On this day in 1870, the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. Its text is brief.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The passage of the Amendment was a staggeringly large step toward race equality in America. Yet even before three-quarters of the states ratified it, racists began to deter blacks from exercising their new political power: the power of the ballot. The campaign against them, consisting of intimidation, violence, and legal obstacles, was particularly brazen in the former slave states. Shockingly, it would be another 100 years before the promise of the 15th Amendment became something like a reality. With the new assault on voting rights we see today, the fragility of this Constitutional guarantee is obvious.
Yesterday was a long, uneventful day, a day of waiting for a conclusion that didn’t come. The suspenseful process of counting the ballots for the presidency continued all day and into the night, with the frontrunner Joe Biden holding a good lead over Trump. By the end of the day, Biden had won Wisconsin and Michigan, flipping them blue and preserving his path to victory. Attention then shifted to Nevada (6 electoral votes), Arizona (11), Georgia (16), and Pennsylvania (20) where mail-in ballots outstanding are expected to run mainly in Biden’s favor, but where races remains too close to call. Alaska (3) and North Carolina (15) are also still in play but more likely to end up in the president’s column. At midnight, according to CNN, Biden had 253 electoral votes to Trump’s 213.
Today, the presidential contest will come to a climax, as Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona report additional returns. If Biden holds his lead in Nevada and Arizona, he will have exactly 270 and Trump will have lost. If Biden pulls ahead in Pennsylvania on the strength of the remaining 763,000 mail-in ballots still being counted in mainly urban and suburban areas, Trump will be toast. It will be many days, however, before Pennsylvania completes its count.
If Biden wins, the losing candidate and his supporters may cause mayhem and violence. So far, state officials and the major news outlets (including even Fox) have wisely projected respect for the election process and the people’s will. It is very important to the stability of the country that they have refrained from rash claims for one side or the other, instead reporting only full vote counts while urging calm. Michigan is a prime example, where Governor Whitmer and her dynamic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, have been speaking out on the imperative need to respect every vote and the collective will of the people. The protracted nature of this election count, and the fact that Biden has been leading the bulk of the time, is a good thing, in that it allows voters of all stripes to accept the final outcome as being authentic, if word of a Biden victory comes.
This morning the stock market is surging on expectation that Biden will win, while the Senate will remain under Republican control. Whereas a plunging stock market would signal a foreboding of post-election violence and instability, the surge indicates investors’ confidence that the people’s will in selecting the president will prevail.
Image: C. B. Slemp, secretary to Calvin Coolidge,
receiving word of the election in 1924,
from this source.
Election 2020 is the most important election of our lives. It is also the most unusual, because of COVID, because of Trump’s dirty tricks, and because underneath the titanic struggle between Trump and Biden is a creaky, deaf party system that many voters loathe.
The “nationalization” of political campaigns under the direction of an army of political consultants and ad directors has reached the limits of its efficacy. Citizens are tired of slick ad blitzes, tech-only wizardry, and political negativity. They are tired of being reduced to a statistic, tired of being bombarded with impersonal appeals.
In the interstices of all this, something truly extraordinary is happening. Americans are organizing themselves in more authentic and locally appropriate ways. They are mobilizing their friends and families, reaching out through personal networks, developing bloc-specific agendas, hoping to multiply the influence of their constituencies at the polls.
The ideological agenda of the new mobilizers may be a bit vague. They don’t operate at the pleasure of a political party. Their overarching mission is to preach the power of civic engagement to groups underrepresented in the polity. The Minnesota Youth Collective, for instance, asks prospective members to take a pledge to be civically engaged: “Young Minnesotans are the largest voting bloc in the state, and we’re ready to use that power to get things done for our communities. By filling out this quick form, you’re making a commitment to join this fight with us, whatever that means to you.”
Similar groups are springing up all over the country, sometimes banding together to increase their visibility:
These groups could have an unexpectedly large effect on the presidential election, precisely because they are mobilizing communities that the national party system has cynically neglected for years. They lie outside the aegis of the Biden campaign and may be reaching voters whom political polls miss.
Yesterday, September 23, was one of the worst days in American political history. On this day, the incumbent president, Donald Trump, came out as an enemy of the people, showing resentment and matter-of-fact impatience with the election and voting. “Get rid of the ballots,” Trump said on camera yesterday, during a White House briefing. Even as evidence mounts that voters have had it with this president, he keeps ratcheting up his assault on their democratic sovereignty.
“I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. We want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very trans- — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.”
The suits and skirts blandly analyzing what will happen “if Trump doesn’t leave” have forgotten the lead actor in this story: the voting public, especially the majority who for fours years has had to sit by as this despicable man has corrupted and upended the constitutional order on which the nation’s prosperity and dignity depend.
What will happen if Trump disregards the wishes of the people for whom the government exists? Trump strikes at what he can’t control: The people will not tolerate a subversion of their will.
Remember all those presidential polls in 2016 showing Hillary winning or enjoying a slight but reassuring lead? Remember the sickening shock of Election Night when, instead, Trump won? Remember how afterward pollsters and news organizations declared “Mea culpa,” because their polls had failed to register crucial facts about what the candidates and the electorate were thinking and doing? Hillary trusted the polls. As a consequence, she became complacent and ran a poor ground game in states that she took for granted and lost.
Since then, the best polling sites have supposedly upped their game (and hedged their bets) by using more sophisticated and nuanced models. Nonetheless, relying on polls remains dangerous because they are based on information that is always a little bit old. It’s a little bit thin. It’s always a bit scattered. It tends to be crude. Meanwhile, the 2020 race will hinge on up-to-the-minute efforts by the nominees and their parties in specific localities. This is how Trump won last time: by building on microlevel advantages in several key states, and leveraging those advantages into state-level wins.
Now Trump and his backers are at it again. In Wisconsin, Republicans are mounting a concerted door-t0-door campaign to get out the vote, where, later this month, the state supreme court will hear arguments on whether to purge some 180,ooo voters from registration rolls. Trump backers have pleaded with judges to limit ballot collection boxes and disqualify mail-in ballots lacking a secrecy envelope in Pennsylvania. Finally, in the crucial matter of voter registration, the New York Times is reporting that in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, “overall registration is up by 6 points through August compared to the 2016 cycle, but net Democratic registrations are down by 38 percent. That’s about 150,000 fewer additional Democrats than were added in 2016.” Surprising numbers of whites without college degrees are registering, a demographic that went heavily for Mr Trump in 2016. Such are the unobtrusive developments that will make all the difference in this election–developments that even the best polling, which focuses mainly on opinion, cannot capture. The fate of the US will hinge on last-minute, local actions occurring in real time.
So, if you care about the future of the United States, please ignore the polls. Act on your fears and redouble your efforts to get out the vote for Joe.