Wait, whoa, what? The news was better than we were led to believe? There really was a blue wave, sort of? It was more like a technical knockout than a split decision?
But hold up, that’s fantastic!
Well, it turns out that all the reports and verdicts of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning failed to account for the spectacularly dysfunctional American electoral machinery, which often requires days, even weeks, to tabulate the votes. As a naive Canadian, accustomed to smoothly run, well regulated elections that boast a number of seemingly necessary basic features, like:
- modern machinery that tabulates electronically but preserves a paper ballot, just in case;
- short to non-existent waits at the polling station, there being a sensible ratio of polling places to population;
- comprehensible ballots that don’t guarantee mistakes by confused voters; and
- honest election officials whose integrity and impartiality is not in question,
I didn’t understand how skeptical it was prudent to be in the immediate aftermath of the vote. In my own defence, what goes on down there isn’t just beyond comprehension, it’s almost beyond the imagination. Pity the average American voter, waiting four hours in line to get to the booth, and then, instead of being presented with a ballot like we have here in Canada:
…Ms./Mr. Voter gets something akin to this abomination, as was handed to undoubtedly baffled voters in Florida:
No fooling. That’s an actual Florida ballot from this election, though I may have inserted the pages out of order, because I can’t frigging understand it. Is it any wonder that the proper tabulation of such ballots takes a while, when even the machine readers can barely keep it all straight? Is anyone, anyone at all, confident that this massive imitation of the SATs was actually filled out accurately by the fatigued voters who stuck it out in line?
Anyway, between bullshit like that, and absentee ballots, overseas ballots, provisional ballots, and ballots mailed in, the results available when everybody in the media called the elections and opined upon the results were often most emphatically incomplete. Days later, now, as the votes keep getting counted, it looks like actually, the Democrats didn’t flip 28 or so seats in the House, but closer to 36 or 37, hard to tell for sure at this point. Key Florida races declared as Republican victories are actually too close to call, and headed for recounts. The defeat of Stacy Abrams in Georgia was so narrow that while it may not fall inside the margin needed for a run-off election, it’s obvious that but for blatant voter suppression, Georgia would have a Democratic Governor too. Nevertheless, the Democrats won back seven State Governorships, and something close to 400 seats across the State legislatures. The Republicans will retain control of the Senate, but maybe by only a couple of seats, once this all shakes out, and this even though the districts up for re-election this time around skewed heavily Republican in the last vote, sometimes as much as 20% in Trump’s favour.
This wasn’t a split decision! But for gerrymandering and voter suppression, this would have been a monumental blow-out for the Democrats, and the gain of 35-37 seats in the House will in any case be the biggest swing in Democratic favour since the Watergate scandal.
So yes, Beto losing was a heartbreak, as it will be if Gillum and Abrams also fall short – how could such marvellous candidates fail against such loathsome opposition? – and it can’t be a true, according-to-Hoyle wave if the GOP keeps the Senate, but c’mon! It’s still pretty good! While the outcome does illustrate how high the unfair structural barriers to Democratic voters really are in the post Project Red Map environment, dwell happily upon this: if the vote breaks more or less the same way in all the same places in 2020, Trump is out out out!
OUT, damned Trump!!!
UPDATE: in the final tally the Dems flipped 40 house seats.