Monday, November 30, 2020

2020 Election: Biden Won and the Democratic Party Lost


“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.”

-Winston Churchill

That President Trump was going to lose this election was a foregone conclusion in my mind because he lost his one and only advantage - a strong economy. The historically unprecedented job and wage growth, especially among women and minorities, was wrecked by a global pandemic. This coupled with Trump’s inept leadership and lack of national strategy to manage the spread of the virus doomed his re-election bid. In addition to a struggling economy, Trump had a historically low approval rating, with which no incumbent, other than Harry Truman, has ever won re-election.

Going into the election, the Democrat’s also had an unprecedented fundraising advantage at every level. Biden’s campaign raised $809 million; more than any candidate in history, and entered the last month of the race with a three to one advantage over Trump. In Senate races, Democrats raised $716 million, to Republicans' $435 million, giving them an advantage of more than $280 million.

In Maine, Sara Gideon raised $69 million compared to Senator Susan Collins's paltry $26 million. In South Carolina Jaime Harrison raised $57 million in a bid to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham, achieving the highest quarterly fund-raising total for any Senate candidate in U.S. history. In Kentucky too, Amy McGrath consistently outraised and outspent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. History tells us that candidates who spend more in Senate races overwhelmingly win their races; Democrats were confident they would retake the Senate.

For four years the media and the left have painted Trump supporters as bigots. Liberal coastal elites in newsrooms across the country had convinced themselves that once the vast majority of the country saw Trump’s true colours, thanks to their efforts to unmask him, the majority of Americans, apart from a small and shrinking rural, uneducated white base, would come to their senses.

For this reason Democrats and the mainstream media assured us that we would witness a historic Blue wave that would result in Democrats winning the White House, retaking the Senate, growing their majority in the House, winning back Governorships, flipping state and local legislators. They were even confident of turning deep red states like Texas, blue, thanks to the growing number of Latino voters; even though Texas has been reliably Republican since 1980.

Along with an unprecedented campaign war chest, in 2020 Democrats also had a likeable candidate and America was facing an out of control pandemic, a struggling economy, historic unemployment and a President with a dismal approval rating – how did it go so wrong for Democrats, again?

The story on election night turned out far different from the confident narrative we heard going into the 2020 election and far from seeing a blue wave, the opposite transpired. 

Not only did Democrats fail to unseat Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, but in Kentucky, Amy McGrath lost to Mitch McConnell by 20 points, making it the worst loss in that race since 2002. Republican Senators Joni Ernst, Dan Sullivan, John Cornyn, Steve Daines and Thom Tillis are all still standing. In races where Democrats outspent their opponents, they won 13 and lost 9. In races where Republicans outspent them, they won 8 races and lost zero.

 

(Data: FEC, Edison Research for the National Election Pool. Graphic: Reuters)

The story in the House is no better. Democrats lost their 35 seat advantage, with a Republican gain of 10-15 seats, and are now left with the smallest House majority in more than two decades.

At the local level where Democrats expected to chip away at the three-fifths majority of the 98 local legislative chambers that Republicans controlled, not only did they fail to flip even one, but they lost New Hampshire. The same story was repeated in Governor’s races. Republicans not only successfully defended all seven seats but flipped a Democratic one; giving them a 27 to 23 state advantage as new terms begin.

Yes, Biden won the White House but this too happened after five nerve wracking days, with far too many races too close to call for many days after the election. His victory is less than resounding or convincing and this should concern us all. Consider that if just 44,000 more votes had gone Trump’s way in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin, we would have a tie.

The truth is that the election felt more like a red surge. The Democrats' claim that Trump’s surprise 2016 win was in large part due to Hillary Clinton being a flawed and polarising candidate herself does not hold true when we see that the President earned nearly 10 million more votes than in 2016, gaining six million more votes than Mrs. Clinton.

Latinos are the fastest growing group in the United States and this year for the first time in a presidential election, they numbered more than eligible African-American voters. Far from losing ground, the man who put immigrant children in cages actually increased his support winning a 32 percent share of Latino voters. 

Latino voters powered Trump to a convincing win in Florida. A state that Democrats had expected to win going into the election. In Miami-Dade, which is 70 percent Latino, Trump picked up 200,000 more votes and closed a 30 point gap to 9 points. While it is true that about a quarter of Miami-Dade residents are Cuban-born, this group has historically supported Republicans, so their support alone cannot explain the gains Trump made here.

In Texas, counties with Latino majorities favoured Trump, marking a massive swing from just four years ago when Democrats dominated all these counties. Zapata County in Texas, which is 95 percent Latino, and one Mrs. Clinton won by 33 points in 2016 - Trump flipped in 2020, winning it by 6 points. A Wall Street Journal analysis shows that Mr. Trump improved his performance in every Texas County with a Latino population over 75 percent.

Even in the neighboring state of New Mexico, which is nearly half Latino, Mr. Trump picked up many more votes from four years ago. Counties like San Juan in the Northwest and Otero County in the Southeast with heavy Latino populations all moved closer to Trump.

Mr. Trump also measurably increased his vote share among Black, gay and Asian Americans. It is pretty remarkable for a man who has been labelled a white supremacist to grow his support to 12 percent of Black people, including over 18 percent of Black men, not to mention 34 percent of Asians and 28 percent of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Amazingly, the President’s LGBTQ vote share doubled from 2016.

If all these facts were not damning enough, in dozens of interviews with the New York Times, African-American voters who chose Biden say they voted for the Democratic Party with great trepidation and a longstanding concern of feeling underappreciated by the party they have stood by for decades. One voter summed up what many African-Americans are feeling about Democrats, saying that they have not “earned his vote — or his loyalty.” He added that “my vote is open for bid — what will you do for me and my kind now that the election is over?”

Even in California, one of the most liberal states in the country, while Biden trounced Trump as was expected, what came as a shock is that Democrats lost many down ballot races. Republicans are now expected to win back at least four of seven seats they lost in 2018. The last time Republicans managed to defeat an incumbent Democrat in California was in 1994. In this election they have already done it three times with a few races still too close to call.

Californian voters also handily rejected progressive ballot measures around raising business taxes, instituting rent controls, protecting gig workers and reinstating affirmative action. They also helped the GOP regain their status as the second largest party in the state after falling behind “no party preference” registration in 2018. With the 2020 election results, Republicans in California can claim their best year in more than a decade.

The 2020 election map also shows a more entrenched and divided electorate compared to 2016, with fewer counties flipping from one party to the other. In the last election 237 counties changed allegiances from Obama to Trump, in this election only 77 counties flipped, with Biden winning 59 of them.

The bottom line is that the election results show that Mr. Trump’s appeal is more resonant and broader than most people understood. Not only did he manage to grow his base, but he actually found new voters. This reality contradicts the Democrat’s claim about Trump’s 2016 win was a fluke and that the 2020 result would be a total rebuke of this President and his policies – Trump has expanded his appeal by bringing in new and non-white voters.

Rather than try to spin the results as a victory, the Democratic Party should view them as a warning sign that their message is not connecting with many working class voters; white and non-white.

In addition to figuring out how they will tangibly deliver on promises to Black voters, which will not be easy, they should be extremely alarmed by the fact that so many Latino voters chose Trump. This is the fastest growing demographic in the country and if the Democratic Party were to lose their support, it would cost them elections for years to come.

 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Why I Refuse to Stoop to President Trump’s Level

Biden hugs an attendee of a campaign event in Ames, Iowa (Al Drago/Getty Images)


“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”
-Franklin Roosevelt
 

My friends and my family don’t understand why I refuse to rage against Donald Trump and publicly denigrate him, insult and spew venom at his supporters; which is now de rigeur in all of my friend and family circles.

Many years ago, I was faced with an ugly and untenable situation at work. I had an erratic, nasty and underhand boss. He lied, actively worked to undermine me and regularly took credit for my thinking. He scheduled meetings, so I would not be able to attend. Unaware of his malicious intent, I went to him to understand how I got left out of important client meetings. He claimed the client rescheduled at the last minute and forced him to share the work and he was unable to contact me. I took him at his word because we did have a really difficult, unreasonable and demanding client.

But after this started to happen regularly, I learned from my client that my boss was telling them that I was unavailable for the meeting. Armed with this information I confronted him. First he stood firm and blamed the clients. When I divulged the information I had, he claimed that the client was lying in a bid to undermine my relationship with him.

At this point I decided it was time to go to Human Resources and file an official complaint. They showed concern and listened empathetically, and then offered a solution that amounted to shifting responsibility. They asked that I sit down with the managing director, my boss’s boss, and share my problems with him.

In good faith I went to the managing director. He too listened patiently and at the end of our session stated categorically that my boss’s behaviour was unacceptable, and that it would not be tolerated, but went on to add that the client relationship was tenuous and that rocking the boat might result in losing one of the agency’s largest accounts.

Seeing my crestfallen face, he offered to keep an eye on the situation, saying that he would ask my boss to make sure I was invited to all client meetings. Engulfed with a sense of hopelessness but not being a quitter, I decided seek my father’s professional advice.

My father was my hero and he was a man of unquestioning integrity and principles, one of the wisest people I have had the privilege of having in my orbit. I miss his counsel. He told me two things that I have never forgotten.

He said, “Son, rarely, if ever, in life will you be able to choose the people you work with or have to deal with. If you are lucky you will encounter well-meaning and decent people, but more often than not you will have to deal with liars, backstabbers and dishonest ones. We don’t get to choose who we work with, but you always have a choice about how you react and respond.”

You can sink to their level, respond in kind by undermining them and by being uncivil in return, and even convince yourself that your bad behaviour is justified by theirs. Or you can refuse to compromise on your integrity, decency and professionalism even as you stand up and face bullies like him.” 

The second thing he said is that because we are highly charged emotional beings, we should always step back and assess such situations objectively before deciding on a final course of action. By consciously detaching our emotions it is not that we ignore them, but we give our brains time and space for our rational side to weigh-in, and avoid reacting and making decisions clouded by the haze of emotion.

I took his advice and slept on it. With raw emotion no longer clouding my judgement, I found clarity. I realized that if I walked away, the amazing team of young kids reporting to me would be put in the line of fire. Plus I really enjoyed my job and was not willing to let a bully take that away from me. I had the power to take action, and now I needed a game plan. 

The managing director was well-meaning, but he could not police every meeting. So I would use him strategically for the wars, while starting to document my daily battles. I decided to make myself indispensable to my clients and internal teams, while also collecting evidence to record my boss’s erratic, unprofessional and damaging behaviour. 

My goal was not to make life easier for myself, but to ensure that this man would not be able to make anyone else’s work life miserable. I established a direct line with senior clients, careful never to bad mouth or share my internal problems with them. Most importantly, I was clear that I would never lie, be rude, undercut or undermine my boss or behave like him. I was resolved to do my job to the best of my ability, but keep my eyes open to better navigate obstacles I knew he would put in my way.

After this, my boss’s behaviour started to become even more erratic and hostile, because I refused to engage on his terms, play by his dirty rules or react to things he would do to trip me up. He started sending me late night email missives and leaving drunken voicemails and seemed completely at a loss about how to handle my refusal to take his bait. After a few months he started taking sick days, leaving early and often not showing up to work at all.

It was in that moment that I realised the wisdom of my father’s advice. Had I retaliated, based on how he had treated me, I would have placed myself outside my comfort zone and would be playing by his rules. By not doing this I had also set an example to the young people around me, who could clearly see the difference between professionalism and his unprofessional behaviour.

Had I stooped to my boss’s level, I might have made myself feel better for a few minutes, but I would have done nothing to solve the problem, would have set a poor example and would have felt shitty for betraying my professional integrity.

Six months later I was able to go back to HR with evidence in hand. They put my boss on official notice, pending a three month probation period. At the same time they found an opportunity for me on another business. It was a promotion and a better career opportunity, but I was ready to move because I had stared down a bully, on my terms, and done the hard work to ensure he would never do this to another person at my company. A month after I moved off the business, I heard they fired my boss.

So what does all this have to do with Donald Trump?

President Trump is a bully. Over the years I have dealt with many bullies; from bosses to clients to colleagues, but never once did I compromise my integrity and sense of decency in standing up to them.

There have been times when my job has been on the line, but for me it is not about the cost or the outcome, but about who I am. I would rather lose, than win by behaving in a manner that requires me to conduct myself in ways I don’t respect in others.

I will always stand and fight but never treat those who have hurt, harmed or insulted me with the same lack of dignity they have shown me. That is the difference between me and people like that and it is a line I will never cross, no matter the cost; career, family, country or life.

This is why I support Joe Biden. He has been clear that he will not play by Mr. Trump’s rules and will never stoop to the President’s level by insulting him personally or denigrating his supporters. Win or lose, Mr. Biden has a line he will not cross because if he does, he understands that he can no longer claim a difference between his and the President's behaviour.

By refusing to take the bait and attack Mr. Trump personally, unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden has also succeeded in pushing the President outside his comfort zone. The President does not know how to respond or fight back, and we can see his desperation growing. Mr. Trump has become even more erratic and self-destructive. Whether it is begging suburban women to vote for him, or saying that he is no longer willing to negotiate a stimulus deal, something that will hurt him and cost him more votes than Mr. Biden.

For me the bottom line is this: the day we start to justify our bad behaviour and forego our sense of decency based on Mr. Trump, or anyone else's bad behaviour, is the day people like that can truly claim victory over us.