as expected, but flipping Colorado (John Hickenlooper ejecting Gardner) and Arizona (Mark Kelly defeating McSally, who has lost both Senate seats in Arizona in two short years).  But they lost two other flips, in Maine and North Carolina, the latter perhaps due to Cal Cunningham’s sexting scandal, which diminished his solid lead, as well as four other races that qualified as toss-ups in Iowa, Kansas, Montana and South Carolina.

But Democrats did force two run-off elections in Georgia, and they will certainly have a chance in both come January 5, 2021.  In both elections, they won 48% of the vote (in the special election, that equaled the GOP); they have credible candidates; this is now a blue state with the Biden win; and the entire Democratic volunteer apparatus and fundraising machine will descend on the state in short order.  The Dems will be underdogs, but not by much.

The only real shocker was in the House, where the Dems have already lost a net of five seats and could lose a few more as the final 21 races are finalized in the coming days and weeks.  They will emerge with a thinner majority, surely the strongest sign that the GOP message – Trump’s message – has resonance.  It remains to be seen whether the GOP prowess in gerrymandering can continue to offset the demographic gains the Democrats inexorably will continue to make.

The net of all this is that while Trump will be gone, his message – his focus on the economy and jobs over all else – will remain.  Whether this will resonate without him – and with those ominous demographics moving in the Democrat’s direction – remains to be seen.  It will be Joe Biden’s challenge, having won back the Rust Belt, to deliver on the implicit message that he has a long-term economic solution for them, beyond “simply” solving COVID and taxing the rich.

Also worth noting is that, as you read this, Donald Trump is making his final set of challenges to American institutions.  His fraud charge was a direct test of our electoral system, and our gloriously local election apparatus appears to have passed in a heartwarming civics lesson.  Americans of all political stripes appear to have pulled off a fair election under arduous conditions.  Now we’ll see if the courts step up and do their role in affirming that effort with 9-0 verdicts on fraud cases put before them.  We have to see if the GOP ultimately tells Trump it is time to go, and if our police can keep the peace if needed.  If we meet all those challenges, we will be in a better place than if Biden had sailed to a 413-125 landslide over Trump.  Let’s show Trump who is really in charge: the American voter.



We sure got the headline wrong:  “Biden Wins and Dems Achieve a Trifecta.”  We got the Biden part right, but there was no trifecta, at least for now.

But it was actually a pretty good performance overall.  I’d give us an A for the presidential race and the Governors, a B for the Senate, and a D for the House.  Overall, in GPA terms, that averages out to a B, and that feels about right.

·        In the presidential race, we got the Biden win right, and correctly predicted 48 out of 50 states, and 53 out of 56 entities including DC and the Maine and Nebraska districts.  We were wrong only in Florida (a bad switch we made just before posting our final predictions) and North Carolina.  In both states, the polls had Biden up by a point or two, and instead Trump won by narrow margins. 

·        In the Senate, we made the right call in 33 out of 35 races, but the two misses, in Maine and North Carolina, were enough to keep the Democrats from taking control of the Senate, which we had predicted.  Our favorite accurate prediction was that Georgia’s regular election would join the special one in a runoff in January.  That, of course, could redeem our “control” miss, since if the Democrats win both, they will indeed control the Senate.  We will be back on January 4, 2021 with those predictions. 

·        We were correct on all 11 Governor races. 

·        But the House was a disaster.  Sure the Democrats kept control of the House, as we predicted, but instead of gaining +18 seats, as predicted, they have lost a net of -5 so far, and will lose a few more when all is said and done.  We have no good explanation for this: the generic ballot has a very long history of being an extremely accurate weathervane for the House, but this time it was clearly not.  How the Dems led in the generic ballot by +8.3 points and lost seats is a mystery to be analyzed in great depth, and we will have to do some retooling of our models.

I think we did a reasonable job preparing readers for a range of outcomes in the presidential race.  With 7 swing states totaling 133 electoral votes, we made clear that while Joe Biden would win, his margin could be anywhere from a 413-125 landslide to a 280-258 squeaker.  It was closer to the latter, for sure, but well along the range.

All in all, the pollsters have some explaining to do.  In looking at the presidential swing states, you can see (in the chart below) that they were particularly bad in the Midwest, apart from Minnesota.  In essence, they were right in that Biden won the states where he was ahead (Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), and lost the ones where he was behind (Ohio and Iowa).  But the winning margins were much closer than expected, and the losing margins much greater.  Note that the polling was much better in the Sun Belt and the West, but still tended to overstate Biden’s strength by just a bit. 


Swing State Poll Avg

Actual Margin

Actual Versus Polls

Different Outcome




Biden + 7

Biden + 8






Biden + 1

Biden + 0






Biden + 3

Biden + 2






Biden + 3

Biden + 1






Trump + 3

Trump + 6





North Carolina

Biden + 2

Trump + 1






Biden + 5

Biden + 1






Biden + 2

Trump + 3






Biden + 8

Biden + 3






Trump + 1

Trump + 8






Biden + 8

Biden + 1







Trump + 8





Overall, the polls were off a bit, but not enough to effect the ultimate outcome.  As said, based largely on the polls, we were right in calling 10 of these 12 contested states, five of which were tossups.

One memento (below) from Election Night…my “cheat sheet” tracking the erosion of Trump’s lead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as the night wore on.  I turned these into extrapolation spreadsheet models on the morning of November 4, models that gave me great comfort in the ensuing days.

And now on to Georgia.