Considering what the Trump team is up to right now I hate to interrupt with some bad news, but I’m seeing a fair amount of wishful thinking about Joe Biden’s victory that really needs to be corrected before it congeals into lefty conventional wisdom. It’s true that once all the votes are counted, Biden will have a nice popular vote win, and it’s also true that he’ll most likely win over 300 electoral votes.
But in terms of the states everyone was watching this was not a big victory. The key states, as in 2016, were the “blue wall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And in those states, Biden’s aggregate winning margin was 1.4 percent of the total vote. In 2016, Trump won by 0.6 percent of the vote. That’s a switch of two percentage points.
No matter how you spin it, that’s just not very much. In a closely divided country, it was enough to give Biden a victory, and in that sense it’s a lot. And Democrats did make gains in a few specific demographics. But in terms of how overall attitudes have changed, it’s only a tiny turnaround. After four years of watching Trump in action; suffering through a pandemic; and not having the hated Hillary Clinton on the ballot, hardly anyone changed their minds. Add to that a tiny increase in the popular vote; no pickups in state legislatures; a loss of half a dozen House seats; worrisome losses among Latinos; and (so far) only a single pickup in the Senate, and it’s just not possible to say that the Democratic Party demonstrated any sort of increased appeal to the broad electorate.
Think about that: After four years of Donald Trump, only a tiny percentage of the American public switched their votes to the Democratic Party.
At the moment, the evidence is too thin to draw any conclusions about why this is. And given the complete uselessness of the exit polls, it might well be months or years before we can really say what happened. One way or another, though, we shouldn’t fool ourselves: there’s no real evidence that the country showed any increased love for either the Democratic Party or the liberal agenda writ large. We need to figure out why that is.