Why the election outcome seems like a mystery

Why the election outcome seems like a mystery
Unstoppable. CNN video via Wash. Examiner

It’s often hard to believe that the presidential candidate you voted for lost. After all, you and most of your friends voted for that candidate.

Republicans tend to have Republican friends and family, and Democrats tend to have friends and family who are Democrats.

So even when your candidate loses, most of your friends will have voted for that candidate.

In 1972, a liberal writer for the New Yorker was reported to have said, “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”

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But Nixon, the Republican candidate, won that presidential election by a landslide — with 61% of the vote. And it wasn’t due to vote fraud — no political scientist thinks Nixon won as a result of tampering with voting machines, or vote fraud or illegal votes of any kind.

Liberty Unyielding readers tend to be conservative and know mostly conservatives. So many of them can’t believe that a liberal like Joe Biden could possibly win, even though most polls showed him leading Donald Trump in 2020. They know few people who voted for Biden, and thus can’t imagine how he could win. Even though the average poll showed Biden leading by 7.2% right before the election.

But many of America’s cities and inner suburbs were full of “Joe Biden” signs. My county, an inner suburb, had far more Biden signs in 2020 than it had Clinton signs in 2016.

My progressive relatives, who live in cities, know hardly anyone who voted for Trump, and were stunned that he came as close to winning as he did. They wonder whether Republicans relied on vote fraud to win in Florida.

Some LU readers think it is impossible to “believe that 80 million Americans voted for a senile guy that spent half of September just hiding from public view.” (Never mind that countries have elected presidents even older and more infirm than Biden. One elected a blind 90-year-old as its president).

But many people hate Trump so much they would have voted for even a yellow dog rather than him. My progressive aunt thinks Biden is senile, which is why she voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. But she still voted for Joe Biden in the general election, in order to unseat Donald Trump.

My mother is a moderate who dislikes both Trump and Biden, especially Trump, who she views as mentally unbalanced. She held her nose and voted for Biden in the general election, while voting for Republicans for House and Senate.

I and my wife are probably the only people in our family who didn’t vote for Biden. If you don’t know anyone who voted for Biden — trust me, such people exist! Major cities are full of them.

Some LU readers say Trump couldn’t possibly have lost because his rallies were bigger than Biden’s. But candidates often lose elections despite having more enthusiastic supporters, or bigger rallies than their opponent. Rallies are a less reliable sign of who will win the election than opinion polls are. In a high turnout election, it’s swing voters who matter, not the candidate’s most enthusiastic supporters.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo lost the 1994 election to the low-energy Republican George Pataki, even though Cuomo’s rallies were bigger and more enthusiastic. Pataki won because he made the race a simple choice between Cuomo and “Not Cuomo,” relying on centrist voters’ fatigue with the liberal Cuomo, rather than their (non-existent) enthusiasm for Pataki.

The media described Pataki as having a “languid manner,” unlike the charismatic, energetic Cuomo. Voters didn’t care about Pataki’s lack of charisma, because they were sick of Cuomo, even if he was better at rallies.

In 1964, Republican candidate Barry Goldwater got only 39% of the vote, despite having more enthusiastic rallies than Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater lost in a landslide. His enthusiastic rallies and passionate supporters did not win him the election. 61% of voters chose President Johnson instead.

George H.W. Bush won the 1988 election, even though Democrat Michael Dukakis had more enthusiastic rallies.

Biden got a lot of votes by making the election a choice between Trump — the most consistently unpopular president in the last century — and “Not Trump.” Voters didn’t vote for Biden, they voted against Trump. And they didn’t need to be enthusiastic about Biden to do that. They just needed to dislike Trump. (Trump won in 2016 because Hillary Clinton was even more hated than he was in several key swing states that gave Trump his win in the electoral college, even though Trump was more hated nationally. Trump was unpopular for a higher percentage of his presidency than any other president since the political polling began).

I didn’t vote for Joe Biden. I criticized Biden many times this year, in publications across America — like in the National Review; the Tampa Bay Times; several newspapers in Pennsylvania; and many, many other places.

But that doesn’t change the fact that lots of people voted for Joe Biden. (Nationally, official election results say Biden got 81 million votes, compared to Trump’s 74 million votes. On the eve of the election, polls showed Biden leading Trump by 7.2%. The official election results show Biden getting 4.5% more of the vote nationally than Trump.)

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for CNSNews.com and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at [email protected]

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