I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.
Today’s read: 13 minutes.
Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris speaking shortly after she was chosen as his running mate.
A note to readers.
Hey everyone: As you all know, one of the key elements of how I’m building trust with readers is direct reader interaction, specifically by replying to reader emails one-on-one. In normal times, I try to get to every email in my inbox within 48 hours of receiving it — it’s truly my favorite part of writing this newsletter.
This week, however, has been absolutely bonkers. I’m running on about nine hours of sleep over 72 hours and there is still a lot to keep up with, obviously, so my priority has been the newsletter. Please don’t stop writing in, and if you haven’t heard back from me yet, please hang tight. It may not be until next week, but I will get back to every email I can. I always do. And remember: you can reach me anytime with feedback, questions, or just to say hi by replying to this email.
Frustrated by flimsy claims of election fraud, I began tracking and researching claims of wrongdoing in this election two days ago. There has been a flood of voter and election fraud allegations going viral online. I have been tracking as many of them as I can, and I began to realize that I could explain all the alleged “fraud” I was seeing in viral videos, photos, etc. pretty easily.
As I said earlier this week: this was always going to happen. Election misinformation was going to flood the zone. Voter fraud does happen, but it’s rare, and almost never widespread enough to change an election outcome. Election fraud is even less common. To prove it, I created a “megathread” on Twitter where I rounded up all the claims of voter fraud I could find. It, too, has now gone viral — reaching millions of people online. It is more than 120 tweets long. If you’re interested in that, and want to see me addressing fraud allegations you’ve probably seen, you can read it here:
- More states are announcing new restrictions after two consecutive days of the U.S. recording more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19.
- An angry dispute erupted during a call amongst Democratic members of the House, according to a Washington Post report. House Democrats have seriously underperformed their poll numbers so far in the 2020 race, and a conference call devolved into arguments about the direction of the party.
- A federal judge has ordered the USPS to perform a sweep of facilities across Pennsylvania and North Carolina to ensure any remaining ballots can be delivered in time to be tabulated.
- U.S. employers added 638,000 jobs last month, and unemployment fell to 6.9% as the economy slowly tries to crawl back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Judges in Michigan and Georgia threw out the Trump administration’s efforts to stop counting votes yesterday after the administration could not provide evidence that late absentee ballots were being counted. The administration also filed a lawsuit in Nevada, alleging 3,000 illegal votes.
What D.C. is talking about.
Joe Biden. Around 8:50 a.m. EST this morning, Joe Biden was elected as the 46th President of the United States. Decision Desk HQ called the presidential race for Joe Biden first, just moments after he eclipsed Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. When inaugurated, at 77 years old, Biden will become the oldest president ever sworn into office. President Trump becomes just the 13th president to fail to secure a second term and only the fourth to do so since the end of World War II. Immediately, Donald Trump’s campaign sent out a press release insisting they were lining up legal challenges and called into question the vote totals being reported not only in Pennsylvania but across the country.
Early this morning, around 4:15 a.m., Joe Biden eclipsed the president’s vote total in Georgia. In Nevada, he has extended his lead. In Pennsylvania, he broke through this morning, and still has several large Democrat-leaning counties sending vote tallies in. In Arizona, Biden is ahead, and the president’s margins do not seem large enough in the remaining counties for him to catch the president-elect.
While the state-level polling in this race appears to have missed the mark, the forecasting from here on is far more straightforward and easily predicted. It’s just a matter of math. Given the counties left on the board across the battleground states, Biden will take a significant lead in Pennsylvania, hold onto Nevada, and will probably win Georgia as well — though that state looks headed for a recount. Arizona is quickly becoming out of reach for Trump, but all Biden needs is Pennsylvania to win.
Last night, both President Trump and Biden addressed the nation. After staying out of the spotlight for nearly two days, Trump held a press conference at the White House and mocked Democrats for never seeing a blue wave materialize. He repeatedly criticized the vote-counting process in all the states where he was losing, but did not criticize any of the vote-counting processes in any of the states where he was winning.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he falsely alleged. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”
Biden spoke briefly, once again telling supporters that when the count is done, he will come out ahead. He urged patience and said that the campaign felt like their margins were close enough that he would pull ahead in Pennsylvania — securing an electoral college victory.
“Each ballot must be counted, and that’s what we’re going through now,” Biden said. “Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well.”
While the president and some of his supporters continue to allege election fraud, no evidence has yet been presented to support their claims. Aside from one court victory in Pennsylvania that allowed Trump poll watchers closer access to ballot counting, Trump’s campaign has so far been striking out across the country in their flurry of legal challenges.
Misleading viral videos online, depicting typical polling place and vote counting activities, continue to be edited and taken out of context to be made to appear nefarious. Allegations about dead voters casting ballots en masse have been disproven, and the margins between Trump and Biden are quickly approaching a place where a recount or court challenge would have little to no chance of changing the outcome.
What the right is saying.
The right is becoming increasingly split on the president’s rhetoric. While some — like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Sens. Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney, former campaign advisor Chris Christie and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd have criticized the president for questioning the election results — others, like Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson have stuck by him.
In Town Hall, columnist Josh Hammer said the “election battle is just beginning.”
“All summer, as it became clear that Democratic activists throughout the country were seeking to change election laws midstream to provide for mass mail-in voting, the likes of which our republic has never seen, conservatives and other defenders of a secure and durable franchise pointed out any number of obvious problems,” he wrote. “How could we ensure that only duly registered, active voters in a certain precinct receive ballots? What about photo ID, signature validations and postmark dates? All of this, of course, in a country with a long history of voter fraud; younger readers would do well to Google "Box 13 scandal," involving Lyndon Johnson's 1948 Senate race.
“Shortly after it was clear that Trump had Florida and Ohio in the bag, things turned problematic,” Hammer added. “Vote counting was oddly halted in parts of Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and the three ‘blue wall’ states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Even more peculiarly, on consecutive nights, in states where Trump led on election night, large tranches of votes were mysteriously ‘found.’ As Harvard Law School professor and Twitter wit Adrian Vermeule put it: ‘Kids, not sure if you knew this, but missing ballots have magical properties that make them visible only between midnight and 6:00 am’… It is possible, in the end, that all of this will have been revealed to be perfectly kosher. But Republicans might be forgiven for harboring some deep skepticism.”
The National Review editors wrote that Trump once again defied expectations, but has also “reminded everyone how he’s always refused to conform himself to the institution of the presidency, a fact that helped repel suburban and college-educated voters, perhaps dooming his reelection bid.”
“Trump said that he had already won the election and it was being stolen away from him in a fraud on the nation, vowing to go to the Supreme Court for redress. He doubled down with an even more outlandish statement on Thursday night,” they wrote. “It’s not unusual for candidates in close, drawn-out elections to project confidence, but a president of the United States obviously shouldn’t declare himself the winner of a national election before the final result is known and allege fraud without any hard evidence.”
In The Washington Examiner, the editorial board wrote that Democrats also struck out in another significant race: the fight for control of state legislatures.
“Democrats had been hoping their landslide victory would hand them power in a number of new state legislative chambers,” the board said. “This was key to their goal of cementing themselves into power. Not only would it give them opportunities to advance their policy agenda, but it would also hand them much greater control over the redistricting process than they had enjoyed in 2011… Alas, with only Arizona’s results still outstanding, it appears that Democrats failed to flip even a single legislative chamber in their favor. The latest tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests that Republicans gained full legislative control in New Hampshire (and thus full control of the state government), and that's about it.”
What the left is saying.
The left is simultaneously celebrating and apoplectic. Biden is primed to win a decisive victory, but the president’s rhetoric has proven to many on the left that he is exactly what they have said he is for the last four years.
“President Trump did the country the favor of explaining ahead of time how he planned to falsely allege the rigging of the election for his opponent,” The Washington Post Editorial Board said. “Thursday evening in the White House, he followed up with a series of preposterous, inflammatory lies about the vote-counting process. ‘There’s been tremendous corruption and fraud going on,’ he said...
“Let’s be absolutely clear: There is zero — zero — evidence of fraud or corruption,” the board said. “What Mr. Trump sees as nefarious is something more mundane though undoubtedly painful for him: He is losing. On election night in some states, he held a lead in partial counts. Then, as mail-in ballots were counted, his lead was ‘whittled away,’ as he said. The explanation is obvious to everyone except, apparently, the president. He railed so much against mail-in voting before the election that few Republicans voted that way. Most of the mailed ballots therefore favor Democrat Joe Biden. Now officials are counting the votes — with observers watching, contrary to another Trump lie; with both Republican and Democratic election officials participating, contrary to another Trump lie; and in accordance with the rules, contrary to yet another Trump lie.”
In The New York Times, New York University Law Professor Richard H. Pildes explained why “the suits filed so far are highly unlikely to affect the overall outcome of the election.”
“The law entitles campaigns to pursue recounts, if outcomes fall within certain margins, even if they are likely to be fruitless,” he wrote. “But in court, claims have to be proved with facts. States processed tens of millions of absentee ballots before Election Day, for example, and the Trump campaign did little to challenge that process. Only now — in the new Michigan lawsuit, for example — has the campaign decided to take legal moves against a process that began, in large counties, 10 hours before Election Day. Courts are not inclined to direct that counts start over from scratch. Suits brought this late are self-undermining…
“And that’s exactly what the courts have been signaling,” he added. “In the last weeks before Election Day, the Trump campaign did indeed bring a flurry of lawsuits; state and federal courts rejected an overwhelming majority of them. Already, some post-election Trump campaign complaints have been dismissed. None of the recently sprouted suits is the kind that is likely to lead to thousands of ballots being thrown out.”
In Slate, Tom Scocca wrote that President Trump keeps yelling, but people are already beginning to tune him out.
“The president has kept jabbering off and on ever since, and tweeting, and putting out at least one ALL CAPS press release,” Scocca wrote. “What has he been saying? Beats me. It looks like it’s been the same old ‘FRAUD’ stuff, but it’s not really breaking into the coverage. He’s been yelling at Fox about how it called Arizona for Joe Biden, but Fox is keeping Arizona on the board. Attorney General William Barr, who was selling the fraud angle as hard as he could in the run-up to the election, hasn’t said anything. Nikki Haley is thanking Trump for his service and being extremely noncommittal. Nothing he says or does so far has enabled him to grab a news cycle… This is a glimpse of a future that’s been on its way all along but out of sight until now.”
Everyone has lines they have to draw in the sand, and today I need to draw my line here: Joe Biden is our next president. For the last 72 hours, I’ve been researching, explaining and breaking down false allegations of election fraud. Those explanations are now collected in a giant thread on Twitter and they address all the allegations of fraud raised in today’s “What the right is saying” section. You can find them here.
There have been so many allegations of fraud I couldn’t possibly round them up in this newsletter — from rumors of dead voters to alleged “hundreds of thousands” of ballots arriving in the middle of the night, it has all, so far, been complete nonsense. My thread is now more than 120 tweets long. And the president, some of his allies in the media and the pundits on the right claiming that it’s time to “fight” or “go to war” and that this election is being “stolen” is, singularly, the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen a president and group of media allies do in my experience as a reporter.
Overnight, in some bizarre, synchronized messaging ballet, the president and his family began demanding that every “legal” vote be counted. “Every legally cast vote should be counted,” Ivanka Trump tweeted. “Every illegally cast vote should not. This should not be controversial. This is not a partisan statement — free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy.”
Of course, this is not controversial. Nobody — not Joe Biden, not Democrats, not any liberals — is suggesting illegal votes should be counted. It’s a bizarre, straw man rhetorical device that was manifested out of thin air by the right when it became clear the president was going to lose this race. I am ashamed of many conservatives who I otherwise respect and have repeatedly praised in the pages of this newsletter who are now embracing this contemptible language.
This all could have been avoided. Long before the election, Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania proposed — repeatedly — to begin processing, sorting and counting mail-in votes before election day. They warned, over and over again, that the count would take days if changes weren’t made, due to the huge numbers of ballots being mailed in. Did you notice that in states like Ohio and Florida, there were no delays and we got results on election night? That is not because there were fewer mail-in votes there. It’s because those states updated their vote-counting processes after past election trouble and avoided the catastrophe of days-long counts we’ve seen this week.
Instead of heeding those warnings and following that example, Republican-controlled state legislatures across the battleground states we’ve been waiting for fought tooth and nail to try to limit the vote counting to the day of the election. Some even tried to stop the counting that they knew was destined to happen in the days after. They created the mess we’re in, and now they’re using it as a political weapon to claim the election is somehow illegitimate.
It isn’t. And, as much as I try to shoot down the middle in this newsletter and give credence to the best arguments across the political spectrum, there is no good argument about whether this election is legitimate. I’m not going to give credence to baseless allegations supported by zero evidence. The things coming out of the White House could cause violence in the streets and pockets of violent unrest. Tensions are already boiling over. I’m not going to try appease both sides in this.
I’m calling on my conservative and Trump-supporting readers whom I have built trust with over the last 15 months to meet this moment. What the president is doing is a line way too far — and the American public should reject this language outright and en masse. There are many honest brokers on the right — sitting Republicans in Congress, former governors, current Secretaries of State, Fox News reporters and conservative editorial boards — who are calling it what they should: dangerous nonsense.
The race is over.
Trump will certainly wage a legal battle and try to cry foul for as long as he can, but Republicans will slowly abandon him as his legal challenges inevitably fail and it becomes clear to everyone that no race that matters is within the margins for a legitimate recount. So far, the only thing close to a legitimate charge of election fraud is happening in Nevada — where Republicans are claiming in court that 3,000 ineligible voters cast ballots. But, not surprisingly, the lawsuit provides no details or supporting evidence for how it got to the number 3,000 or why it believes votes were cast improperly. Trump trails in Nevada by 12,000 votes and the margins are growing by the hour. There very well may be a recount in Georgia, where margins are razor thin, but Biden doesn’t need Georgia to win — he only needs Pennsylvania and the states he has. He’s secured them all.
As absentee ballots continue to be counted, Biden’s lead is likely to grow — some estimates indicated he could win the popular vote by as many as 5 million ballots. Those absentee ballots are not fraudulent, they are not illegal, they were not “found” anywhere. They’re votes Americans sent in weeks ago and votes that have not been counted until now. They must be tallied. We knew this was coming — Tangle and just about every other media outlet warned of the red mirages, of a days-long election, and of Joe Biden gaining in important battleground states as heavily skewed Democratic absentee ballots were counted. All of that has come to fruition.
The president-elect faces a monumental task to unify a conspiratorial, paranoid and furious nation, and I do not envy his position. He will enter office in the midst of a raging pandemic, with some 20 million Americans taking unemployment benefits, and the American populace as divided as I’ve ever seen it. The legitimacy of this election is already being called into question, and many conservatives have had to listen to liberals say Trump was an illegitimate president for the last four years. I don’t imagine they’ll feel much remorse about returning the favor, but they should. The results of this election are crystal clear.
Still, I hope Biden follows through on his promise to lead with an effort to unify, to understand the other side, and to show empathy for the voters upset that their candidate did not prevail. We’ve never needed that attitude more than we do now.
Your questions, answered.
Q: What’s your opinion on Florida going overwhelmingly to Trump while simultaneously approving a $15 minimum wage? Does this, along with national support for Medicare for all, show that neoliberalism is truly dead and the left should focus on running candidates who are progressives?
— Jonah, Minneapolis, MN
Tangle: I love this question because I think it speaks to some of the stuff I wrote about yesterday. Progressive policies like a minimum wage increase are simultaneously popular in a state that Trump won easily. What gives?
To me, it’s another data point that makes me believe progressive policies are not at the center of how many Americans in the center and on the right think about the left. And when they are, what they imagine is “Defund the police” and the Green New Deal. This is, in part, thanks to effective messaging from the right. But it’s also, in my opinion, a failure of Democratic policy leadership.
Over 60% of Floridians voted to pass the minimum wage increase — about 720,000 more than the number who voted for Donald Trump, according to the Tampa Bay Times. In 2016, Florida voters approved a medical marijuana measure. In 2018, they voted to re-enfranchise felons with the right to vote. And yet in 2020, they broke for Trump by a margin of 300,000 votes.
I don’t know why Democrats are incapable of winning a state like Florida while Floridians seem so likely to embrace Democratic policies — from environmental protections to marijuana laws to police reform and minimum wage increases. Many are already pointing to effective messaging from the right about the threat of socialism, and the way that messaging resonates with Hispanics in Florida. But that doesn't explain the full picture, and I think going forward it’s something Democrats in Congress are going to continue to battle over.
It’s not just Florida, either. Over and over, states are embracing individual progressive policies promoted by Democrats while rejecting progressive Democratic politicians. Take this excerpt from the website TruthOut:
This is a similar dynamic to that seen in states like Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho, where deeply conservative electorates have voted, in recent elections, to embrace a key provision of the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid access. In Missouri, voters have backed higher wage rates, campaign finance reform and medical marijuana legalization. In Mississippi, voters on Tuesday supported legalizing medical marijuana.
It’s a paradox that political strategists will, surely, be grappling with over the coming years. Why do voters who align with Democrats on many key policies continue to align with Republicans when it comes to who they want in the governor’s mansion, state legislatures, the U.S. Congress and the White House? And, for Democrats, the follow-up question surely is: What can and should be done by the party to convince voters to support politicians who won’t work to undermine the progressive policies they vote for via the Initiative and Amendment process?
I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that it’s a question worth asking. It’ll be fascinating to see what Democrats take away from the results we’re witnessing across the U.S. right now.
Reminder: You can ask a question too, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in.
- 4,106,718. Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote, as of this writing.
- 12. The number of tweets from the president that have been labeled as misinformation by Twitter in the last 60 hours.
- Two. The number of runoff Senate races expected to take place in Georgia in January, which could now determine which party has a majority in the Senate.
- 50-48. The Senate majority Republicans will hold until those two races are settled.
- 4,898,702. The number of total votes in the state of Georgia, as of this writing.
- 1,586. Joe Biden’s lead in Georgia, as of this writing.
- 121,000. The total number of new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, according to the New York Times.
Well, it’s been a historic and memorable week. As you know, Tangle is a Monday-Thursday newsletter, and paying subscribers get Friday editions. Given the nature of this week’s events, I’m sending today’s Friday edition to everyone for free. But if you’d like to support this work (and get Friday editions), please consider becoming a paying subscriber. It’s as cheap as $50 a year, which comes out to less than $5 a month and 13 cents a day. Now, it’s time for me to get some sleep. I’ll see you all on Monday.
Have a nice weekend.
Voters in Colorado approved a proposition to reintroduce gray wolves into the wilderness in Colorado. It’s the first time the state has ever reintroduced an animal to Colorado. Though the measure was rather controversial, you all know how I feel about wolves — and I’m not going to let this moment go without celebrating. Wolves are cool, wolves belong in the wild, wolves deserve to run free in Colorado.