I’ll write about this year’s election results on Sunday. For now, here are blogs posts or notes I wrote In the aftermath of Presidential elections in 2000, 2008 and 2016
November 7, 2000 – Election day.
November 8, 2000 – Wednesday – The polls closed 24 hours ago and we still don’t know who the next President will be. Probably Bush, but with the closest race in a century, there’s no telling. It all hinges on Florida which is in the midst of an automatic recount because the vote was so close.
December 5, 2000 – Tuesday – The US Supreme Court yesterday remanded the Presidential election case to the Florida Supreme Court to clarify its opinion and a trial judge ruled against Gore and refused to order a hand recount of the ballots. I think this is almost over. Bush will be president-elect by next Monday.
December 8, 2000 – Friday – At 4 pm today, the Florida Supreme Court announced its 4 to 3 decision ordering manual recounts. It’s thrown the process into even more confusion. Supposedly, Gore was to concede tonight if the decision had gone against him. Wow.
December 10, 2000 – Saturday – The political picture abruptly reversed itself Saturday morning when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the vote counting in Florida with arguments tomorrow morning. For about 18 hours it seemed that Al Gore might actually become president. Whatever happens, tremendous bitterness on the losing side will be a very strong force in politics for years to come.
December 12, 2000: In case of Bush v. Gore, US Supreme Court makes George W. Bush president
End-of-Year Retrospective: The Presidential election was the biggest story of the year 2000. The closest race in history, Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes, but George W. Bush, with the eventual help of the United States Supreme Court, won the state of Florida and the electoral college vote. The result was not reached until nearly five weeks after the election. Other than television pundits and Republican government official want-to-be’s, everyone was very patient. Gore undoubtedly won in Florida, but he was outmaneuvered and so deserved to lose. The fact that he lost New Hampshire, his home state of Tennessee, and Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas only reinforce the view that he blew it. But of course, that’s another story.
Casting My Vote
November 4, 2008
I got to the Daley School shortly after 7:30 a.m. to cast my vote for Obama and Biden. There were waves of people entering the school but with two separate precincts and an efficient check-in system, there was only a short line and it took no more than 5 minutes to get my ballot and start darkening in the ovals. The act of voting went smoothly but the voting machine was broken. Usually you slide your ballot into the top and the automatic rollers grab it, pull it in, and the machine tallies your vote internally while indicating what number ballot yours was. Instead, we had to drop ballots into an open slot in the side of the box. Maybe the automatic tabulator will be fixed during the day and the ballots will be fed through; but if they’re not and the ballots have to be counted by hand, it will take a while to get the results from Ward 8, Precinct 3. My son Andrew turned 18 at the end of the summer so this was the first election in which he was eligible to vote. Wanting to cast his first-ever vote in person rather than by absentee ballot, he came home from school yesterday and I drove him back after voting this morning. As we drove down Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge at about 8:30 a.m., I noticed a long line of people snaking along the sidewalk and around a corner. Thinking that perhaps tickets were about to go on sale for an exceedingly popular concert, I blurted out “I wonder what that line is for?” He patiently explained, “They’re waiting to vote.” Mistaking a long line waiting to vote for people waiting for concert tickets – maybe our Democracy is healthier than we thought.
Election Night Observations
November 5, 2008
Here are some of my memories of from election night: When the networks projected New Hampshire and Pennsylvania for Obama soon after the polls closed at 8 p.m., I was quite confident that Obama would win. The early returns corroborated the pre-election polls. There would be no “Bradley effect.” And in light of all of those polls, John McCain and his campaign had made no secret that Pennsylvania was the one state that had historically voted Democratic that they wanted to win. That’s why they spent so much time there. It made little difference. For someone else who was being more cautious in concluding it was over, the key moment was when Fox projected Ohio for Obama – if that network was giving that state, the state that John Kerry thought he had won and with it, the presidency, in 2004, then this election was clearly over.
The Morning After
November 5, 2008
Some thoughts the morning after the election: With the outcome of the vote in four states still in doubt (North Carolina and Missouri are too close to call while Indiana is leaning Obama and Montana is leaning McCain), it’s good that the race was not any closer. Our country didn’t need another presidential election decided by post-balloting maneuvering by lawyers.
Obama won 68% of the “youth vote” (ages 18-29). As someone pointed out to me this morning, an 18 year old who was able to vote for the first time yesterday was in the fifth grade when George Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000. The historic turbulence of that election and all of its consequences undoubtedly taught those kids that elections count. Indeed, the Florida 2000 vote taught them that every vote counts.
The pundits are saying Obama “blasted through a racial barrier” which is true, but anyone who asserts that race is no longer an issue in America is delusional. Between an increased turnout amongst African Americans and votes by white Americans who considered race in a positive way – that is, it would be a huge step forward for America to elect a black President – history may show that race was actually a net plus for Obama.
But make no mistake, racial animosity simmers unabated in America. The outcome of this race suggests it is eroding, but it is still there. Hopefully the performance of the Obama administration will zap that tumor like a massive dose of radiation and that ugly part of America will lapse into permanent remission.
November 8, 2016
November 8, 2016 – Tuesday – Election Day – When Roxane got back from her morning walk, she said the Daley School was jammed with voters. Hopefully this Trump nightmare is over early tonight, but there will just be continued unrest. At least we will have dodged the Trump bullet. Early in evening, clear that Rady Mom and Niki Tsongas had both won. I settled down in front of the computer for what I hoped would be an early night. It was an early night, but not the way I had hoped. It became clear pretty early that Clinton was struggling in states like Florida and North Carolina that she had hoped to win comfortably. Eventually the midwest collapsed so I went to bed, convinced that Trump had won.
November 9, 2016
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Nate Silver, the data guru of the New York Times, seemed to provide the best data analysis of what was going to happen and what did happen. Shortly after that, Silver left the Times to start his own site called FiveThirtyEight. I continued to follow Silver and, as this election drew near, paid close attention to his daily emails.
As yesterday’s election drew near. Silver, who interprets polls taken by others instead of doing his own polling, wrote that aggregating all national polls gave Clinton a 3 percent lead in the popular vote and similar leads in state polls. But he only gave Clinton a 67 percent chance of victory while similar websites were rating her chances in the 90 percent range. Silver explained that it was not uncommon for polls to be off by up to 3 percent. That was the case in 2012 when the polls gave Obama a 3 percent lead over Romney, but Obama won by 6 percent. (Because the error was in Obama’s favor, perhaps some of us were less likely to notice it). Silver said that a 3 percent error in the 2016 polls could end up as a Clinton landslide or, if the error was in the other direction, a very close race popular-vote wise, but also one that opened a clear path to a Trump victory in the Electoral College. Silver further explained that Clinton could take little comfort in state polls, because they did not exist in isolation. An error in one state poll would likely bleed across state boundaries and affect them all.
With that in mind last night, I shifted from covering the Lowell City Council meeting (which ended at 7:12 pm) to following election results on Twitter and the New York Times website. (When the council meeting ended, I spun my TV dial to some of the traditional news channels but quickly found them more annoying than informative and so pulled the plug on television for the night).
At first, things went predictably. Indiana and Kentucky were called for Trump at 7 pm, the same time Vermont went for Clinton. At 8, Massachusetts and Maryland offset Tennessee and Oklahoma. Florida was a key early indicator. Clinton could win without Florida, but Trump could not. In my mind, an early and healthy lead in Florida for Clinton would point to a solid Democratic victory. But Florida was too close to call; so was North Carolina; so was Virginia. As the votes were counted, the trends in Florida and North Carolina were towards Trump. When early returns from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan all showed surprising strength for Trump, it was pretty clear that Nate Silver’s 3-point polling error had happened and it had happened in Trump’s favor. That’s when I headed to bed.
Awake at 1 am, I reached for my phone and opened Twitter just in time for “Decision Desk HQ” to tweet, “OK all. It’s the big one. We project Trump wins Arizona … and the state of Pennsylvania. He’s President-elect.”
Sorting out what happened and why will take some time. The electorate wasn’t just divided, it was VERY divided, so today people will either be euphoric or distraught. With the strong performance of its Senate candidates across the country – who knew Trump would have such long coattails? – the Republican Party will control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court (just as soon as they confirm whoever Trump nominates to fill the seat vacant since Justice Scalia’s death).
If you like what happened, Congratulations. If you don’t like it, remember that all politics is local. The American political system is very fluid and is filled with moving parts. In the past, whether it was during the tenure of Ronald Reagan or of Barrack Obama, whichever party was out of power at the federal level turned to state and local government to effect change. I expect the same thing will happen this time, which makes the people we elect to represent us at the Massachusetts State House and at Lowell City Hall even more important.