Election 2020 and its aftermath

Election 2020 and its aftermath

University of Virginia Institute of Democracy experts offer frequent updates on the latest developments

VISIT ‘FROM ELECTION TO TRANSITION’ FOR NEWER POSTS


This effort is made possible thanks to the generous support of the George and Judy Marcus Democracy Praxis Fund


NOT A NORMAL TRANSITION

President-elect Biden attempts to project an air of calm confidence even as the coronavirus surges and his transition is delayed. The latest from UVA Institute of Democracy experts.

November 17, 2020

Today's posts

Why the transition matters • Melody Barnes

Melody Barnes, co-director of UVA's Democracy Initiative and a Miller Center professor of practice, joins CBC to discuss the latest on the transition to a Biden administration.


THE COSTS OF DELAY

The president-elect moves forward, but what are the risks of continued conflict about the results of the 2020 election?

November 16, 2020

Today's posts

Transition troubles, 1968 • Marc Selverstone
Vaccine distribution and a turbulent transition • Margaret Riley
If the president won't concede  • Chris Lu
Homeland security risks • UVA Today

 

Marc Selverstone headshot
Marc Selverstone won the Bernath Book Prize for Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945–1950 and holds particular expertise on John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Vietnam War

Presidential transitions are among the most sacred yet precarious of moments in the American political lifecycle. The peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another has been a core principle of American democracy for well over 200 years. But transitions are also moments of inherent instability, with one set of officials heading for the exits and another one hitting the on-ramps. While outgoing and incoming administrations have long endeavored to effect smooth handovers, any number of developments, from the personal to the political to the geopolitical, can make it a perilous process.

Transitions are moments of inherent instability.

As such, transitions involve a delicate dance in the best of circumstances. But transferring power amidst ongoing and intersecting national crises magnifies the challenge of ensuring effective governance and promoting the national interest—even more so when the change involves a transfer of power from one party to another.

The presidential transition of 1968 was one such moment. It took place against the backdrop of several shattering developments that year: the Tet Offensive and a deeply divisive war in Vietnam; the withdrawal of President Lyndon B. Johnson from the presidential race; the assassinations of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; civil and racial unrest throughout the nation; and violent altercations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. To many Americans, the nation seemed to be unraveling.

For Lyndon Johnson, who soon would vacate the Oval Office, the transition also came with the knowledge that President-elect Richard M. Nixon, in late October, had sabotaged the start of peace talks in Vietnam, and with it, the possibility that Democratic candidate Hubert H. Humphrey—the sitting vice president—might benefit and win the presidency. Johnson was livid, but he sat on the information rather than leaking it, fearing a host of troubles that might flow from that disclosure. Nixon was thus able to hang on, claiming 301 votes in the Electoral College to Humphrey’s 191, but winning only 43.2 percent of the popular vote to Humphrey’s 42.7 percent (third-party candidate George Wallace garnered close to 14 percent).

To many Americans, the nation seemed to be unraveling.

Nevertheless, the transition seemed to be proceeding apace. Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured by LBJ’s White House taping system, that he appreciated the cooperation he was receiving from Johnson personnel. And Johnson told Nixon what he had earlier said to Reverend Billy Graham and Nixon friend Sen. George A. Smathers [D-Florida]: “that I would try to be as least—less partisan as I could and still be head of my party and be president, and I will try to be as helpful as I could when the inevitable happened, and we’re going to do that, and you’ll see that."

Listen to and read the full transcript of this call at the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition

So when Nixon briefed journalists just hours later on November 14 that he not only needed to be “informed” of U.S. policymaking during the transition but that he “agree” to any proposed “courses of action,” Johnson got his hackles up once again. The United States, Johnson told Nixon aides and Nixon himself, had only one president at a time. Still, there was a transition to manage, with the whole world watching. As the two principals acknowledged that morning, it was important that the outgoing and incoming teams be aligned, since the Soviet Union would 

take advantage of you in an electoral period. They did in the [Dwight D.] Eisenhower-Nixon administration, in Laos, before [John F. “Jack”] Kennedy could get sworn in. [Nixon acknowledges throughout.] They did in ‘62 in the Cuban Missile Crisis; October the 22nd, they moved. Now, they think we’ve got a gap.

But Nixon’s statement threatened to tie Johnson’s hands. According to Nixon, he simply wanted to emphasize that “any major policy decision that has to be implemented by the new president, the old—the previous adminis—the present administration would want to clear it with the new administration to be sure it would be implemented.”

Johnson was having none of it. As he told the President-elect, “I’m very fearful if we leave the impression in the world that we have to check with [transition liaison Robert D.] Murphy or with you before we make a decision that we’re going to leave the impression we’ve got two presidents operating.” And just so audiences at home and abroad got the message, Johnson spoke to reporters the following day, affirming that “I will make whatever decisions the President of the United States is called on to make between now and January 20th.”

Listen to and read the full transcript of this call at the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition

With that, that contretemps came to an end. But it highlights the recurrent challenge of policymaking during the interregnum, as well as the novelty of our present moment. For all of Nixon’s malfeasance both then and later, and Johnson’s legitimate concern about an election that might have been improperly swayed, if not stolen, both sides pursued the time-honored and solemn tradition of transferring power in a professional, orderly fashion, with the nation’s interests in mind. Remarkably, the presidential transition of 1968, from the perspective of 2020, seems almost quaint. 

Marc Selverstone, chair, Presidential Recordings Program, Miller Center


riley margaret
Margaret Riley has written and presented extensively about health care law, biomedical research, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, animal biotechnology, health disparities and chronic disease

With Moderna’s announcement this morning that preliminary results demonstrate that its vaccine is 94 percent effective, the nation now has two highly effective vaccines that could begin to be handed out by the end of the year.

That means distribution is about to begin during one of the strangest presidential transitions in modern times—and questions abound about how the Trump administration might politicize it. This is already evident in President Trump’s remarks on Friday. Somewhat inaccurately taking credit for the Pfizer vaccine, Trump could not resist a dig at Andrew Cuomo, putting into question how some Blue states might be treated in the vaccine rollout.

 

It is also not clear whether the incoming Biden administration will be provided any official information on the process. In addition, Operation Warp Speed, which will be responsible for the logistics, is heavily controlled by the Pentagon, and a major shake-up at the top of that agency, with Trump loyalists taking charge, adds to the concerns.

The Trump administration, however, is somewhat in a bind. It no doubt wants to take credit for the vaccines (and in fairness, it deserves some of that credit), so sabotaging the initial rollout during December and early January makes no sense. And many of the distribution plans are already in place and public.

The Pentagon logistics are under the control of four-star general Gus Perna, a career military officer likely to be able to sustain the political gamesmanship of the next few weeks.

Pfizer and Moderna also have every incentive for a smooth rollout. CDC published a full “playbook” for the rollout at the end of October. Even the incoming Biden administration has plenty of backchannel means of obtaining information. The biggest difficulty, however, is likely to be obtaining the funds for the cash-strapped states to train the individuals who will actually be storing and administering the vaccines and keeping the necessary records.

None of the states have close to sufficient funds for that, and without those funds, the distribution of the vaccine could descend into chaos, leaving the Trump administration to take victory for the production of the vaccine while weakening the Biden administration’s management of the subsequent steps.

Margaret Riley, professor of Law, UVA School of Law; professor of Public Health Sciences, UVA School of Medicine

 

chris lu
Chris Lu, the Miller Center's Teresa A. Sullivan Practitioner Senior Fellow, worked in all three branches of the federal government, including seven years in the Obama administration

Chris Lu, a Miller Center senior fellow who ran the Obama transition in 2008–9, discusses how this

year's unsettled transition affects the incoming Biden administration—and Americans. "We have had presidential transitions for over 200 years in this country," Lu told host Jen White. "We've done it through war and depression and even when the two people on either side of the transition fought a bitter campaign. So this has always happened, and it needs to happen well. We're talking about the turnover in leadership of the U.S. government, which is the largest, most powerful organization in the world."

LISTEN at The 1A


 

A peaceful and prompt transition of power is crucial to both the health of American democracy and the nation’s security, Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff said Friday in a webinar hosted by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Democracy and the Miller Center.

They would know. Chertoff served as secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009. He oversaw the department’s handoff to Napolitano, a UVA School of Law alumna who served as secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013.

“Having a transition that begins right away, getting security clearance to the incoming team, giving the president-elect access to current intelligence – these are all part of the process of preparing, so that when a new administration comes in, they can hit the ground running and not have to figure out what the threats are and what the capabilities to respond are,” Chertoff said.

In addition to Napolitano and Chertoff, Friday’s webinar included David Marchick, director of the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service, and moderator William Antholis, director and CEO of UVA’s Miller Center for Public Affairs. It was sponsored by the UVA Institute for Democracy, the Center for Presidential Transition, and Citizens for a Strong Democracy, a nonpartisan organization that Napolitano and Chertoff founded with two other former secretaries of homeland security.

Antholis began the webinar with a question about the process of “ascertainment”—a legal process by which the General Services Administration gives the president-elect access to resources and classified information needed during the transition from one presidential administration to another. That process is mandated by the Presidential Transition Act to begin once the results of the election are clear. As of Friday, Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration (and a UVA Law alumna), had not yet signed that paperwork.

“The issue of ascertaining the winner of the election [in the GSA] has never been controversial or politicized,” Marchick said. “Many other government agencies have similar responsibilities to act when there is a new president-elect. The Secret Service, for example, expanded its protection around Joe Biden. That is not politicized; the Secret Service just did it. Unfortunately, even the most noncontroversial ministerial acts are being politicized today.”

[E]ven the most noncontroversial ministerial acts are being politicized today.

David Marchick

The nation experienced a similar delay in 2000, when the ascertainment process was delayed due to recounts in Florida that eventually determined the winner of the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. That election was closer than this one, Marchick said, noting that this time, he believes “the outcome is clear.”

Chertoff, who came in with the Bush administration, said the 2000 delay hurt the administration’s ability to respond to national security concerns, especially because it took longer to complete the Senate confirmation process for key positions. The gap became especially apparent during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I was in the Department of Justice on 9/11 and we were shorthanded in senior people, so that we had to essentially do double- and triple-duty to pick up responsibilities that normally would have been taken by others who had been confirmed,” he said.

Napolitano also stressed the importance of a smooth handoff, recalling how, after their own turbulent transition experience, Chertoff and the entire Bush team made it a point to help their successors as much as possible.

“I was then serving as governor of Arizona, and could not fly back and forth frequently to Washington,” she said. “Michael sent leadership from the Department of Homeland Security out to Phoenix, and they had extensive briefing materials prepared for me and my team.

“I give President Bush credit for this. He set the tone and direction for a cooperative transition, and I think it was the gold standard of presidential transitions. President Obama gave the same direction to his administration, and used the Bush transition as an example, but unfortunately many members of President Trump’s team did not take him up on it.”

READ MORE

Watch the event


 

ASSESSING THE RISKS

Biden wins Arizona. DHS declares the election secure. There's turmoil at the Department of Defense. UVA institute for Democracy experts examine the implications.

November 13, 2020

Today's posts

A presidential transition delayed • Kathryn Dunn Tenpas
Stacey Abrams, power broker • Barbara Perry and Alfred Reaves IV
Arizona's Hispanic vote • Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao
Trump puts lives at risk • Melody Barnes and Kathryn Dunn Tenpas
Pentagon purges raise major concerns • William Antholis

 

Miller Center senior fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas looks at the risks of a delayed transition on Politics with Amy Walter from PRI and WNYC.


 

Barbara Perry headshot
Barbara Perry has authored or edited 14 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties

If after Georgia completes its recount, Joe Biden is still ahead of Donald Trump, the former vice president and president-elect will owe Stacey Abrams a major debt of gratitude for improbably flipping the Peach State from blood red to pale blue, at least at the presidential level.

Although Abrams lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race, her losing margin of only 1.4 percent and the specter of voter suppression energized the former state legislator to mount an activist campaign to register and turn out voters, especially African Americans. Abrams founded Fair Fight Action, a grassroots interest group, to combat the stifling of Black votes in Georgia and Texas. Her movement, in concert with other activist organizations, galvanized the ground game in Abrams’s home state, where some 750,000 new voters registered. 

Georgia had not selected a Democratic presidential candidate since Arkansan Bill Clinton’s 1992 successful White House bid. This year, 59.3 percent of first-time voters in the Peach State voted as Democrats, while 35.9 percent cast their ballots as Republicans. Clearly, this difference helped to account for Georgia’s placement in the Biden-Harris column.

Alfred Reaves headshot
Alfred Reaves IV holds a BA in political science from James Madison University

While leading the battle for voting equity, Abrams has become a national icon and best-selling author for her book, Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. It echoes a previous female Democratic Party power broker, Eleanor Roosevelt, whose last tome, published posthumously, was titled Tomorrow Is Now. How appropriate that this latest king-/queen-maker in the Democratic Party both follows in the footsteps of ER and blazes a wholly new trail—one that can only be forged by an African American woman. 

The contemporary team of Abrams and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris can utilize their mandate to achieve the policies long fought for by generations of black women who have reliably supported the Democratic Party since the New Deal, but without due recompense. 

Barbara Perry, Gerald L. Baliles Professor, director of Presidential Studies, Miller Center
Alfred Reaves IV, faculty and program coordinator, Miller Center

 

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao headshot
Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao boasts expertise in Cuba, U.S.-Cuban relations, opposition and dissident movements, democratization, and Hispanics in America

Last night, Arizona tilted in Biden’s favor—a development that flipped the state blue for the first time in almost a quarter century. Similar to 2016 when Trump won Arizona by just 3.6 percentage points, 2020 saw an even tighter race, with Biden taking the lead 49.4% to Trump’s 49.1% as of this morning. Given the state’s large Hispanic population—estimated at just over 23% of the state’s eligible voters—it’s useful to consider how this cohort may have affected 2020 outcomes. 

According to the Washington Post, Biden won 63% of Arizona’s Latino vote, compared to 36% that went to Trump. This differs significantly from Trump’s Latino support in Florida, where roughly half of Hispanic eligible voters supported him. But the makeup of Arizona’s Latino share differs significantly from the sunshine state whose Hispanic majorities include Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans.

The makeup of Arizona’s Latino share differs significantly from the sunshine state whose Hispanic majorities include Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans.

According to 2014 Pew data, the large majority of Arizona Hispanics—over 87%—originate from nearby Mexico, with the next largest cohort coming from Puerto Rico (but they account for less than 3% of the state’s total Latino electorate). And Mexican Americans tend to lean towards the Democratic party, perhaps influenced in part by the state’s tough immigration laws, particularly Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 and its “show your papers” provision. 

But as Professor Gerardo Cadava aptly points out, understanding the Latino vote is not always a straightforward calculation. He writes, “There's a real diversity of political beliefs, and we need to acknowledge that Latinos are fully human, complicated political actors, rather than just kind of pawns that are easily poached or persuaded, just because a politician talks to them.” Cadava studies Hispanic Republicans, particularly those in the Sun Belt, and he points to Trump’s (and the GOP’s) understanding that many Hispanics prioritize economic individualism, religious liberty, and law and order, all values that align with the conservative movement. So assessing their views in a state like Arizona, while a majority of Mexican Americans lean left, can be a complicated task.

This year Latinos were projected for the first time to be the nation’s largest racial or ethnic voting minority—representing 13.3% of the total U.S. electorate—a trend that will continue to affect elections outcomes in the future. And while turnout has been a challenge for Latinos in the past, early estimates indicate that 2020 may have changed that. As we continue to dissect this year’s election results, both parties would be wise to pay attention to this cohort, its many subsets, its seeming contradictions, and the differences between Hispanic voters in each state.  One thing is certain, party messaging to Latinos should not be uniform. 

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao, assistant professor and research director for public and policy programs, Miller Center

 

This complete op-ed appeared in the Washington Post

Melody Barnes headshot
Melody Barnes served as director of White House Domestic Policy Council under President Barack Obama and was previously chief counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

It is now 10 days since Election Day and nearly a week since the networks declared Joe Biden the president-elect. Nevertheless, Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who controls transition funding and permits access to senior officials across the government through her post at the top of the General Services Administration, has refused to “ascertain” the winner of the presidential election. There is no question that she is facing pressure from the White House to stand firm, but her intransigence threatens our centuries-old commitment to a peaceful and efficient transfer of government.

Her actions effectively truncate an already brief transition period (78 days), breaking long-established norms about how a losing president concedes and helps the incoming administration prepare to run the government. The issue is even more grave since the country is struggling to defeat a pandemic, which is getting worse as cases and hospitalizations hit record levels. And the fallout will be tremendous — affecting every sector of the economy as well as ratcheting up the level of emotional turmoil and trauma.

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas headshot
Kathryn Dunn Tenpas is a scholar of the American presidency focusing on White House staffing, presidential transitions, and the intersection of politics and policy within the presidency

Murphy’s reluctance denies Biden’s incoming White House aides critical resources: additional funding to pay for transition expenses (e.g., salaries, supplies, travel), the acquisition of additional office space, advancing the vetting of potential nominees through the FBI and, perhaps most important, access to the civil servants who have prepared extensive reports in preparation for this very moment. The ability to interview outgoing appointees as well as civil servants is fundamental to the successful transfer of power.

Melody Barnes, co-director for policy and public affairs, UVA Democracy Initiative; Professor of practice, Miller Center

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, senior fellow, Miller Center

READ MORE


 

Mark Esper profile
Mark Esper's Monday firing came as no surprise to observers of the Trump administration

President Donald Trump's Monday firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was only the beginning of major changes at the the Pentagon. In addition to replacing Esper with Christopher Miller, the president appointed Anthony Tata to replace James Anderson, who had been acting undersecretary for policy. Joseph Kernan, a retired Navy vice admiral, stepped down as undersecretary for intelligence and was replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick. Kash Patel becomes Miller's chief of staff.

"The Pentagon purges are most troubling because there are two months remaining,” the Miller Center's Director and CEO William Antholis, told Susan Glasser of the New Yorker. Is the president making major policy changes, or simply feeling free to indulge his feelings in the wake of a disappointing election?

READ MORE


FRIDAY SPECIAL EVENT: TRANSITION IN TIMES OF CRISIS

Two former Secretaries of Homeland Security look at the consequences of a fraught transfer of power.

Joe Biden in front of Covid cases graph

The Presidential Transition Act was adopted by Congress in 1963 to provide an important statutory framework for the peaceful transfer of power. Watch this discussion with former secretaries of homeland security and transition experts on the importance of a peaceful and effective presidential transition to ensure America's safety and security.

Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, oversaw the transition of the department to Secretary Janet Napolitano, who served under President Barack Obama. They are among four former homeland security secretaries who came together to create the nonpartisan Citizens for a Strong Democracy to focus on election integrity and to support a secure presidential transition.

The discussion wasmoderated by William Antholis, director of the nonpartisan Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and David Marchick, director of the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service.

This event was co-sponsored by the Miller Center, the Partnership for Public Service's Center for Presidential Transition, and Citizens for a Strong Democracy. It is made possible thanks to the generous support of the George and Judy Marcus Democracy Praxis Fund.

Watch the event

Logos of the Miller Center, the Center for Presidential Transition, and Citizens for a Strong Democracy

 


DEALING WITH REALITY

Coronavirus surges, the economy struggles, and election litigation continues. UVA experts look at the latest news.

November 12, 2020

Today's posts

Transition vulnerability • Kathryn Dunn Tenpas
Our democratic culture is at risk • Melody Barnes
The first "second gentleman" • Barbara Perry

Clearly our enemies can see that vulnerability.

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a Miller Center senior fellow, took stock of the fraught transition to the Biden presidency for USA Today. Though President-elect Biden says his team doesn't need the access it has so far been denied, Tenpas suggests problems could arise, threatening his first weeks in office. "This strikes me as a matter of the country's reputation internationally and being so vulnerable. The whole world is watching and clearly our enemies can see that vulnerability," she said. "So the question is do people try to take advantage of that?"

READ MORE


 

Melody Barnes, who served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, is now co-director for policy and public affairs for UVA's Democracy Initiative and a Miller Center professor of practice. She joined MSNBC's Joy Reid to discuss the risks to our democracy from the polarizing 2020 election. 


 

Doug Emhoff
Doug Emhoff. Photo: Adam Schultz / Biden for President

Barbara Perry, the Miller Center's director of Presidential Studies, talked with the Guardian about Kamala Harris's husband, Doug Emhoff, who is poised to assume the role of vice presidential spouse. “A good sign that someone is a good campaigner is when he or she is sent out alone and doesn’t have to go with the spouse or the family member," said Perry. "That was the secret to the Kennedy family.”

“We tend to put women who’ve been in these roles in these boxes, and we don’t let them beyond a certain limit,” she added. “And it will be interesting to see how we treat Doug Emhoff. Will the difference in gender allow him to do more?”

Interestingly, it was soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden who may provide the best comparison. “She continued to teach and be a professor while she was second lady for all those eight years,” said Perry. “Between the two of them as non-traditional spouses, will they form a new paradigm for both first lady and second gentleman?”

READ MORE


TRANSITION AMIDST CRISIS

President-elect Biden and his team face obstacles as they prepare to lead. Here's what UVA Institute of Democracy experts have to say.

November 11, 2020

Today's posts

The new Confederates • Sidney Milkis
Exit Poll Nuggets™: Traits that mattered • Jennifer Lawless and Paul Freedman
Biden faces immediate tests in Asia • Evan Feigenbaum
A tenuous time • Chris Lu

 

Sid Milkis headshot
Sidney Milkis is an expert on the American presidency, political parties and elections, social movements, and American political development. His most recent book is Rivalry and Reform: Presidents and Social Movements.

Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, delivered after an election that put the Union on the brink, called for the Southern states to resist the vanguard of the Confederacy—South Carolina, which had already seceded—and stay in the Union. “We are not enemies, but friends,” Lincoln pleaded in his famous peroration. “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

These words were echoed by president-elect Joe Biden in his address to the nation last Saturday evening. Alas, like Lincoln’s entreaties, which were fiercely rejected by the 11 states that joined South Carolina in declaring themselves restored to a “separate and independent place among nations,” Donald Trump and most Republicans in the House and Senate have spurned Biden’s peace offering. Without any evidence, the president and his top advisors claim that voting fraud has taken place on a large scale, and that the election was “stolen.” Most Republicans have not gone that far, but they have backed the president’s adamant refusal to concede, in some cases amplifying his baseless claims that he won the 2020 presidential election. This election thus marks the first time since 1860 that the losing candidate and his followers have refused to accept the verdict of a presidential election.

We can hope that this resistance is temporary—that, as the press has hinted, the president’s followers are trying to coax him along to accept the inevitable. But the many comparisons that historians have made between the Civil War era and the present give us pause that presidential advisors and Republican office holders will do the right thing. Now, like then, a united and passionate minority of the nation is trying to protect its “way of life” from large-scale social changes and huge demographic shifts. 

Now, like then, the nation is divided by the fundamental question of who deserves citizenship, fomenting major religious and racial divisions—the principal fault lines of American politics. Then, as now, the two tribes are encamped in distinct regions and counties that fundamentally distrust one another.  

Our divisions, of course, are not as virulent as they were in the battle over forced servitude. Indeed, there were some promising, albeit very incipient, signs that racial and ethnic animosities were not as intransigent during the 2020 election as they were four years earlier. 

Biden did slightly better in rural areas than Hillary Clinton; and Trump made some modest gains some among African Americans and Latinos. The “Cold Civil War,” as many pundits have described the present, need not conflagrate the nation. However, the president and his political allies have focused their indictment of voting fraud in diverse metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Detroit, which, as Biden acknowledged in his victory-claiming address, provided critical support in key swing states. 

The condemnation of my hometown, Philadelphia, which the president began demeaning in the first debate, has been especially egregious. “Bad things happen in Philadelphia,” he charged. In effect, the post-election battle for legitimacy is a postscript on the law-and-order trope that President Trump deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters in the months leading up to the election.

There is one telling, and disconcerting, difference between the old and new confederates. The states that seceded did not reject the verdict of the 1860 election. Their secession was not prompted by the perception that the campaign was rigged. 

As South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession stated, the 1860 election was a clear sign, despite Lincoln’s reassurances, that their way of life, buttressed by the constitutional recognition of slavery, had “been defeated.” In fact, the integrity of elections was critical to Lincoln’s claim that the United States rested on popular sovereignty—that, as he put it in his 1859 speech, “Public opinion in this country is everything.”  

The first president to face election during wartime, Lincoln insisted that free and fair elections must take place. By contemporary standards—in reality, not as high as our own—this was true of the 1862 midterm, in which Republicans lost their majority in the House. It also happened in the hard-fought 1864 campaign, where the popular Democratic candidate, General George C. McClellan—opposing the Emancipation Proclamation, which he claimed was preventing the South’s willingness to rejoin the Union—seemed to have the advantage in a nation tired of bellicosity. 

Privately, Lincoln expressed fears that he would lose his reelection bid, but he accepted the risk and permitted his power to be threatened in a way he believed was required by the Constitution. When rumors spread during the campaign that if Lincoln was defeated, he would refuse to accept the verdict of the people, he responded at a public gathering in October. 

The president insisted that he was “struggling to maintain the government, not overthrow it.” He then pledged that whoever was selected on election day would be duly installed as president on inauguration day—a course that was “due to the people, both in principle and under the Constitution.”

One does not have to be histrionic to fear that President Trump’s refusal to accept a peaceful transfer of power, through the campaign and during its troubling aftermath, might undermine the public’s faith in elections and damage president-elect Biden’s transition to the White House. Indeed, a large number of Trump voters have accepted their charismatic leader’s denial that the robust 2020 campaign, with the highest voter turnout since 1900, was legitimate. As Lincoln understood, public opinion can be capricious—demagogues might lead it astray by appealing to people’s worst instincts.

We can only hope that the Republican Party, if not the president, who claims to be the repository of its collective responsibility, will appeal, as Lincoln urged, to the “better angels of our nature.” For in the final analysis, the healing process that president-elect Biden urges the nation to begin might depend on Republican leaders in Congress and the States demonstrating that they represent more than the political ambitions of the president.

Sidney Milkis, White Burkett Miller Professor of Governance and Foreign Affairs, Miller Center

 

Paul Freedman headshot
Paul Freedman is an expert in public opinion, media and politics, voting behavior, research methods, and the politics of food

Welcome back to the final (for now) installment of Exit Poll Nuggets™.

Today, we explore the candidate traits that mattered most to voters. As noted last week, in the immediate aftermath of a national election, exit polls offer the best glimpse of what the electorate looked like—who voted for whom and what seemed to drive their choices. In 2020, the exit polls combined interviews with a representative sample of thousands of voters (leaving polling places in precincts across the nation) and telephone interviews with a representative sample of people who voted early or by mail. In all, the national exit poll includes interviews with 15,590 voters. It is important to note that these data have recently been updated, and may continue to be updated. The numbers below reflect the exit polls reported as of Tuesday, November 10.

Jen Lawless headshot
Jennifer Lawless's research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics

Issues vs. personal qualities: Nearly three-quarters of voters (74 percent) say that issues mattered more to them when deciding for whom to vote than personal qualities did. And Trump enjoyed a six-point advantage among those who said issues mattered more (53 vs. 47 percent for Biden). But of the 23 percent of voters who claim that qualities mattered more, Biden saw a 33-point advantage (64 vs. 31 percent). In an election that was quite close in multiple states, it’s fair to conclude that candidates’ personal qualities influenced the outcome.

Candidate favorability: Not surprisingly, voters are more likely to choose a candidate of whom they have a positive opinion. Ninety-four percent of those with a favorable view of Biden voted for him, and 95 percent of voters with a favorable view of Trump cast their ballots for him. Importantly, Biden had a clear advantage on this dimension: 52 percent of all voters had a favorable impression of Biden, while 46 percent had an unfavorable view. For Trump, the numbers were flipped: 46 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable. Thus, Trump’s favorability ratings were “under water,” with a six-point net unfavorable view among voters.

Temperament: Even more important than general perceptions of favorability were assessments of “temperament.” To be sure, this is a fairly broad characteristic (no specific definitions were provided). But voters saw a difference between the candidates: Fifty-four percent agreed that Biden has the temperament to serve as president, and 92 percent who expressed this view voted for him. In contrast, only 44 percent of voters agreed that Trump has the temperament to serve as president (just about the same as his job approval rating on Election Day). Although Trump received support from 95 percent of these voters, they represented a smaller segment of the electorate.

Mental and physical health: Beyond temperament, the exit polls also asked about voters’ perceptions of the candidates’ mental and physical health. Given that this election featured two senior citizens vying for the White House—both of whom have experienced health-related problems in the past—an overarching question of the entire cycle was whether either had the stamina to make it through a four-year term. Voters expressed a fair degree of doubt. They split right down the middle (49 percent vs. 49 percent) when asked whether Biden has the “physical and mental health to serve effectively as president.” The split was exactly the same when asked about Trump. It’s impossible to know based on the way this exit poll question was worded whether voters’ doubts had more to do with physical or mental health, but these concerns did weigh into vote choice. Ninety percent of voters who thought Biden was healthy voted for him, and 89 percent of voters who thought Trump was healthy voted for him. 

Most important quality: Beyond temperament, the exit polls presented voters with four candidate qualities and asked them which mattered most in their decision. Strong leadership topped the list, with 33 percent of voters identifying it as the most important quality. Good judgment (24 percent), caring about “people like me” (21 percent), and an ability to unite the country (19 percent) rounded out the list. Notice that Biden drew the overwhelming support of voters who prioritized unity and good judgment (Figure 1). Trump won voters who cared most about strong leadership.

graph

Anticipated reactions: Hotly contested elections often leave one side feeling optimistic and the other feeling disappointed. Although the exit poll was conducted before voters knew who won, emotions were on clear display. The survey asked voters to identify the word that best summarizes their reaction to a potential win: excited, optimistic, concerned, or scared if Biden won. They then asked the same question about a Trump victory. Optimistic was the word most associated with a Biden win; scared was used most frequently to describe a Trump victory (see Figure 2).

graph

Importantly, of those who expressed excitement or optimism about a potential Biden win, more than 90 percent voted for him. Trump drew the support of a similar proportion who were excited about a second term. The opposite is true for those who said they were concerned or scared. Biden won the votes of 78 percent of voters concerned about a Trump win and 96 percent of those scared by the prospect. Meanwhile, 92 percent of voters who were concerned about Biden and 93 percent who were scared by him voted for Trump. Because voters were more optimistic about Biden and more scared by Trump, the net advantage went to Biden.

Jennifer Lawless, Commonwealth Professor of Politics and chair of the Politics department, University of Virginia; Miller Center senior fellow
Paul Freedman, associate professor, Politics department, University of Virginia

 

Evan Feigenbaum headshot
Evan Feigenbaum is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research in Washington, Beijing and New Delhi on a dynamic region encompassing both East Asia and South Asia.

Superficially, many in Asia welcomed President Donald Trump’s tough talk about China, praising his administration’s emphasis on “strategic competition” with Beijing. But his policies—particularly on trade and investment—are widely viewed as having undercut that goal. President-elect Joe Biden now has an opportunity to set the stage for more systematic, institutionalized, and effective competition with Beijing.

Trump’s Approach: Long on Attitude, Short on Strategy

Despite Trump’s fighting words about competing with China, many Asian governments, broadly speaking, have viewed his administration’s policies as inconsistent with this goal. Some leaders, notably in Southeast Asia, abhor Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stark “us or them” framing, preferring to view their region in balance-of-power rather than ideological terms. And America’s closest allies, especially Japan and Australia, loathe Trump’s trade policies, not least his decision to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

In the wake of American withdrawal, eleven countries completed the TPP without the United States—in effect, setting the region’s trade and investment standards without its largest economy and traditional standard setter. In a region whose business is business, that gap between American rhetoric and action has been a source of consternation to governments that view full-spectrum U.S. engagement as an essential balance to the rise of Chinese power.

Just take Southeast Asia, which the Trump administration viewed as ground zero of strategic competition with Beijing. In the last four weeks alone, Washington has picked trade fights with two strategically pivotal countries—Vietnam, which it is investigating for alleged currency manipulation, and Thailand, whose duty-free trade privileges the Trump administration has just revoked.

Evan Feigenbaum, senior fellow, Miller Center

READ MORE


 

Miller Center senior fellow Chris Lu, who ran the Obama administration's transition in 2008–9 has been in demand for commentary on this year's transition-in-waiting. Here he talks to MSNBC about the national security risks


REPUBLICAN RELUCTANCE

GOP leaders hesitate to congratulate the president-elect. Biden looks forward. UVA experts assess.

November 10, 2020

Today's posts

Exit Poll Nuggets™: What mattered most • Jennifer Lawless and Paul Freedman
Jill Biden keeps working • Jennifer Lawless
Former DHS secretaries: Begin the transition  Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, Jeh Johnson
The personal side of the election Naomi Cahn
Undoing Trump will push Biden to executive action • Rachel Augustine Potter

 

Welcome back to Exit Poll Nuggets™.

Paul Freedman headshot
Paul Freedman is an expert in public opinion, media and politics, voting behavior, research methods, and the politics of food

Today, we highlight several fun facts that the exit poll results reveal, including which issues mattered most in this election. As noted last week, in the immediate aftermath of a national election, exit polls offer the best glimpse of what the electorate looked like—who voted for whom and what seemed to drive their choices. In 2020, the exit polls combined interviews with a representative sample of thousands of voters (leaving polling places in a representative sample of precincts across the nation) and telephone interviews with a representative sample of people who voted early or by mail.

In all, the national exit poll includes interviews with 15,590 voters. It is important to note that these data will be updated, so the numbers below should be considered preliminary, reflecting the exit polls reported as of Wednesday, November 4.

Jen Lawless headshot
Jennifer Lawless's research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics

First time voters: Thirteen percent of voters reported casting a ballot for the first time in 2020. Among these first-time voters, Biden outperformed Trump two to one (66 vs. 32 percent). 

Swing voters: The overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans vote for their party’s presidential candidate every four years. But Biden fared better than Trump among the small segment of the electorate who swing back and forth. Biden won 8 percent of those who reported having voted for Trump in 2016; Trump won 4 percent of self-reported 2016 Hillary Clinton voters.

Moderates: Biden and Trump performed well with the endpoints of the ideological spectrum. That is, Biden won the 24 percent of liberal voters by a substantial margin (89 vs. 10 percent for Trump), and Trump won the 37 percent of conservative voters by a similar margin (84 vs. 14 percent for Biden). When it comes to the 40 percent of voters who identify as moderates—the slice of the electorate who tend to decide elections—Biden had a significant edge: 64 percent of moderates chose Biden, whereas only 33 percent favored Trump. This is a sizable drop from the 40 percent of moderates who voted for Trump in 2016.

Most important issues, 2016 vs. 2020: In both 2016 and 2020, the exit poll presented voters with a list of issues, asking them to choose the one that “mattered most in deciding how you voted for president” (see Figure 1). 

In 2016, voters were presented with a list of four issues (and from the perspective of 2020, they seem so distant, almost quaint). In 2020, they were given five issues. Notice that only the economy appears on both lists. And even it took a hit in terms of most important status (52 percent of voters prioritized it in 2016, compared to 35 percent in 2020). Competing for voters’ priorities in 2020 was the somewhat vaguely labeled “racial inequality” (20 percent), followed by the coronavirus (17 percent), “crime and safety” (11 percent), and health care policy (11 percent).

graph
Figure 1: Most Important Issues, 2016 vs. 2020

 

Vote Choice, by Most Important Issue. The exit polls make it clear that Democrats and Republicans not only voted for different candidates, but they based their decision on different issues (see Figure 2). The lion’s share of voters who prioritized the economy and “crime and safety” voted for Trump, while voters who cared most about racial inequality, the pandemic, and health care voted for Biden (see Figure 1). This is hardly surprising, given the focus of each candidate’s campaign, but it is striking to observe the extent to which Biden and Trump voters seemingly viewed the election in terms of a completely different set of issues.

graph
Figure 2: 2020 Vote by Most Important Issue

Black Lives Matter: The majority (57 percent) of voters have a favorable view of Black Lives Matter, and Biden won the support of 80 percent of these voters. Trump did just as well as among the 30 percent of voters with an unfavorable view of Black Lives Matter, receiving 85 percent of their votes. 

Masks: Two-thirds (67 percent) of the electorate believe that wearing a mask in public is “more of a public health responsibility,” whereas 30 percent say it is “more of a personal choice.” Although Biden won 64 percent of voters who view masks as a public health responsibility, Trump did better among those who view it as a personal choice, receiving 72 percent of their votes. Given the strong majority in support of masks, this was clearly an issue that helped Biden in the aggregate.

Other issues: As we’d expect, Biden outperformed Trump among voters who think that climate change is a serious problem (69 percent voted for Biden, compared to 29 percent for Trump); that abortion should be legal (74 percent cast votes for Biden, compared to 21% for Trump); and that Obamacare should remain in place (80 percent went for Biden, and 18 percent for Trump). It’s not only the margin that matters, though. In each case, a greater share of the electorate shared Biden’s position. More specifically, two-thirds of voters considered climate change a serious problem, and a small majority (51 percent) thought abortion should be legal and Obamacare should be preserved. Even though these weren’t the most important issues in 2020, they likely contribute to Biden’s victory.

We’ll be back tomorrow with another Exit Poll Nugget™, which will focus on candidate qualities and traits. 

Jennifer Lawless, Commonwealth Professor of Politics and chair of the Politics department, University of Virginia; Miller Center senior fellow
Paul Freedman, associate professor, Politics department, University of Virginia

 

Jill Biden
  Jill Biden

In the Huffington Post, Miller Center senior fellow and UVA Department of Politics chair Jennifer Lawless discusses Jill Biden's commitment to continuing her teaching job—just as she did when her husband was vice president—once the Bidens move into the White House.

"It sends a very strong message to women: No matter how accomplished, powerful, or important your husband, you don’t have to abandon your own career or play second fiddle," Lawless says. And, she adds, "It demonstrates that education will be front and center in a Biden administration, which is a significant departure from the last four years."

READ MORE


 

Citizens for a strong democracy logo
  

Four former Department of Homeland Security secretaries, two Republicans and two Democrats, are calling for President Trump to begin the transition process even as he pursues legal challenges. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, who served in the Bush 43 administration, joined Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, who worked for President Obama, to issue the open letter. The four are partners in the bipartisan, nonprofit Citizens for a Strong Democracy, founded in order to strengthen public confidence in the election systems and the results of the vote. Citizens for a Strong Democracy is a partner with the UVA Institute of Democracy in providing expert UVA commentary on the 2020 election.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

Voting in the 2020 presidential election is over and the American people have made their voices heard. By all credible accounts, state election officials have been diligent in conducting a fair, legal, and accurate count—county by county, state by state. President Trump is assured the benefit of a fair process and the right to file legal challenges and request recounts in certain states, but his legal claims cannot and must not prevent the transition process from beginning. The Presidential Transition Act requires a transition to run concurrently with any election challenges and is intended to ensure the incoming administration is prepared to handle any challenge on Day 1.

A peaceful transfer of power was defined as essential to national security by the 9/11 Commission. It was critical following the 2008 election, when the country was confronted with active terror threats during the transition and what was then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It was essential in 2016 when America was working to defeat ISIS. And it is essential now.

As four former Secretaries of Homeland Security, we have actively participated in presidential transitions. One of us, Secretary Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, oversaw the transition of the Department of Homeland Security to another of us, Secretary Napolitano, who served under President Barack Obama. And, Secretary Johnson oversaw the DHS transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.

Leaders must protect our historic democratic processes. We will use every resource at our disposal to support our republic’s cherished, peaceful and orderly transition of power between administrations.

Our country is in the middle of twin crises: a global pandemic and a severe economic downturn. The pandemic will make any transition more complicated. At this period of heightened risk for our nation, we do not have a single day to spare to begin the transition. For the good of the nation, we must start now.

The latest from Citizens for a Strong Democracy


 

Naomi Cahn headshot
Naomi Cahn is an expert in family law, feminist jurisprudence, reproductive technology, and aging and the law. She is the author of the forthcoming Shafted: The Fate of Women in a Winner-Take-All World (Simon & Shuster).

What does the election tell us about our personal lives? It turns out that politics matters not just to our voting patterns but to whom we date, whom we marry, and where we live.

OKCupid, a dating site, reports that more than three-quarters of its respondents claimed that “how their date leans politically is very important.” It also found a gender gap far larger than the 2020 exit polls, with 73 percent of women leaning Democratic, compared to 57 percent of men (the national statistics were 57/45 percent). It turns out that women were also more likely than men to say they preferred dating someone who had the same political views.

When those dating relationships turn into marriage, people are more likely to choose partners who share the same political affiliation. As a recent study found, 79 percent of marriages are between people who identify with the same party. Only 4 percent are between Democrats and Republicans, and the remaining 17 percent are between independents and those who identify with one of the two major parties.

And then there’s the question of how you’d feel if your child married someone of the opposite political party. There, more Democrats—45 percent—would be displeased compared to 35 percent of Republicans. In a sign of just how politically polarized we have become, only 4 percent of Republicans or Democrats would have been unhappy with a political mixed marriage back in 1960.

Our residential patterns also increasingly reflect our politics. Since 1976, when only 26 percent of voters lived in a place where one party won by an overwhelming majority in a presidential election, that number has steadily increased. While Biden won urban areas with 60 percent of voters, Trump won rural areas with 57 percent. Politics may affect not only where people move, but also their political preferences once they get there. People are much less likely to interact with others from another political party at local civic gatherings than at work.

Politics—and party affiliation—profoundly influence our personal choices.

Naomi Cahn, director of the Family Law Center, UVA School of Law

 

Rachel Potter headshot
Rachel Augustine Potter studies American political institutions, regulation, public policy, and the separation of powers.  Her book, Bending the Rules: Procedural Politicking in the Bureaucracy explores how unelected bureaucrats leverage procedures in order to influence the policymaking process.

After a hard fought (and still contested) victory, president-elect Joe Biden now faces the daunting task of governing in a highly polarized environment. While candidate Biden advanced a number of ambitious policy initiatives, much of the work ahead for the new administration will focus not on the achievement of new policy proposals, but instead on the unwinding of policies enacted by the Trump administration. And because so much of that unwinding is likely to occur through executive action, Biden’s first year in office is likely to be heavily executive-oriented.

Executive action underpinned many of Trump’s highest profile achievements, including actions to limit immigration, curb the number of new regulations, and ban the service of transgender people in the military. With the stroke of a pen, President Biden will likely issue orders pulling back Trump’s most controversial measures immediately after assuming office in January. He is also likely to use his executive authority to reengage the United States in the international community, by rejoining the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization.

Other Trump actions will take much longer for the new president to roll back. Much of this administration’s deregulatory campaign has been carried out through a cumbersome and time-consuming bureaucratic process, known as “notice and comment” rulemaking. Since reversing course on these regulatory actions involves following the same process, this means the new administration could be tied up for many months—if not years—just in rolling back Trump’s deregulatory program. (However, the Biden administration could catch a major break if Democrats are able to eke out a majority in the Senate, as a Democratic Congress could legislatively overturn some of the Trump administration’s last-minute deregulatory efforts using an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act.)

Nevertheless, the focus on the “undoing” of Trump’s legacy suggests that the early months of the Biden administration are likely to appear heavy on unilateral presidential action—even before the new president has had a chance to advance his own policy priorities. Once Biden has the bandwidth to engage his own policy agenda, this perception may intensify, particularly if the Senate stays in Republican hands and Republican senators refuse to work with the White House. 

Unilateral action has become a centerpiece of the modern presidency, and the Biden administration is poised to continue this trend.

Rachel Augustine Potter, assistant professor, UVA Department of Politics

BIDEN PRESSES AHEAD

With myriad problems facing the nation, President Trump refuses to concede defeat. UVA Institute of Democracy scholars react.

November 9, 2020

Today's posts

A legal assessment • Michael Gilbert
Harris's rise, Biden's  performance Barbara Perry
How transitions usually happen, how this will be different • Chris Lu
President-elect Biden's Covid-19 task force • Margaret Riley
Exit poll nuggets™: The LGBTQ vote • Jennifer Lawless and Paul Freedman
The next chapter of executive-centered partisanshipSidney Milkis
The complex politics of a Covid-19 vaccine • Guian McKee
Is Donald Trump the next Grover Cleveland? • Barbara Perry

 

UVA law professor Michael Gilbert joins CNBC to assess the Trump campaign's attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election through legal action.


 

Barbara Perry is the Miller Center's director of Presidential Studies and an expert on both the presidency and the Supreme Court. Several media outlets took advantage of her expertise to add critical historical perspective to the latest news.

She joined PBS NewsHour to reflect on Kamala Harris's historic ascension to the vice presidency:

 

After Joe Biden's victory speech, Perry appeared on NewsNation Now to assess his performance:


 

Miller Center senior fellow Chris Lu, who ran the Obama administration's transition in 2008–9, is the ideal candidate to explain how President Trump's behavior in the aftermath of the 2020 election will affect the Biden team and the nation.

He joined several media outlets to discuss, sitting down with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

Lu also joined Fox 5 DC:

And Lu appeared on CBS news:


mimi riley headshot
Margaret Riley has written and presented extensively about health care law, biomedical research, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, animal biotechnology, health disparities and chronic disease

As promised during his victory speech on Saturday night, president-elect Joe Biden announced on Monday morning the formation of a task force to combat Covid-19. While most of the task force members are not exactly household names, they are all exceptionally well-respected scientists, physicians, and public health experts. Many have significant government experience. 

The choice of the task force’s three chairs is strategic. Former surgeon-general Vivek Murthy understands the federal apparatus and the CDC, and may prove crucial in rebuilding trust in that beleaguered agency. David Kessler is former commissioner of the FDA and also has significant public health experience. The least well-known, Marcella Nunez-Smith, is a physician whose research agenda focuses on health disparities—a crucial recognition that the virus has not affected everyone in the same way.

The task force has no actual power, which may end up being of no consequence, or possibly even an advantage. While the limits of federal power in compelling health behaviors are subject to dispute, the real power of the federal government in managing Covid-19 is likely to be advisory rather than compulsory. 

For that it needs trust, not mandates. Indeed, issuing mandates may even erode trust. By starting with a position of expertise that spans most of the essential domains, the task force will be able to provide states with coherent evidence-based data and guidelines—something that has been lacking since the beginning of the crisis.

Pfizer’s announcement on Monday morning of preliminary results indicating that its vaccine is 90 percent effective was also serendipitous for the task force. The prospect of a vaccine that may exceed even optimistic hopes of efficacy, coming within months, provides some parameters for a timeline for the task force. It can get quickly to the essential work of planning equitable distribution, as well as monitoring other promising treatments, tests, and vaccines. 

This also means that any restrictive behavioral guidelines issued by the task force will be temporary. It is much easier for people to forgo activities or to wear masks and observe tighter social-distancing rules if there is a clearer end in sight.

Margaret Riley, professor of Law, UVA School of Law; professor of Public Health Sciences, UVA School of Medicine

 

Welcome back to Exit Poll Nuggets™. 

Jen Lawless headshot
Jennifer Lawless's research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics

Today, we take up a reader-submitted question, focusing on LGBTQ voters and how their votes in 2020 compare to previous years. As noted last week, in the immediate aftermath of a national election, exit polls offer the best glimpse of what the electorate looked like—who voted for whom and what seemed to drive their choices. 

In 2020, the exit polls combined interviews with a representative sample of thousands of voters (leaving polling places in precincts across the nation) and telephone interviews with a representative sample of people who voted early or by mail. In all, the national exit poll includes interviews with 15,590 voters. It is important to note that these data will be updated, so the numbers below should be considered preliminary, reflecting the exit polls reported as of Wednesday, November 4.

Paul Freedman headshot
Paul Freedman is an expert in public opinion, media and politics, voting behavior, research methods, and the politics of food

First, some important caveats: It is notoriously challenging to survey small groups of voters, including members of religious or other demographic minorities. It is arguably even more challenging when it comes to LGBTQ identity, for which estimates of the total population are just that: estimates. 

According to 2017 Gallup data, 4.5 percent of Americans answered “yes” when asked, “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?” This is an increase from 4.1 percent in 2016 and 3.5 percent in 2012. (Note: Although we’re using the slightly more inclusive LGBTQ term, what is actually being measured, both by Gallup and by the exit poll, is LGBT identification.) 

These changes most likely reflect differential willingness to identify as LGBTQ. For example, in 2017 Gallup found that 2.4 percent of Baby Boomers and a full 8.2 percent of Millennials identified as LGBT. And these generational differences have widened over time.

Finally, it is important to remember that, as with any survey, the margin of sampling error for any subgroup is going to be larger than for the full sample; the smaller the subgroup, the more uncertainty around our estimates.

With all of that in mind, the 2020 exit poll found that 7 percent of the electorate identified as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender,” up from 5 percent in 2016. This suggests that in both elections, the LGBTQ community is over-represented in the exit polls, but the upward trend is likely consistent with those in the actual population. 

The vote choice of LGBTQ voters in 2020 was, put simply, a surprise to many: More than a quarter of LGBTQ voters—28 percent—cast a ballot for Donald Trump, while 61 percent voted for Joe Biden. In 2016, by contrast, 78 percent of LGBTQ voters supported Democrat Hillary Clinton, similar to the 76 percent who voted for Barack Obama in 2012.

Why the change? It’s hard to know for sure, but we reiterate our caveats about survey uncertainty when it comes to small groups. And more generally, these findings are a reminder that, as with Black and Latinx voters, no subgroup is monolithic in its political views or voting behavior. LGBTQ voters live in every state and reflect a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and opinions.

At the end of the (election) day, though, it’s important to keep in mind that, at 61 percent, LGBTQ Americans voted about as Democratic as 18–29-year-old voters (62 percent Biden) and more Democratic than every other age group. They voted more Democratic than men (48 percent) and women (56 percent), and people who live in the suburbs (51 percent) or in cities (60 percent). And the 33-point margin by which Biden won LGBTQ voters is substantial—bigger than the gaps for gender, income, marriage, and many other divides. LGBTQ voters are, ultimately, Democratic voters.

Check back tomorrow for more on what the exit polls tell us about issues, candidate traits, and the political climate in 2020. 

Jennifer Lawless, Commonwealth Professor of Politics and chair of the Politics department, University of Virginia; Miller Center senior fellow
Paul Freedman, associate professor, Politics department, University of Virginia

 

Sid Milkis headshot
Sidney Milkis is an expert on the American presidency, political parties and elections, social movements, and American political development. His most recent book is Rivalry and Reform: Presidents and Social Movements.

The likely continuation of divided government and legislative stalemate has dampened the enthusiasm of the Democratic Party’s base in the aftermath of Joe Biden’s stirring victory. However, recent history reveals that presidents can accomplish a great deal on their own. Since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, but especially since the cataclysmic 1960s, Democrats and Republicans have depended on presidents to pronounce party doctrines, mobilized base supporters, raise campaign funds, and advance party programs. This phenomenon sits at the crossroads of two related developments: the decline of party organizations and the expansion of executive power.

The confluence of these two trends took on a more antinomian form with the culture wars of the 1960s, reckonings over American identity that reverberate through our own time. These struggles over race, religion, and immigration have fueled ideological polarization and a legislative stalemate in Congress, which has made parties even more dependent on presidents to advance their objectives. As a consequence, presidents of both parties have sought to achieve their policy objectives with administrative powers rather than navigate a complex system of separated powers to pass legislation.

This development reached a culmination with Obama and Trump. Both administrations placed a premium on the White House office (the West Wing) and other agencies in the executive office of the president, many of which do not require senate  confirmation. Both Obama and Trump anointed policy czars, who were ensconced in the White House and charged with formulating programs and developing administrative strategies to bring them to fruition. For example, immigration policy in the Obama administration was directed by Domestic Policy Advisor Cecilia Munoz, who oversaw the implementation of controversial decisions like establishing deportation relief and work authorizations for “Dreamers” (DACA).

Both Obama and Trump anointed policy czars, who were ensconced in the White House and charged with formulating programs and developing administrative strategies to bring them to fruition.

Similarly, Trump’s draconian immigration policy has been directed from the West Wing by Stephen Miller, who not only has been at the vanguard of rescinding initiatives like DACA but also has been using the cover of the pandemic to pursue highly suspect tactics, like the deportation of children who travel to the United States without a parent or guardian, while obviating the substantial due-process requirements designed to ensure that deportation would not place them in harm’s way.

Therefore, although much of the media’s attention on the runup to a new presidential administration is on Cabinet appointments, we should pay close attention to president-elect Biden’s choices for the executive office. As demonstrated by the selection of three prominent physicians to head his coronavirus task force, these appointments will come more quickly and will give a good indication of the Biden’s administration’s political and policy ambitions.

The members the new president’s personal team will be formulating a flurry of executive orders in matters pertaining to the war against the pandemic, health care, immigration, climate change, and police reform that will change the trajectory of the Trump administration’s programs. Very quickly, we can expect the Biden administration to restore DACA and the rights of unaccompanied child refugees; buttress the Affordable Care Act, most notably the elimination of work requirements that the Trump administration attached to Medicaid Expansion; rejoin the Paris Accords on climate change; and restore the Obama administration’s robust oversight of police departments found to have violated the rights of citizens in their jurisdictions.

The expectation of Democrats and Republicans that presidents should cut the Gordian knot of harsh partisanship is understandable given the high stakes of domestic and foreign policies now in play. But the concentration of power in the White House—as part of a presidency-centered democracy—both weakens the constitutional system of checks and balances and places unreasonable and dangerous expectations on presidents.

Dueling administrative swords also makes a Chimera of the rule of law, the foundation of a republic. President-elect Biden—a self-proclaimed institutionalist—intends to restore unity to the country and end the legislative stalemate. But this will be a herculean task in a political culture that encourages churning conflict and mounts pressure to advance partisan objectives in a sharply divided nation.

Sidney Milkis, White Burkett Miller Professor of Governance and Foreign Affairs, Miller Center

 

Guian McKee headshot
Guian McKee studies how federal policy, plays out at the local level. An expert on the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, he is currently working on a book that examines the rise of the health care economy in American cities after World War II.

This morning, the world received the welcome news that preliminary results from a Phase 3 trial show that the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is 90 percent effective, with no serious safety concerns. While a long road remains in terms of final trial stages, emergency approval, manufacturing, and distribution, the results are an immense relief and better than many people anticipated.

At long last, there is more hope that the pandemic can be brought under control over the next 6 to 18 months. Hundreds of other vaccines are under development.

How does this stirring development relate to the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election? While it will not shape the bitter final struggles over vote counts and legal challenges, it relates directly to another facet of the post-election period: the initial shaping of the president’s historical legacy.

Donald Trump is very likely to rank among the worst American presidents. His accomplishments are of a nature that please only his dedicated partisans, and his failures of leadership and management are too numerous and well-known to warrant full discussion here. Chief among them, though, is his administration’s indifferent and disastrous response to the pandemic, and especially its tragic failure to support basic public health interventions such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

But there was one area where the administration did respond vigorously: Operation Warp Speed, the effort to develop a vaccine in record time. And now we have—it seems—such a vaccine. 

How will this shape historians’ assessment of the Trump administration’s record? As with so much of presidential history, the answer is more complicated than a first impression would suggest.

Most notably, Pfizer and BioNTech did not use Operation Warp Speed funding in the development of their vaccine. As Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer senior vice president and head of vaccine research development, told the New York Times, “We were never part of the Warp Speed. We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”

On pure scientific grounds, then, the first vaccine came about without the help of the administration.

Not only that, the vaccine was actually developed by scientists at BioNTech—a German company. Lacking the capacity to conduct a trial or manufacturing at scale, BioNTech came to Pfizer for help. 

On pure scientific grounds the first vaccine came about without the help of the administration.

In part, the two companies chose not to participate in Operation Warp Speed because they wanted to join COVAX, the broader international vaccine effort funded through the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). President Trump prevented the United States from joining the COVAX project, preferring to prioritize an exclusive vaccine for Americans.

The resulting (apparent) success is thus an example of international cooperation (and decidedly not of “America First”). This is exactly the sort of partnership across borders that Trump has consistently derided. More broadly, the failure of the United States to lead in coordinating across governments, private companies, public health institutions, and non-governmental organizations has worsened the global pandemic and cost a still unknown number of lives.

Yet a story of the Pfizer-BioNTech effort as a fully independent endeavor is also too simple. The administration did move aggressively, and at some risk, to sign an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer. Manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine in the United States will also inevitably rely on the plans and structures that Warp Speed has developed.

This is exactly the sort of partnership across borders that Trump has consistently derided.

Further, other vaccines may still play a part in containing the pandemic. One of the leading candidates was developed by Moderna, which relies on mRNA in a manner similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech version. A much smaller company, Moderna has participated in Warp Speed and relied on its funding for support.

A final layer of complexity is added by the matter of politics, particularly as the United States moves into a difficult and contentious presidential transition period. The vaccine development effort has of course taken place in the hothouse environment of the presidential campaign. Optimistic statements by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla during the summer and early fall raised concerns that the vaccine testing and approval process would be politicized, particularly after Trump seized on the comments as evidence that a vaccine would be ready before the election.

The backlash led Pfizer to form an alliance with other pharmaceutical companies to maintain scientific standards and resist political pressure during the trial process. The FDA also tightened its own standards for an emergency-use authorization. Yet the damage had been done, as public doubts about a vaccine’s safety heightened due to fears that it was a political tool. Gaining public trust in the vaccine will be an ongoing challenge for the Biden administration and the public-health community at large.

Any historical assessment of Trump’s record on the vaccine effort will need to take account of the consequences of his statements on the public’s response to the availability of a vaccine.

Trump-led attempts to disrupt the transition process could further hinder development of that trust, not to mention the implementation of distribution plans (although fortunately much of that work can take place beyond the reach of the president’s capacity to block funding for the transition to the next administration).

It is important to close by noting that much remains unknown about the details of Operation Warp Speed’s work, and that its ultimate success will depend as much on the effective distribution of the vaccine as on its actual development. What is clear, however, is that the Trump administration’s record and legacy will be intertwined with this work in complex ways that will give both his supporters and his critics ample material for historical debate and analysis.

We rarely know as much about a presidency as we think we do while events are unfolding.

Guian McKee, associate professor in Presidential Studies, Miller Center

 

Barbara Perry headshot
Barbara Perry has authored or edited 14 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties

Is Donald Trump the next Grover Cleveland? They certainly have the same body type—rotund. Both have a history of womanizing:  Cleveland fathered a child out of wedlock; Trump’s three marriages and porn-star liaisons are infamous. Each president is known for characteristic hair styles—Cleveland’s walrus mustache, popular in the late 19th century, and Trump’s combover, a last resort for balding men in any era. Both suffered medical emergencies during their presidencies (Cleveland’s cancer surgery; Trump’s COVID diagnosis) and tried to keep details from the public. Each lost reelection on their first try for a second term.

Here is where Trump hopes he can follow in Cleveland’s footsteps. Having lost in his bid for reelection to Benjamin Harrison in the controversial race of 1888, despite winning the popular vote, the 22nd president moved back to New York. As Mrs. Cleveland departed the White House, however, she asked the staff to take good care of the furnishings because she and her husband would return in four years. And they did!

Cleveland thwarted Harrison’s reelection effort in 1892, thus becoming the only U.S. president to serve two nonconsecutive terms. A Newsweek reporter has already speculated that Trump aspires to run for the White House again in 2024. But to become both the 45th and 47th president of the United States, he will not only have to avoid imprisonment, should New York state prosecutors succeed in convicting him of tax evasion and/or criminal acts related to the Trump Foundation, but he will have to ensure that the next four years cement his leadership of the Republican Party. 

Are GOP senators—like Texas’s Ted Cruz and Arkansas’s Tom Cotton, who support the president’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen by the Biden campaign—gunning for the vice-presidential spot on another Trump ticket four years hence or laying the groundwork for their race to the White House should Trump fail at becoming the country’s next Grover Cleveland?

Barbara Perry, Gerald L. Baliles Professor, director of Presidential Studies, Miller Center
Grover Cleveland and Donald Trump in facing profiles
Grover Cleveland is the only U.S. president to serve two nonconsecutive terms

LIVE TAPING: “AFTERMATH: DEMOCRACY IN THE WAKE OF 2020”

Hosts Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan of the UVA “Democracy in Danger” podcast will explore the ramifications of the presidential election on November 12 at 2:00 ET

October 29, 2020
Pictures of Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan

Join us at 2:00 ET on November 12 for a live recording of “Democracy in Danger,” a new podcast from UVA's Deliberative Media Lab. On this episode, special guests Carol Anderson, Melody Barnes, Leah Wright-Rigueur, and Ian Solomon discuss the challenges facing democracy in the wake of 2020. After a historic year marked by a global pandemic, economic catastrophe, educational upheaval, the struggle for racial equity, and a chaotic national election, what is America's path forward? 

REGISTER


FROM ELECTION TO TRANSITION

The transition from the Trump to the Biden administration promises to be unlike any other in history. Here's what UVA Institute of Democracy scholars have to say.

November 8, 2020

Today's posts

What the Biden team faces in transition • Chris Lu
This does not have to be a political crisis • William Antholis
‘This is about the peaceful transfer of power’ • Melody Barnes

 

Chris Lu, a Miller Center senior fellow, ran the Obama administration transition in 2008–9. He talks with NPR about what Joe Biden's team faces this time around.


 

It is not that close. This does not have to be a political crisis.

Bill Antholis headshot
William Antholis served as director of international economic affairs for the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration and has expertise on climate change, India, China, international economics, development, U.S. foreign policy

We have just completed a narrow, hard fought election. Given the ongoing economic crisis and pandemic, the country should begin the peaceful transfer of power.

President Trump has indicated he will pursue legal challenges to the election results. But the chances of a recount flipping tens of thousands of votes across multiple states in his favor are outside anything we have seen in American history.

When compared with other close elections, this one is actually quite a comfortable victory for President-elect Biden. The Biden-Harris ticket has won or is significantly ahead in states worth 306 electoral votes.

For Trump to win, he must flip at least three of the four narrowest margins of defeat, where he either must persuade courts to disqualify tens of thousands of ballots or have recounts overturn results in three of the four closest “tipping point” states that put Biden over the 270 threshold.

The margins of victory in the four tipping point states is quite similar to those which President Trump won in the 2016 election, when he garnered 306 electoral votes in a mirror image of this year’s election.

His margins of victory were slightly larger in 2016 than Biden’s are in 2020, but Trump must go deeper down the list to collect enough electoral votes to reverse the outcome.

table of close states in 2016 v. 2020

Past recounts have changed hundreds of ballots, but typically not thousands. According to a study by FairVote, only twice since 2000 have recount vote swings been greater than 1,000. Both happened in 2000, when Al Gore picked up 1,247 votes in the Florida presidential race, and a statewide race in Colorado reversed 1,121 votes. Between 2000-2015, the median swing was just over 200 votes—often in favor of the candidate in the lead.

The country has seen much closer elections than the current one. The two most famous “contested elections” were in 2000 and 1876. The 2020 election was not as close as either.

In the 2000 Bush-Gore race in Florida, one state alone would have decided the outcome, leading to nearly two months of recounts and court battles. By comparison, President-elect Biden’s narrowest lead is more than 11,000 votes in Georgia, which is over five times larger than Bush’s initial Florida lead of 1,784. 

The country has seen much closer elections than the current one.

In the 1876 election, pitting Rutherford Hayes against Samuel Tilden, narrow margins in South Carolina (889), Florida (922), Oregon (1,057), and Louisiana (4,807) led to a four-month stalemate. A special commission investigated charges of fraud or voter disenfranchisement, and ultimately declared Hayes the winner in a deeply partisan 8-7 vote.

The 20th century has seen two other elections much closer than Biden-Trump. Neither became a political crisis. In 1976, Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford by winning a single tipping point state, Ohio, by 11,116 votes, or 0.27%. Coming after the national trauma of Watergate, Gerald Ford conceded the next morning.

John Kennedy’s 1960 victory over Richard Nixon had narrow margins in Hawaii (115), Illinois (8,858), and Missouri (9,980), which all would have needed to be reversed to give Nixon the election. Nixon conceded the next morning.

If the 2020 election becomes a political crisis, President Trump will have created one. The only analog would be the self-created crisis of 1860. Then, Abraham Lincoln won the electoral vote and a plurality of the popular vote with no evidence of fraud or illegality. The losing side, Southern Democrats, could not accept the legitimacy of the outcome. Seven states seceded from the Union between Election Day and Inauguration Day, triggering the Civil War

Does 2020 constitute a political crisis? Not by itself. And not yet. States will begin to certify the results. But if the president continues to question the legitimacy of the vote beyond where the facts and odds justify, it could lead to great danger for the American people.

If the 2020 election becomes a political crisis, President Trump will have created one.

Transitions amidst crises of any kind are inherently dangerous moments. The government’s power to defend and protect America is only as good as the public’s faith in our institutions and our leaders. For more than 200 years, we have peacefully transferred power from one president to another. 

A political crisis would compound the two other crises we face. Leadership on the pandemic is necessary and urgent, as daily deaths are now matching levels from April and May. The economic crisis, brought on by the pandemic, has still left 11 million people out of work. Congress and the White House failed to offer emergency relief prior to the election, as the winter and flu season approach. 

Moreover, national security transitions are complicated and dangerous. Presidential first years are notorious for foreign policy crises and mistakes. The list is long and painful – from the Bay of Pigs in 1961, to Black Hawk Down in 1993, to the 9/11 terror attacks. It is hard enough in normal times for a new president and a new team to prepare to confront the threats facing the nation.

This does not have to be a political crisis. The election was not historically close. President Trump can claim victory for his policy accomplishments and devote the considerable power of a post-presidency to advancing his priorities.

The alternative would be the first sitting president to challenge the legitimacy of our democracy. In short, he would be doing what the South did in 1860. We cannot repeat that mistake. 

William Antholis, director and CEO, Miller Center

 

Melody Barnes, co-chair of UVA's Democracy Initiative and the Miller Center's Dorothy Danforth Compton Professor, talks about the Trump-Biden transition with Ali Velshi of MSNBC.


 

AND WE HAVE A WINNER

Legal maneuverings move to the fore. UVA Institute of Democracy experts assess recent developments.

November 7, 2020

Today's posts

‘A real good man’ • Guian McKee
The closest a woman has ever been to the presidency • Jennifer Lawless
David Bossie returns • Russell Riley

 

Guian McKee headshot
Guian McKee studies how federal policy, plays out at the local level. An expert on the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, he is currently working on a book that examines the rise of the health care economy in American cities after World War II.

As the major news organizations declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election, and celebrations spread among his supporters around the nation (and world), my thoughts turned to the speech that South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn gave after Biden’s crucial victory in the South Carolina primary. “We have as our candidate a real good man,” Clyburn quietly told the assembled crowd at the Biden victory party that night. A simple, declarative statement. An observation about core character. A summation of the stakes in the larger 2020 campaign.

Nearly nine months later, so much has changed since Clyburn made that statement. And yet those words remain perhaps the most precise articulation of what the 2020 election was about. Joe Biden is not a perfect man. He has made mistakes and misjudgments in his long career. Yet he has persevered, through victories and defeats, crushing personal loss, and the criticism and animosity that comes with a public career. As Clyburn also pointed out the night of the primary, the American public (much of it, at least), had come to know him.

Presidential character is a tricky thing. It is hard to define, and it does not by itself guarantee success or preempt failure in office. It has not been the unique property of either party, and presidents of both have suffered from its deficiency.

Presidential character is a tricky thing.

Representative Clyburn, though, reminded us that it still matters, and of what we have lost in its absence. Who we choose to lead plays a part in defining us as a nation. It is not everything, but it is important. The majority of the voters, it seems, have agreed with Clyburn’s assessment.

Guian McKee, associate professor in Presidential Studies, Miller Center

 

Kamala Harris speaking in front of U.S. flags“The vice presidency is the best path to the Oval Office,” Miller Center senior fellow Jennifer Lawless told The Hill reflecting on the ascension of California Senator Kamala Harris to the nation's second-highest office. “With a female vice president, we’re closer than we’ve ever been before to a female president.”

Why did it take until now for a woman to find herself here? Lawless addressed the issue in Marketwatch: "When there are women on the ballot on both sides of the aisle, they perform as well as men; they also raise as much money. And we’re entering an environment right now where at least at the congressional level and down, they receive similar media coverage.”

Finally, "Harris has the potential to change the face of U.S. politics," Lawless wrote in an essay for POLITICO. "[S]tudies have found that women in Congress deliver more federal spending to their districts and sponsor more legislation than their male colleagues. They prioritize requests pertaining to ‘women’s’ issues. They have greater success keeping their sponsored bills alive longer in the legislative process. When given an opportunity to speak about issues of their choosing during one-minute speeches, congresswomen in both parties are more likely than men to speak and to speak about women. And women are more likely than men to participate in the social engagement activities and traditions that contribute to the social fabric of Congress, which help make the political arena a somewhat more civil, and somewhat less dysfunctional, place to work. Women, in other words, are good for the governing process."


 

Russell Riley headshot
Russell Riley is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on elite oral history interviewing and the contemporary presidency

Earlier this week, we learned through press reports that the Trump campaign was seeking what they called a “James Baker-type” to help them manage the post-election controversies that materialized after Tuesday. On Friday, they named David Bossie to fill that job.

For those who may not recall, Baker was called in by Republican nominee George W. Bush in November 2000 to navigate his effort to win Florida’s decisive electoral votes after that election created a micro-thin margin. Baker was by that time an elder statesman of the party, having honed his skills as White House chief of staff and secretary of the treasury under Ronald Reagan, and then secretary of state under his longtime friend George H. W. Bush. Baker adeptly succeeded.

Bossie? His full resume is surely available online, but, for those with long memories, his name will sound vaguely familiar. He was a featured player in what Hillary Clinton once termed the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that sought to undermine her husband’s presidency by any means necessary. One special focus was the unusual death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster in 1993, which had been ruled a suicide by law enforcement investigators—and eventually by two independent counsels, including a hard-to-convince Kenneth Starr.

Bossie deleted passages that directly and unequivocally affirmed Mrs. Clinton’s innocence.

Bossie at the time worked for Illinois Congressman Dan Burton, who was a pioneer in the politics of science denial. Unconvinced by conventional forensics, Burton conducted his own investigations into Foster’s demise by firing live rounds from a handgun into cantaloupes in his backyard. Meanwhile, Bossie was dispatched to rake muck in Arkansas—and subsequently fired a live round into his own foot. Bossie had prepared for public release transcripts of prison phone calls between Foster’s colleague, Webster Hubbell, and his wife, which clearly seemed to confirm illegal activity by the First Lady. Except that the recordings had been doctored. Bossie deleted passages that directly and unequivocally affirmed Mrs. Clinton’s innocence. Even Burton had no choice but to demand Bossie’s resignation. 

To paraphrase the late Lloyd Bentsen, from another presidential campaign: David Bossie is no James Baker. 

Russell Riley, co-chair, Presidential Oral History Program, White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions, Miller Center

COUNTING ON THE COUNT

With key states poised to announce the winner of their electors, here's the latest from UVA experts

November 6, 2020

Today's posts

Trump and the Confederate ‘lost cause’ • Caroline Janney
More Exit Poll Nuggets™ • Jennifer Lawless and Paul Freedman
Hispanics and immigration • Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao
A ‘subway map’ of the path to the White House • William Antholis
Leading the of the Obama administration transition • Chris Lu
A benign outlook for investors • Robert Bruner

This post was originally written on July 31, 2020

Caroline Janney headshot
Caroline Janney is an expert on the American Civil War. She served as president of the Society of Civil War Historians from 2014-2016 and is the co-editor of the University of North Carolina Press’s Civil War America Series.

As Confederate monuments tumble this summer, we may be witnessing an attempt to form a new lost cause. Today, President Trump describes his opponents as “unfair,” the pandemic sapping his popularity as a “hoax,” the polls that show him losing to Joe Biden as “fake,” and the election in which he’ll face ultimate judgment in November as “rigged” or potentially “stolen.” His defenders are already laboring to cast him as a righteous, noble warrior martyred by traitors and insurmountable forces. They rely on the same tools that were used to promulgate Confederate myths: manipulating facts, claiming persecution, demonizing enemies and rewriting history. In other words, Trump is laying the groundwork to claim moral victory in political defeat — and to deny the legitimacy of the Democratic administration that would displace him.

The original Lost Cause will never be replicated. It articulated a fully developed set of beliefs about slavery, honor and region, grounded in the experiences of a slaveholding republic. Trump and his followers do not have such a coherent ideology, nor do they enjoy the kind of geographical monopoly that the Confederates possessed. But their arguments are animated by some of the same tactics that allowed the Lost Cause to thrive for more than 150 years, which may help Trumpism, too, live on past its political moment. If it succeeds in attracting adherents, they will be a minority. Nevertheless, a small but vocal set of defenders can still shape our politics and our society. We’ve seen it before.

Caroline Janney, Director, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, UVA

Read more in the Washington Post


 

Welcome back to Exit Poll Nuggets™.

Jen Lawless headshot
Jennifer Lawless's research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics

Today we’ll take a closer look at age, marriage and children, and gender and education among white voters. As noted yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of a national election, exit polls offer the best glimpse of what the electorate looked like—who voted for whom and what seemed to drive their choices. In 2020, the exit polls combined interviews with a representative sample of thousands of voters (leaving polling places in a representative sample of precincts across the nation) and telephone interviews with a representative sample of people who voted early or by mail. In all, the national exit poll includes interviews with 15,590 voters. It is important to note that these data will be updated, so the numbers below should be considered preliminary, reflecting the exit polls reported as of Wednesday, November 4.

Age: When it comes to age, the broad contours of the story look similar to 2016. Biden outperformed Trump among voters under the age of 45 (by a 15-point margin of 56% to 41% ). Trump barely eked out a victory among voters ages 45 and older (50% vs. 49%). Even though Biden lost older voters—who comprised 60% of the electorate—he substantially chipped away at Trump’s 8-point margin in 2016. At the end of the day, though, race tells us more than age. Notice that Trump won every age group among White voters and Biden outperformed Trump among Black and Latinx voters of all ages (see Figure 1). Notably, older Latinx voters (60+) were 10 points less likely to support Biden than younger voters (18-29), while older Black voters were most likely to cast a Biden ballot overall.

graph

Education, Gender, and the White Vote: As we noted yesterday, education—specifically, having a college degree – was closely related to vote choice in both 2016 and 2020. College graduates voted for Biden over Trump by 13 points (55% vs. 42%), while those without college degrees split their votes evenly (49% for Trump and 49% for Biden). These differences, however, reflect an education gap only among white voters. Whereas 70% of non-white voters supported Biden regardless of whether they had a college degree, there was a 15-point education gap among white voters: 49% of whites with a college degree voted for Trump, versus 64% of whites without a degree.

Paul Freedman headshot
Paul Freedman is an expert in public opinion, media and politics, voting behavior, research methods, and the politics of food

These differences are even more interesting when gender factors into the mix (see Figure 2). White women with a college degree voted Democratic at roughly the same rate in 2016 (51%) and 2020 (49%). Those without a college degree were five points more likely to vote for the Democrat in 2020 (34% in 2016 vs. 39% in 2020). The differences among men are more striking: Men without college education were seven points more likely to vote for Biden (30%) than for Clinton (23%). That margin increases to 11 points for men with a college degree. Just 39% of college-educated men cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but 50% voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

graph

The Marriage Gap: In recent elections, heterosexual married people often vote Republican; non-married people vote Democratic. And 2020 was no exception. Among married voters, 54% backed Trump and 44% voted for Biden. Among non-married voters, the opposite is true: 57% chose Biden, and only 40% backed Trump. These differences are even sharper when broken out by men and women separately (see Figure 3). Fifty-three percent of married men and 55% of married women voted for Trump. Among non-married voters, however, only 44% of men and 37% of women voted for Trump. The gender gap, in other words, was basically non-existent among married voters, but was 8 points among non-married voters. This is likely a result of the fact that non-married voters tend to be younger, less conservative, and less religiously observant than their married counterparts. One final note: Married men were eight points more likely to vote for Biden in 2020 than they had been to vote for Clinton in 2016 (46% vs. 38%).

Children: If marriage seems to have mattered in 2020, what difference did having children make? Not much, as it turns out. About a third of the electorate reports having a child under the age of 18 who lives with them. Fifty-one percent of them cast a vote for Biden, compared to 49% of voters without children at home (many of whom, of course, are older with grown children). In fact, the only noticeable difference that presence of children seemed to make was among men: 51% of men with children voted for Biden, versus only 46% of men without children.

graph

Be on the lookout for a future post about issues and candidates traits, which shed light on some of the demographic differences we’ve highlighted here.

Jennifer Lawless, Commonwealth Professor of Politics and chair of the Politics department, University of Virginia; Miller Center senior fellow
Paul Freedman, associate professor, Politics department, University of Virginia

 

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao headshot
Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao boasts expertise in Cuba, U.S.-Cuban relations, opposition and dissident movements, democratization, and Hispanics in America

Though it may come as a surprise to some, immigration does not rank as a top policy priority for the majority of Hispanic registered voters.

In fact, according to a recent Pew survey, it ranks eighth on a list of topics that include racial and ethnic inequality, climate change, SCOTUS appointments, and violent crime, among other campaign issues. Mirroring the broader American electorate, the economy ranked as Hispanics’ most pressing concern in 2020. Given the gains Trump made nationally with this broad and diverse demographic—rising from 28% nationally in 2016 to an estimated 35% this year—this may have worked in Trump’s favor. That’s likely because Latino unemployment reached historic lows in 2019, just months before the pandemic hit. But the story is more complicated, because Latinos also ranked healthcare (76%) and COVID-19 (72%) as other urgent issues influencing their vote this year. And COVID-19 is known to be disproportionately affecting Hispanics in terms of both the number of infections as well as virus-related layoffs. These are clearly conflicting factors that will require further attention and analysis from both parties in order to reconcile.

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao, assistant professor and research director for public and policy programs, Miller Center

Read more in The Hill


 

Bill Antholis headshot
William Antholis served as director of international economic affairs for the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration and has expertise on climate change, India, China, international economics, development, U.S. foreign policy

The counting is almost done.  But the process does not end there. Getting from Election Day to Inauguration Day can be an express train or a slow local train, with stops at a number of stations.

In the U.S. system, that train winds through the Electoral College. But getting to the Electoral College can go through the courts, starting with state courts and potentially going to the Supreme Court. 

And once the Electoral College votes, it doesn’t end there. Congress (the one just elected, which will be sworn in in the new year) also needs to certify the results.

We’ve provided a subway map for anyone trying to follow the route from here to there. No tokens or swipe cards needed.

William Antholis, director and CEO, Miller Center
"subway map" of route to White House

VIEW AS PDF


 

Is it time to talk transition? Chris Lu, a Miller Center senior fellow who ran the Obama transition in 2008-9, joins MSNBC to discuss what's at play this time around.


 

Bob Bruner headshot
Bob Bruner is an expert on financial crises, the relationship between democracy and capitalism, and the leadership attributes of U.S. presidents

James Carville, a political adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, famously said, “I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or as a .400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.” Thus, political observers held their collective breath as election returns began to come in, to see how the financial markets would respond to the outcome of the recent election.

The response was benign, a big nuthin. Stock and bond prices rose. Gold prices rose too, perhaps on the anticipation of higher inflation. Oil fell. So far, so good. No intimidation here.

The market chatter holds that investors had anticipated the outcome of a “blue wave” of voting that would dramatically change the political calculus in the U.S. The blue wave washed in—but so did a red wave. The result was the highest voter turnout in 100 years and what looks like a slim margin of victory for candidate Biden, a slim margin of control for the Republicans in the Senate, and a modest erosion of Democratic dominance in the House of Representatives. The mandate for the next regime looks weaker than investors anticipated, and looks likely to nix the prospect of huge tax increases, big boosts in fiscal spending, and rising regulation of the economy. The consequence is a benign outlook for investors. 

If Biden is inaugurated, the financial markets will watch closely for expressions of his actual agenda.

Or it may be too early to tell. If Biden is inaugurated, the financial markets will watch closely for expressions of his actual agenda, whom he appoints to key administrative positions, and how he uses the very potent instrument of presidential executive orders. Maybe the intimidating bond market is just resting quietly in its cave, waiting for a bigger summons later on. And investors need a small reminder that for the past 12 years, the bond market has been shackled by the interventions of the Federal Reserve. Perhaps the intimidations of the bond market are a thing of the past. We’ll see.

Bob Bruner, Dean Emeritus, UVA Darden School of Business; senior fellow, Miller Center

THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER

With the election still in doubt, UVA experts address what's happening right now

November 5, 2020

Today's posts

Why Covid-19 had muted influence • Margaret Riley
The Constitution and demagogues • Barbara Perry
America rejects antipathy towards the world • Todd Sechser
The United States remains deeply divided • Craig Volden
Exit Poll Nuggets™ • Jennifer Lawless and Paul Freedman
Health care lessons from NC • Margaret Riley
John Lewis and Election 2020 • Kevin Gaines
Equity trends in the wake of the election • Robert Bruner
Are all politics local? • Naomi Cahn
Redefining the red-blue divide • Guian McKee

 

mimi riley headshot
Margaret Riley has written and presented extensively about health care law, biomedical research, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, animal biotechnology, health disparities and chronic disease

There is a reason, other than the fact that it is just much easier to do, that terrorists prefer to blow up buildings and people rather than resort to bioterrorism—even though bioterrorism might kill more people.

We, as humans, react far more strongly to the dramatic immediate threat of violence than we do to the effect of a virus. This explains why Covid has not played the same role in the 2020 election as the September 11 attack did throughout the early 2000s. We know the virus is exacting a serious toll, but we don’t feel it; we cannot picture it the way we see falling buildings. Many of us have become inured to the surging positive rate for Covid 19, and unless our own loved ones are affected, we have become seemingly indifferent to a climbing death rate.

For many—perhaps most—people, voting is an emotional exercise rather than a rational exercise. Only health care providers see the daily evidence of sick or dying people; the average person feels only the pain of restrictions and mask requirements. Covid certainly played a significant role in the 2020 election; it may have unseated an incumbent president. But exit polls show that it was not the most important issue for many voters. The slow, relentless work of a virus may cause us terrible damage, but it fails to focus fully our voting preferences.

For many—perhaps most—people, voting is an emotional exercise rather than a rational exercise.

The virus doesn’t care who won the election, but if Joe Biden wins the White House, he will have to figure out how to beat the virus. It may not be fair, but he is likely to be held accountable in ways that Donald Trump has not been, at least as of now. The economic, health, and social effects will come home to roost. That may prove to be a daunting task because the election, perhaps irredeemably, politicized any coherent government policy for dealing with Covid-19. Biden will have to build public trust where that trust has been seriously undermined for both Democrats and Republicans. If a vaccine (or vaccines) becomes available in the spring, he will have to convince Americans to take it. He needs to persuade more Americans to wear masks. To start, this may be a place where Biden’s inclinations for bipartisan appointments could prove helpful. An FDA commissioner is rarely the first concern of an incoming president, but this year it might be. Biden might consider Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner in the first half of the Trump administration, to take that role again. Gottlieb is well-respected on both sides of the aisle, politically savvy, and has the trust of physicians and scientists. 

Margaret Riley, professor of Law, UVA School of Law; professor of Public Health Sciences, UVA School of Medicine

 

Barbara Perry headshot
Barbara Perry has authored or edited 14 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties

While some are muttering “WTF?” as our Byzantine election machine grinds onward, I am asking, “WWTFT?”  That is, What Would the Founders Think? 

Yes, they saddled us with this Rube Goldberg mechanism of the Electoral College and gave the states wide latitude over the “times, places, and manner” of elections. Why? They worried that their novel experiment in creating a democratic republic would fall prey to the inevitable extremes of human nature. So they attempted to check the people’s whims and passions at every turn. The entire Constitution is a Newtonian masterpiece of checks and balances and separated powers. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all these protective speed bumps in the road to 270 electoral votes are working as intended—slowing us down to an agonizing pace. 

By sprinkling sand in the election gears, the Founders hoped to preclude their worst fear—the selection of demagogues to represent us. From the ancient Greek term for leaders of the mob, the word has evolved to mean, according to The American Political Dictionary, “an unscrupulous politician who seeks to hold office through emotional appeals to mass prejudices and passions. Half-truths [and] outright lies … may be used in attempts to dupe the voters. Typically, a demagogue may try to win support from one group by blaming another for its misfortunes.”

Sound familiar? An encyclopedia could use that exact definition to describe Donald Trump, whose prevarication proclivity has taken him past 20,000 lies told during his presidency, by the Washington Post’s count. And, like the spiking COVID virus numbers, his post-election tweets and East Room pronouncements are adding to his fabrication totals by the hour. 

In contrast, Joe Biden is sounding positively Churchillian in his statesmanlike calls for unity. His tone is diplomatic, calming, and rooted in our finest traditions of the Founders’ desire for “we the people” to “form a more perfect union.” The former vice president’s invocation of Lincoln’s Gettysburg aspiration to renew our regime, torn asunder by civil war, as a government of, for, and by the people, is the perfect balm to heal our current divisions.

Barbara Perry, Gerald L. Baliles Professor, director of Presidential Studies, Miller Center

 

Todd Sechser headshot
Todd Sechser's research interests include deterrence, coercive diplomacy, military technology, and nuclear security. He is coauthor of the book Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy.

America rejected antipathy toward the world.

One of the defining features of Donald Trump’s worldview has been his distrustful, almost paranoid, view of international politics. As president, Trump has withdrawn from multinational agreements like the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Paris climate accords. He started trade wars with China and Europe. He has disparaged U.S. alliances and feuded with NATO allies in public. And he has embraced authoritarians—both genuine and aspiring—who violate international norms and undermine democratic institutions.

The events of the past year created conditions that should have been highly favorable to this worldview. A global pandemic, originating in China, has killed nearly a quarter-million Americans. International cooperation to contain the virus has splintered, leaving countries largely to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy suffered as trade plummeted to its lowest point in a decade, underscoring for millions of Americans the risks of global interdependence.

Yet the American electorate did not embrace Trump’s antagonistic stance toward the world. Public opinion surveys for years have shown that large majorities of Americans believe that alliances, international trade, and active engagement in world affairs are good for the United States. And on Tuesday, several million more Americans voted for a candidate who advocated strengthening U.S. alliances, staying involved in international institutions, and cooperating to address transnational problems like climate change.

It would be easy to conclude that foreign policy did not play a major role in the 2020 presidential campaign. After all, the Syrian civil war, nuclear arms control, and other international issues did not receive much explicit attention in the debates. Voters instead reported that the economy and the pandemic were their primary concerns. But these issues are intimately connected to international affairs. And in a year that has highlighted the downsides of globalization, it is striking that the majority of voters decided that the best solution to these problems was not to wall the country off and turn inward. The 2020 election may have been an Electoral College nail-biter, but it was a decisive repudiation of “America first” isolationism.

Todd S. Sechser, professor of Politics; director, Democratic Statecraft Lab, UVA; senior fellow, Miller Center

 

America remains deeply divided. Closely contested races. A slight rightward move in the House. A slight leftward move in the Senate. If current election trends continue, 2021 will feature President Biden overseeing a Democratic House and Republican Senate.

Craig Volden headshot
Craig Volden studies legislative politics and the interaction among political institutions, including within American federalism

In some ways, continued divided government is fitting. Politicians should be placed in a position where they need to compromise and take one another’s views into account. But will they? Or will they dig in on their partisan divisions, which will contribute to gridlock, and ultimately provide the president with incentives to act unilaterally?

At an individual level, lawmakers are presented with mixed signals. On the one hand, our research shows that bipartisan lawmakers are more effective. Their work building cross-party coalitions pays off in their bills being more likely to become law. 

On the other hand, those who compromise too much may face tough primary battles. And party leaders often prefer to keep policy issues unresolved for electoral purposes, rather than working with the other party to formulate solutions.

With divided government the likely outcome once again, why should we expect the results to be any different from what we’ve seen recently? One glimmer of hope might be gleaned from considering Joe Biden’s own legislative record when he was in the U.S. Senate.

graph

This figure shows the fraction of cross-party cosponsors for bills that are proposed by the average member of Congress. In the 1980s, before the dramatic rise in partisan polarization, about 40% of cosponsors on any given bill came from the other party. As polarization rose, however, this percent dropped to about 30% in the Senate and 20% in the House. (The higher level of bipartisanship in the Senate seems entirely reasonable, given the need to overcome filibusters.)

But for Senator Biden, bipartisanship on his sponsored bills remained high, above both House and Senate averages. This suggests that he consistently made an effort to reach out to members of the opposing party as he sought to advance his legislative agenda. 

If Biden does, indeed, prevail, only time will tell whether the newly elected president can bring Democrats and Republicans together in the current political environment. But the data suggest that he certainly tried to do so on his proposals when he served in the Senate.

Craig Volden, professor of Public Policy and Politics, UVA; director, Center for Effective Lawmaking

 

In the immediate aftermath of a national election (or as of this moment, the not-yet-aftermath), exit polls offer the best glimpse of what the electorate looked like—who voted for whom and what seemed to drive their choices.

Jen Lawless headshot
Jennifer Lawless's research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics

Traditionally, the exit polls have been a collaborative effort of a consortium of major media organizations, involving interviews with a representative sample of thousands of voters as they leave polling places across the nation. In this election, concerns about the pandemic helped drive an unprecedented number of Americans to vote early or by mail. By November 3, more than 100 million Americans had already voted. To account for these voters, this year’s exit polls include data from telephone interviews with a representative sample of people who voted early or by mail. In all, the national exit poll includes interviews with 15,590 voters. It is important to note that these data will be updated, so the numbers below should be considered preliminary, reflecting the exit polls reported as of Wednesday, November 4.

With all of that in mind, here are some Exit Poll Nuggets™ to help shed light on Election 2020.

Paul Freedman headshot
Paul Freedman is an expert in public opinion, media and politics, voting behavior, research methods, and the politics of food

Gender Gap: As has been the case since 1980, women were more likely than men to vote for the Democratic candidate: 56% of women, compared to 48% of men, supported Joe Biden. But the gap is significantly smaller than what we saw in 2016, when 54% of women, but only 41% of men, voted for Clinton. Notice that the gap closed not because of women, but because men supported Biden at higher rates than they did Clinton. The gap varied by race and ethnicity, though. Whereas white women were only slightly less likely to vote for Donald Trump (55%) than were white men (58%), the gender gap among Black voters was 11 points, and among Latinx voters, it was 9 points.

Party Loyalty: An essential truth of American politics is that Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats. This year was no different: Notwithstanding the presence of the Lincoln Project and other prominent Republicans who threw their support to Joe Biden, party loyalty among voters was just as high as it always is in presidential elections: 94% of Democrats supported Biden and 93% of Republicans voted for Trump. Those numbers, if anything, represent a small uptick in partisan loyalty from 2016. Biden might plan to be a president for all Americans, but he wasn’t a candidate for them. Independents voted for Biden over Trump by 14 points (54% vs. 40%), a significant change from 2016, when independents favored Trump over Clinton (46%  vs. 42%).

Race and Ethnicity: Consistent with recent presidential elections, a majority of white voters (57%) voted Republican in 2020. Although Black, Latino, and Asian voters went disproportionately for Joe Biden, Trump chipped away at Democratic support among all three groups. In 2020, 12% of Black voters cast ballots for Trump, up from 8% in 2016. Thirty-two percent of Latinx voters favored Trump, up from 28% in 2016. And Trump received votes from 31% of Asian voters this time around, up from 27% in 2016.

Education: Just as in 2016, we saw a pronounced education gap in vote choice. While college graduates voted for Biden over Trump by 13 points (55% vs. 42%), those without college degrees split their votes evenly (49% for Trump and 49% for Biden). College education, however, only really mattered for white voters. Among whites, 64% of those without a college degree voted for Trump. Yet 70% of non-white voters supported Biden, regardless of whether they had a college degree.

This was a fascinating election and we’re only just beginning to figure out what happened and what it all means. We’ll have more Exit Poll Nuggets™ to share in the coming days, so stay tuned.

Jennifer Lawless, Commonwealth Professor of Politics and chair of the Politics department, University of Virginia; Miller Center senior fellow
Paul Freedman, associate professor, Politics department, University of Virginia

 

mimi riley headshot
Margaret Riley has written and presented extensively about health care law, biomedical research, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, animal biotechnology, health disparities and chronic disease

Health care, for many Americans, is local, not federal; that seems to be a lesson we can learn from the 2020 election results in North Carolina. Over the last two decades, due to focused and well-funded Republican efforts on redistricting, the North Carolina State House grew increasingly conservative. One result of this is that North Carolina has not endorsed Medicaid expansion, even as most other states have done so. But Medicaid expansion was an important election issue in North Carolina this year, and it seems to have helped drive a comfortable reelection victory for the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper.  Cooper enjoyed large margins even as the federal Senate and presidential races seem to have tilted slightly Republican. One way we might explain this is that Medicaid expansion, which has significant state control, does not seem like a federal power grab and appears immune from efforts to tar federal health reform as socialized medicine. If Democrats win the White House, they would do well to look at the lessons from North Carolina as they seek to shore up the ACA and explore other opportunities for health reform.

Margaret Riley, professor of Law, UVA School of Law; professor of Public Health Sciences, UVA School of Medicine

 

Kevin Gaines headshot
Kevin Gaines is an expert on African American history, art, music, literature, and culture

Democracy depends on hard work and, now, the herculean effort of election officials and voting rights activists in swing states, laboring to ensure that the absentee ballots of the state’s citizens are counted. Few spoke as authoritatively on the right to vote as the civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis, who died last July 17.

Lewis was arrested many times in nonviolent protests and subjected to a near-fatal beating by Alabama State Troopers in Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. So it was poetic justice that as representative of the 5th district in Georgia for more than 30 years, Lewis was known as the “Conscience of the Congress.” Having inspired countless others with his courage and commitment, it was Lewis’s turn, as he battled terminal illness, to be inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, and to visit the newly created Black Lives Matter plaza in Washington D.C, in its own way a shrine to democracy. In his final message, published after his death, John Lewis wrote, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

In the 2020 election, African American voters across the nation heeded Lewis’s message, despite widespread efforts at voter suppression during a pandemic. In October, the state of Michigan brought felony charges against two Republican operatives for robocalls targeting Detroiters with false information about mail-in voting. Shortly before the election, residents of Flint received robocalls aimed at deterring voters. On October 31, police officers in Graham, North Carolina, used pepper spray to disperse a peaceful march of African American citizens to the polls during that state’s early voting. The president’s frequent broadsides against absentee and mail-in voting, and political tampering with the United States Postal Service, may have motivated more than 100 million Americans to cast ballots in early voting.

In Detroit, as protesters, many of them white, demanded a halt to voting outside an election office, an activist told a reporter: “[W]e’re not deterred….The Black vote in Detroit is higher than it has ever been and we will determine the outcome—because we’ve gone from picking cotton to picking presidents.”

As the world awaits the outcome of the election in Georgia, African Americans mindful of the sacrifices of Lewis and untold others are insisting on exerting that nonviolent tool of social change and ensuring the survival of our democratic society.

Kevin Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice, UVA; senior fellow, Miller Center

 

Bob Bruner headshot
Bob Bruner is an expert on financial crises, the relationship between democracy and capitalism, and the leadership attributes of U.S. presidents

Benjamin Graham, the godfather of value investing, famously said, “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. As a voting machine, the market identifies the relative popularity of individual stocks. As a weighing machine, the market ultimately discerns the value of the companies behind those stocks. A political regime shift, as seems to be emerging from the election results of November 3, tends to realign the popularity of individual stocks. And the broad market movements give some measure of the popularity of equities in general. Three trends are worth attention at this point:

1. Volatility is way down. The following graph shows the VIX index, a measure of the expected risk of stocks. Volatility rose in anticipation of the election. And it has fallen as the election results have emerged. As I said in yesterday’s post, the stock market is a barometer of investor sentiment. The measure of volatility suggests that investors are taking a deep breath, and sitting back a bit.

graph
Source: Yahoo Finance

2. The market is up. The following graph gives the price of futures on the S&P500 Index of stocks, a broad measure of the direction of the stock market. Plainly, prices are heading up. 

graph
Source: Yahoo Finance

This morning’s media reports attribute this to various explanations regarding lower tax rates, lower regulation, etc. But academic research on the outcomes of presidential elections finds that the election of Democrats into the White House tends to be associated with rising stock prices. Perhaps the theme song of the Democratic Party (“Happy Days Are Here Again”) will come true this year as well.

3. Consistent with Ben Graham’s aphorism, the post-election market is suggesting which stocks may be affected most by the election outcome. Here is one example: Google, which rose a stunning 6 percent yesterday. This followed an episode of worries about the tech sector, attributable to the growing regulatory sentiments on Capitol Hill toward the tech sector.

graph
Source: Yahoo Finance

As the electoral results continue to stream in, look for a generally declining trend in market volatility, and pay attention to the direction of asset price changes in the financial markets.

Bob Bruner, Dean Emeritus, UVA Darden School of Business; senior fellow, Miller Center

 

Naomi Cahn headshot
Naomi Cahn is an expert in family law, feminist jurisprudence, reproductive technology, and aging and the law. She is the author of the forthcoming Shafted: The Fate of Women in a Winner-Take-All World (Simon & Shuster).

Are all politics local? While there is much focus on the national election results—who has won the presidency, the future of the Senate, the smaller Democratic majority in the House—voters also made choices involving state, city, and county leaders and considered numerous ballot measures at both the state and local level. Although there were fewer ballot measures this year than in 2016, that does not diminish their significance in showing local democracy at work. 

Overall, the results were mixed. California voters decided not to permit affirmative action nor to treat gig drivers (such as those for Uber) as employees, although Proposition 22 does provide a wage floor along with some limited benefits. California voters did, by contrast, approve a measure allowing felons who were on parole to vote.

While a Louisiana anti-abortion ballot measure to amend the state constitution (Amendment 1) was adopted, Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have banned abortions after 22 weeks of gestation, dramatically showing the split in states about abortion access and the patchwork of abortion regulation that might result if Roe is overturned. And Florida, which will cast its electoral votes for President Trump, also adopted a ballot measure that raises the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2026. Five states legalized some form of marijuana use, joining 11 other states and the District of Columbia, and Oregon decriminalized possession of small amounts of other drugs, including cocaine and heroin. As an example of the type of progressive initiatives at the local level, Multnomah County, in Oregon, approved “Preschool for All,” which will offer three- and four-year-old children the possibility of tuition-free preschool and raise the salaries of preschool teachers. Other local measures, for example, concerned property taxes. 

The takeaway is that these ballot measures show how national political divisions play out between states.

Naomi Cahn, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Law, director of the Family Law Center, UVA School of Law

 

Guian McKee headshot
Guian McKee studies how federal policy, plays out at the local level. An expert on the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, he is currently working on a book that examines the rise of the health care economy in American cities after World War II.

The geographic sort has redefined the red-blue divide. Remember the 2000 electoral map, the result of the Bush-Gore clash that set the U.S. firmly on the path to its current bitter polarization? That map, which led to the popularization of the red-blue partisan coding itself, famously featured a solid swath of red through the old Confederacy and most of the Goldwaterite Mountain West (with the exception of New Mexico). Al Gore won the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and the West Coast.

Regionalized partisanship thus defined the partisan divide twenty years ago. 

This week’s election, whatever its final outcome, shows how much the red-blue breakdown has now changed, even as polarization has deepened. Rather than North-South and Rocky Mountains-Pacific Coast, our current divide is the product of the great “Geographic Sort”: the increasing tendency of Americans to live in communities dominated by their fellow partisans.

The tense ongoing contests over Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina are this year’s most glaring example of this change. Democrats have won large majorities in metro areas such as Atlanta, Phoenix, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham. Republicans under Donald Trump have maintained or in some cases increased their already large majorities in rural areas.

In South Carolina, Jaime Harrison used the formula of black voters plus educated white professionals to stage a credible if ultimately unsuccessful challenge to Lindsey Graham

Ohio and Texas represent cases where the sort is increasingly prominent as well, but where Republican rural strength remains dominant over the metros, at least for now. After a few hours of excitement on election night, those states reverted more or less to their 2016 outcomes.

This change has actually been underway for a number of election cycles. Virginia in 2000 was a solid red state. In 2020, its metro areas turned it blue for the fourth consecutive election. Even the small city of Lynchburg (home of Liberty University) went Democratic this year, for the first time since 1948. The metro-rural divide, it seems is growing deeper.

The origins of this change can be traced back for decades. The New Deal modernized the South and Mountain West with rural electrification and other infrastructure projects. The Eisenhower administration brought interstate highways that solidified these once isolated regions’ connections to the national economy. Governors such as Carl Sanders, Terry Sanford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton deployed federal regional economic development programs to build research and industrial parks which attracted national corporations to rapidly growing metro areas. Universities took advantage of Cold War and Great Society funding to transform themselves from provincial colleges to world-class research institutions.

With such growth came people, and in particular, the professional, educated classes that now vote with African Americans in the South and (with some exceptions) Latinos in much of the Mountain West—for Democrats. 

Such change, though, has increasingly separated these metros both culturally and economically from their hinterlands, some of which now struggle to sustain viable communities. The mutual resentments that stem from this separation may be even more powerful for their relative proximity.

We should be clear: the geographic sort of metro-rural is changing our politics, and defining the actual nature of our polarization. If we hope to find a better politics in the aftermath of this horrible year of 2020, we must start by understanding the nature of our divisions.

Guian McKee, associate professor in Presidential Studies, Miller Center

WHAT’S IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW

After Election Night ends in uncertainty, University of Virginia Institute of Democracy experts offer their immediate reactions

November 4, 2020

Today's posts

Hispanic voters are not a monolith • Christina Lopez-Gottardi Chao
A presidential transition is a frenetic time • Russell Riley
Welcome to a political crisis. There is no need to panic. • William Antholis
Six myths about Bush v. Gore • Barbara Perry
How Republicans master ‘minoritarian politics’ • Sidney Milkis
The relevance of the 1876 election • Caroline Janney
We all suffer from false narratives about voter fraud • Kevin Gaines
The popular vote/Electoral College disjunction • Russell Riley
The critical 78-day transition period will be abbreviated • Kathryn Dunn Tenpas
The gender divide remains remarkable • Naomi Cahn
Lessons from 19th century elections • Caroline Janney
Financial markets are barometers of uncertainty • Robert Bruner

 

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao headshot
Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao boasts expertise in Cuba, U.S.-Cuban relations, opposition and dissident movements, democratization, and Hispanics in America

In case it needs repeating, Hispanic voters are not a monolith. Rather they are diverse cohort with distinct lived experiences, political histories, voting preference and generational differences. And paying attention to these distinctions may have proved critical to the way Hispanics voted this year. Nowhere is this diversity more visible than in the ever important state of Florida—home to an estimated 5.7 million Hispanics and 29 electoral votes—and a state President Trump was determined to win and did. In 2016, Trump earned 35% percent of Florida’s Hispanic vote, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 62%. This election season, Trump worked hard to attract Cuban American voters via his reversal of President Obama’s liberalization efforts with Cuba, and according to early projections seems to have won 55% of this Florida electorate. He also seems to have made meaningful gains with Puerto Ricans, winning 30% of this cohort, as well as 44% of other Hispanic groups in the state (that represent a mix of voters of Central American, South American, and Caribbean decent). These trends are made all the more significant when you consider the significant growth of Florida’s Latino population which went from roughly 14% of the state’s total in 2016 to an estimated at 20% today. This is a significant rise that may have proved critical for Trump in what is turning out to have been a very tight race.

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao, assistant professor and research director for public and policy programs, Miller Center

Read more in The Hill


 

Russell Riley headshot
Russell Riley is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on elite oral history interviewing and the contemporary presidency

Under the best of circumstances, a presidential transition is a frantic time. While a re-elected incumbent has the luxury of continuity, selecting where and when to make changes going into a second term, a new president has only eleven weeks to set up a functioning government and to settle on priorities for the new administration.  Accordingly, transitions tend to be perilous intervals for first-term presidents, because critical decisions about policy and personnel are taken in a pressure cooker, when electoral victory has made the incoming team supremely confident.  In the words of presidential scholar Richard Neustadt, transitions are times of maximum ignorance paired with maximum arrogance. That’s why so many consequential mistakes are made in transitions. Neustadt, for example, attributed John Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs fiasco just months into his presidency to these adverse conditions.

When a transition period is shortened because the election is contested—as it was in 2000 and now again this year—the pressures are compounded: fewer days to build a presidency from scratch. In 2000, George W. Bush had two unusual advantages in managing his abbreviated transition. The first is that he had watched his father’s incoming transitions twice, first as vice president in 1980 and later when he became president in his own right. Those gave the son rare insights into the period’s special hazards. Second, Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, had long Washington experience, including time as Gerald Ford’s White House chief of staff, and was quietly working while the Florida recount controversy raged to manage the range of tasks necessary to set up the government.

If Joe Biden wins the office, he has the same advantages the younger Bush had, having helped lead Barack Obama’s transition in 2008-09. Moreover, many members of Biden’s inner circle have long executive branch experience, and thus will be more adept than usual at managing a process that will not be foreign to them.

But there could be some reason for concern about the transition into a second term for Donald Trump. With the election behind him, moving Trump into the elite ranks of reelected presidents, there may be a temptation to overreach. Even with the vast experience of the Bush 43 team, shortly after their reelection in 2004 they initiated efforts that eventually led to the mass firing of U.S. attorneys a year later, creating a political scandal that hounded the administration deep into that second term. Moreover, even in an administration that follows conventional staffing practices—as Trump has not—the personnel available in a second term tends to be weaker than the original team, except for those rare instances when the party has an exceptionally long bench. This does not appear to be one of those times. Accordingly, Trump may find that his second term is even more tumultuous than the first, as his inner circle grows exhausted and departs, leaving him surrounded with unfamiliar faces—to unpredictable effect.

Russell Riley, co-chair, Presidential Oral History Program, White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions, Miller Center

 

Bill Antholis headshot
William Antholis served as director of international economic affairs for the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration and has expertise on climate change, India, China, international economics, development, U.S. foreign policy

Welcome to a political crisis. There’s no need to panic. We’ve been through this before in our country, and it usually is resolved peacefully. But that’s going to require the public to be patient and let our convoluted system work.

While the results are trickling in, there will be much to discuss in coming days. Front of mind is uncertainty itself. We likely will not have a clear winner for a few days. Ballots are still being counted in key battleground states. That is okay. Indeed, it follows the state election laws, even if they are complex and inconsistent. But, let’s face it, it is confusing.

There currently appears to be a slight lead for Vice President Biden in enough states to make him win the electoral college. Barely. If current leads and trends hold, Biden will have 270 electoral votes to 268 for President Trump. That’s even closer than in 2000, when George W. Bush eventually beat Al Gore by 271 to 267. Still, there are a range of outcomes, from a possible 306–232 win for Biden (the same exact total as in 2016, when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton) to President Trump holding on to leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia and coming from behind in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Nevada.

Each state decides its outcomes and sends those results to Congress, through the Electoral Congress. More on that in coming days, but for those of you not old enough to remember the 2000 election, this will take place over the next six weeks or so.

We are entering a delicate period in American politics that unfortunately has happened a few times before. There is public doubt about the legitimacy of the election. There is no obvious winner on the day after the election, but we’ve seen that before in 1800, 1824, 1876, and 2000. Voter access may be questioned—just like in 1876 and 2000. The president of the United States himself suggested fraud last night. We have seen the losing side suggest that previous elections were “rigged,” “corrupt,” and “stolen,” such as in 1800, 1824, 1876, and 2000. In the worst year of all, 1860, the losing side questioned the legitimacy of the entire system, resulting in secession and eventually civil war.

What are the consequences? One of the biggest challenges is that it potentially limits the ability of the newly confirmed president to represent We the People. In order to make sure that doesn’t happen, it is essential for responsible people from both parties to step forward and put the good of the country first.

At the Miller Center, we will be exploring these topics in the coming weeks. We hope you will stick with us.

William Antholis, director and CEO, Miller Center

 

Barbara Perry headshot
Barbara Perry has authored or edited 14 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties

Six myths about Bush v. Gore.

  1. The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case by a 5–4 vote. Seven justices believed that continuing the recount in Florida, without clear standards, violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Two of them, however, thought that Florida could establish fair recount criteria and continue reviewing the ballots. History views the decision by the five-person majority (all conservatives appointed by Republican presidents), which awarded the presidency to George W. Bush by stopping the recount, as a partisan ruling.
  2. It was SCOTUS’s sole decision on the Florida election. The Court heard two oral arguments in two separate Florida recount cases. In the first, Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, the justices issued a unanimous ruling asking the Florida Supreme Court to clarify its pro-Gore decision ordering the recount to continue.
  3. Gore started the judicial challenges. Bush’s team filed suit immediately upon seeing that Gore requested recounts in four counties where he was likely to pick up votes.
  4. Bush v. Gore sets a precedent for 2020 litigation. Yes and no. The fact that SCOTUS decided two cases in 2000’s contested presidential election established a tradition for the high tribunal to do so again. Yet the Court thought the cases so idiosyncratic that it commented in Bush v. Gore: “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.” 
  5. Bush won Florida. Like polling, vote counts are subject to human error. In a state where Bush’s margin of “victory” was probably fewer than 1,000 votes when the recount stopped, we will never know the real outcome.
  6. Deciding such political issues damaged the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. Ironically, the partisan nature of the outcome worked in its favor, if favorability ratings are considered: Some 90 percent of Republicans approved of the decision, contrasted with only about 30 percent of Democrats. Average those two extremes, and the Court earned a 60 percent approval score in Bush v. Gore’s aftermath.
Barbara Perry, Gerald L. Baliles Professor, director of Presidential Studies, Miller Center

 

Sid Milkis headshot
Sidney Milkis is an expert on the American presidency, political parties and elections, social movements, and American political development. His most recent book is Rivalry and Reform: Presidents and Social Movements.

The first thing to say is that the Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last 8 presidential elections—this is unprecedented. Consider, there were no discrepancies between the electoral college and popular vote in the 20th century. Already there have been 2 in the 21st; there may not be a 3rd this year, although the very closeness of the verdict suggests how the GOP has benefitted from the constitutional Gerrymandering. Even if they lose the White House, such constitutional imbalance will leave them in command of the Senate, more House seats than they deserve, most state legislatures and, of course, the Courts.

This follows from something more systemic—the Republicans have mastered what my Stanford colleague, Bruce Cain, calls minoritarian politics. Skillfully exploiting cultural divides, they have mobilized a minority faction that is deeply committed to right wing populism. I knew this was not going to be a transformative election, because Trump has a solid unified base of support  of 45 % (he favorability ratings, in spite of all the crises he ostensibly failed to manage, never fell much below this. The last incumbents to lose—Jimmy Carter and Bush 41—were down in the low thirties.  

It helps that this base is geographically concentrated in rural and exurban areas, but an additional factor is how conservative movements and advocacy groups—and a charismatic leader (see Max Weber)—stoke a common identity in these areas. Here, I am speaking of the Christian Right, the NRA and other gun rights groups, and the fraternal order of the police. Law and Order is such a powerful message because it not only appeals to Americans’ fetish with property, but also because it signals a commitment to white protectionism (exalted as patriotism), threatened by massive social and demographic changes.

An important caveat: Trump and the GOP played down immigration during the election campaign and stressed socialism in Florida (appealing to Cuban and Venezuelan Hispanics in Florida) and economic opportunity (appealing to African American men and Hispanics in the sunbelt). Trump has begun to transform the GOP into a populist working class party, reminiscent of right-wing populism since George Wallace. But it is hard to say how far this will go without a more genuine commitment to social welfare and economic development programs. The Democrats stressed the pandemic and science in this election—I understand why. But there needed to be more attention to how people, especially in the sunbelt, want to reopen. Dr Fauci is not their hero.

Sidney Milkis, White Burkett Miller Professor of Governance and Foreign Affairs, Miller Center

 

Caroline Janney headshot
Caroline Janney is an expert on the American Civil War. She served as president of the Society of Civil War Historians from 2014-2016 and is the co-editor of the University of North Carolina Press’s Civil War America Series.

The election of 1876 is relevant.

For weeks, Trump has been insisting that the results of the election must be decided on Election Day, alleging without evidence that any votes counted afterward would be tainted by fraud. But on more than one occasion in American history, the country has had to wait for clear results.

The longest delay took place in 1876, when election chicanery also played a role. On the night of November 7, it seemed likely Democrat Samuel J. Tilden had been elected president. He had carried key northern states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Indiana. If he secured the western states and the South, where many former Confederates returned to the polls for the first time since the Civil War, he would win the Electoral College. Newspaper editors across the country prepared to blaze headlines declaring Tilden victorious. But in the early morning hours, the campaign of Republican Party nominee Rutherford B. Hayes took another look. If Hayes carried South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, all southern states where Republicans still managed to control the voting machinery, he could still win by a single Electoral College vote. So notified, Republican election boards in these three southern states invalidated returns from counties where election violence and fraud had run rampant and declared Hayes victorious. Democrats in those states, many former Confederates determined to suppress the Black vote, sent rival electoral certificates to Washington. Deciding which electoral votes would be confirmed would fall to Congress, unleashing a long winter season of constitutional uncertainty and calls for armed resistance. The country would have to wait until February for the final results.

Caroline Janney, Director, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, UVA

 

Kevin Gaines headshot
Kevin Gaines is an expert on African American history, art, music, literature, and culture

We all suffer from false narratives about voter fraud. President Trump's unfounded allegations of voter fraud early Wednesday morning are, sadly, a familiar tactic of those who would undermine democracy through voter suppression. Since the 2010s, defenders of a spate of Voter ID laws and other measures to prevent eligible voters from exercising their fundamental right to citizenship have claimed that these measures are needed to prevent voter fraud. Such laws are a solution in search of a problem; studies have shown that voter impersonation fraud is virtually non-existent. 

President Trump's quixotic attack against an imagined crisis of voter fraud is an attempt to sow confusion and prevent the counting of the lawfully submitted ballots of hundreds of thousands of citizens in such swing states as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that will determine the outcome of the election. This threatens the voting rights of all Americans.

Shockingly, a sitting president's unprecedented cry of voter fraud threatens to subvert the legitimacy of an election. But we have heard it all before. In 1940, as black and white civil rights activists challenged the constitutionality of Alabama's poll tax, which deprived poor black and white people of the right to vote, The Tuscaloosa News agreed with those surviving legislators who enacted the law in 1901: “they feel that the poll tax provision …is the soundest safeguard for honest elections and that its removal would make Alabama subject to the same kind of machine politics found in northern cities where no poll tax exists.” President Trump is making a bid for voter discrimination on a massive scale by sowing doubt about the integrity of this election.

President Trump's racialized insinuations of irregularities in such cities as Philadelphia, with heavy concentrations of Democratic Party and African American voters threatens to contravene the will of many American voters. At this uncertain moment, the false narrative of voter fraud imperils our democracy. 

Kevin Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice, UVA; senior fellow, Miller Center

 

Russell Riley headshot
Russell Riley is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on elite oral history interviewing and the contemporary presidency

While most Americans focus on the electoral votes in decisive states, an equally important development may be emerging with the nation’s popular vote. If Donald Trump manages to eke out a narrow electoral victory this year, it is likely to be the third time in six elections that the winner of the popular vote has failed to secure the presidency. This is a profoundly important problem of legitimacy for the American constitutional system.

When I was doing graduate work on the American presidency decades ago, we spent virtually no time whatsoever on the electoral college, because it was largely considered a harmless vestige of the Framers’ original handiwork in Philadelphia. We were taught that it had two modest virtues: It enhanced federalism by decentralizing the presidential selection process, reinforcing the importance of the states by requiring presidential candidates to think in terms of 51 mini-electorates rather than one big one. And it typically had the effect of enhancing the legitimacy of the winner by magnifying the size of victory. A winning president’s mandate to govern grew when a popular victory of just a few points got enlarged, as it usually did, by the accumulation of electoral votes. For example, in 1960 John Kennedy won the popular vote nationwide by less than two-tenths of a percent. But his electoral vote margin over Richard Nixon was a healthy 303 to 219.

All of those virtues, however, were predicated on one unquestioned assumption: that the winner of the popular vote would win the electoral vote. That predicate had become questionable even before election day this year, because both George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 won the presidency while losing the popular vote. But if Trump wins again that way this year, that predicate is dead, taking with it any remaining legitimacy of the electoral college. What was once an accident has now become routine.

A fix for this flaw is doubly problematic. First, constitutional amendments are notoriously hard, and any strictly legislative changes in the way electoral votes are allocated would have to be coordinated on a nationwide basis to ensure fairness. But complicating this reality is the fact that the beneficiary of each of the electoral college’s failures has been the same party. Had both Democrats and Republicans been victimized by the process, there would be at least some bipartisan energy to mend the system. But as it is, Republican partisans would have to look past their own self-interest to engage in fixing a process that has benefitted them exclusively.

The consequences for our system of this partisan asymmetry in costs and benefits are deeply worrisome. Majorities who find that their interests are not properly reflected in the outcome of elections often turn to other means for redress of their grievances. This is why it is as much in the interest of Republicans as Democrats to fix the antimajoritarian consequences of an outdated electoral system. 

Russell Riley, co-chair, Presidential Oral History Program, White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions, Miller Center

 

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas headshot
Kathryn Dunn Tenpas is a scholar of the American presidency focusing on White House staffing, presidential transitions, and the intersection of politics and policy within the presidency

The closeness of the election means that the critical 78-day transition period will be abbreviated. For the uninitiated, the period from November 3, 2020, to January 20, 2021, is the brief time period in which a reelected president or newly elected president must “stand up” the government. Since President Trump is seeking reelection and Vice President Biden would be starting from scratch, the two men have starkly different transition agendas. Perhaps more important, all of these tasks are occurring while the country is in crisis mode—a growing and deadly pandemic, a flailing economy, and a period of deep racial tension and unrest.

For a second-term administration, the transition period allows the president and senior advisors the opportunity to identify goals, strategize about legislative priorities, and make significant staff changes. Since cabinet secretaries, high-level political appointees, and White House staff members often depart after the first term, a natural exit point, the president will need to identify and interview qualified successors.In addition, similar to the post-election period in 2018, President Trump has expressed his intention to fire high-level government employees (e.g., directors of the FBI and CIA, among others), as well as cabinet members (e.g., HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Defense Secretary Mark Esper), thus adding to a growing list of vacancies and ultimately consuming more time.

While Vice President Biden has ample government experience, he and his team still need to appoint roughly 4,000 individuals to executive branch positions, designate about 80 people to fill senior positions in the White House, determine key legislative priorities, draft executive orders, and carefully consider the content of the forthcoming inaugural address (among many other less-glamorous tasks). 

Whether a president is moving on to a second term or another experienced politician is taking the helm, time is precious and there is much work to be done. The sooner these individuals can prepare for the next four years, the better for our country.

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, Senior research director, White House Transition Project; senior fellow, Miller Center

 

Naomi Cahn headshot
Naomi Cahn is an expert in family law, feminist jurisprudence, reproductive technology, and aging and the law. She is the author of the forthcoming Shafted: The Fate of Women in a Winner-Take-All World (Simon & Shuster).

The gender divide remains remarkable. According to early exit polls, there was  a 13% gap, with 56% of women and 43% of men voting for Biden.  There was a similar 13% gap in 2016 (54-41).

Those raw numbers from the exit polls hide significant variation by race and education. (these numbers are based on the abc exit polls; the NYTimes ones are similar) While 91% of Black women voted for Biden, only 43% of white women did (55% of white women voted for Trump).  The Latinx story, with 61% of Latino men and 70% of Latina women voting for Biden is subject to much further analysis of variations within that community.  White men college grads were slightly more likely to vote for Biden (50-48) compared to white female college grads (49-50), while white male non-college grads broke more sharply for Trump (67-30), compared to women (60-39).  Interestingly, men and women with children were about equally likely to vote for Biden (51/52%) and equally likely to vote for Trump (46%).

But the gender gap isn’t just about voting.  It is about representation, and a record number of women ran for Congress in 2020.  That’s good, because approximately 25% of the members of both houses are women, and no woman – yet – has won national office.

Finally, although we don’t yet have the gender breakdown, Democrats were far more likely to think that issues relating to racial inequality were among the most important problems facing the United States.

Naomi Cahn, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Law, UVA School of Law

 

Caroline Janney headshot
Caroline Janney is an expert on the American Civil War. She served as president of the Society of Civil War Historians from 2014-2016 and is the co-editor of the University of North Carolina Press’s Civil War America Series.

Much has been made of the fact that Hilary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but lost the Electoral College, as did Al Gore in 2000. If Biden follows this trend, we could see it for the third time in 20 years. 

Yet this discrepancy between the two systems is not a new phenomenon. In the 19th century, three elections witnessed such a split. In 1824, a four-way race awarded the popular vote to Andrew Jackson. But no candidate won an Electoral College majority, sending the decision to the House, which elected John Quincy Adams. 

In 1876, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden secured the popular vote, but in a campaign rife with violence and fraud, the rival Republican and Democratic election boards in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana each declared their respective candidate the winner. 

The decision again fell to Congress, whose 15-member commission split along party lines, awarding all 20 votes to Hayes, securing the presidency for him with one electoral vote. 

Once more in 1888, Democrat Grover Cleveland delivered on the popular vote, yet Republican Benjamin Harrison obtained the Electoral College. 

If the popular and electoral votes diverge once more, we might expect heightened calls for dispensing with the Electoral College.

Caroline Janney, Director, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, UVA

 

Bob Bruner headshot
Bob Bruner is an expert on financial crises, the relationship between democracy and capitalism, and the leadership attributes of U.S. presidents

Financial markets are unreliable predictors of electoral outcomes.  But they are reasonable barometers of uncertainty.  Thus, sudden shifts, particularly in prices and measures of volatility tell us that something big is happening.  Over night, the global financial markets reflected the slow unfolding of the election results in price movements of the dollar versus foreign currencies (the dollar strengthened), trading in U.S. equities (the stock prices rose), and interest rates (they declined).  What is interesting is to see the suddenness with which the prices responded.  For instance, in the following graph, the price of the U.S. 10-Year Treasury Bond rose sharply at what looks like after 10:00 pm, when the results of several key states were reported.  When a bond price rises, its yield declines.  The sharp price increase suggests several possible effects: a sharp decline in inflation expectations, a “flight to quality” for investors (from risky assets to low-risk assets), or generally a decline in risk outlook.  It is too early to tell which (if any) of these explanations might be at work.  But the market “barometer” suggests that in the moment of great uncertainty, expectations were changing.

Graph showing T-Bond prices
Bob Bruner, Dean Emeritus, UVA Darden School of Business; senior fellow, Miller Center

WHAT MAKES A ONE-TERM PRESIDENT?

Barbara Perry, the Miller Center's director of presidential studies, talks with POLITICO's Krystal Campos

November 3, 2020


SEVEN WINNING TACTICS FROM BUSH V. GORE

Barbara Perry, the Miller Center's director of Presidential Studies, mines the Center's just-released oral history from Theodore Olson in TIME

November 3, 2020

In the plethora of challenges to state election procedures making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the specter of Bush v. Gore haunts the judicial landscape. The litigation over Florida’s determinative 2000 vote count resulted in two oral arguments before the highest court in the land, and placed George W. Bush in the Oval Office. With nearly 400 election-related lawsuits filed this year, many over the question of which votes will be counted, a close result on Election Day could once again leave the Supreme Court in a position to issue a ruling that determines who occupies the White House for the next four years.

Ted Olson headshot
Theodore Olson served as Solicitor General of the United States from 2001 to 2004 

Bush’s lead counsel in both 2000 cases, renowned Supreme Court advocate Theodore B. Olson, just released to UVA’s Miller Center an oral-history interview about the crucial role he played in that astounding Supreme Court drama. As the nation faces the possibility of another contested Presidential election, Olson’s unique insights provide a roadmap for attorneys who might find themselves pleading the case of who should win the Presidency. Here are seven tactics, in his own words, that he used to win the litigation.

Bring deep knowledge of election law to the argument. “I had helped out in a case from Alabama a couple of years before,” Olson explained. “It concerned an election dispute involving the Alabama Supreme Court, which had gone all the way to the Eleventh Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals], where the rules were changed after the election, involving the counting of absentee ballots. [T]here was an issue about whether signatures on absentee ballots had to be notarized or not. Before the election they had to be notarized, and after the election they weren’t …. The Eleventh Circuit, which was where we were in Florida, had found that process violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution. I felt that that was a predicate . . . to file a federal lawsuit, trying to stop what was going on [in Florida], what we thought was unfair rule changing after the election ….”
 

READ MORE


WILL THE 2020 WINNER BE EMPOWERED TO MAKE BIG CHANGES?

A presidential election must meet three conditions to bring a dramatic alteration in government policy, writes the Miller Center's Michael Nelson on the History News Network

November 1, 2020
Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt-color photograph
August 1932: Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt at their home in Hyde Park, New York. Photo: FDR Presidential Library & Museum

Not many presidential elections usher in periods of dramatic change in public policy, significantly altering the role of the federal government in American society.

Could the 2020 contest between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden be one of the exceptions, an empowering election in every sense of the word?

If history is any guide, the answer hinges on whether the winning candidate’s victory satisfies three conditions.

First, the new (Biden) or reelected (Trump) president must run a change-oriented campaign, promising to pursue larger-than-usual policy innovations if elected.

Second, the president must win the election by a landslide, something along the lines of 400-plus electoral votes and at least 55% of the two-party popular vote.

Third, the president must have long coattails in the accompanying congressional elections, such that the party picks up a significant number of new seats. The message long coattails sends to members of Congress is that the president’s popularity may well affect their own political standing and therefore they’d be well-advised to follow the president’s lead on policy whenever possible.

READ MORE


ONLINE WEBINARS TO EXAMINE THE RESULTS OF ELECTION 2020

Miller Center events on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (November 4-6) will help us understand whatever follows Election Day

October 30, 2020
Silhouettes of Donald Trump and Joe Biden

Join us online at 3:30 p.m. ET for instant reaction and analysis of the latest developments following the election. Wednesday features Miller Center Director William Antholis with Miller Center Senior Fellows Mary Kate Cary and Jennifer Lawless. Melody Barnes, the co-chair of UVA's Democracy Initiative, will join Antholis and other UVA experts on Thursday and Friday.

REGISTER FOR WEDNESDAY

REGISTER FOR THURSDAY

REGISTER FOR FRIDAY


THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

Larry Sabato and his UVA Center for Politics colleagues take one last look at pre-election polls and talk to Rob Griffin from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group in this episode of the podcast “Sabato's Crystal Ball: America Votes"

October 30, 2020


THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE: FINDING OUT THE RESULTS

Miller Center Director Bill Antholis shows how variation in procedures for counting absentee ballots could change when we know the winner of Election 2020

October 30, 2020

There is a wide variety in how state receive and count absentee ballots. Some states are counting already. Others can't start until Election Day. These charts show which of the battleground states are "hares"—places where we are likely to know the result by election night—and "tortoises"—where we may have to wait awhile.

Map of 2020 election probabilitiesMap of 2020 election probabilitiesMap of 2020 election probabilities

VIEW AS PDF


WE CAN SOLVE ERRORS IN POLLS BY VOTING

No one should stay home because they think their vote won’t matter, writes Miller Center Senior Fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas in The Hill

October 27, 2020

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas headshotAt a week before the election, who will win? Joe Biden is solidly ahead of Donald Trump in the national polls, and less solidly but still notably ahead in most battleground state polls. In most cases, his lead exceeds the stated margin of error in the polls. But few Democrats, still shell-shocked over 2016 (to say nothing of 2000), really want to believe these polls. Are they just superstitious or are they right to be nervous?

In fact, supporters of Biden are right to be nervous, and supporters of Trump are right to be hopeful. The main reason is that any fair reckoning of the error margins in the polls should be much greater than the 2 percent to 4 percent quoted for most of them. The fact that Biden has a national lead averaging nearly 10 points, or more than twice the estimated uncertainty in these poll results, is enough to make him a favorite, but far from enough to make him a shoe-in.

In more places than one would expect, [voting] could, and it quite probably will matter.

READ MORE


TWO CRISES

Miller Center Senior Fellow Chris Lu helps the Guardian look at the first 100 days of a potential Biden administration

October 28, 2020

In many ways, they’re going to be stepping in the same situation that we stepped in in 2009. But in some ways worse

Chris Lu headshotMiller Center senior fellow Chris Lu remembers the challenges of 2008. Lu headed the Obama administration's transition team, and was facing a major financial and economic cataclysm. “In many ways, they’re going to be stepping in the same situation that we stepped in in 2009. But in some ways worse,” he told the Guardian. “We came in during the Great Recession, they’re going to be taking over within a recession as well. They have the added and much more difficult challenge of dealing with a public health crisis as well.”

READ MORE


WATCH: DISMANTLING DEMOCRACY

This three-part docuseries, produced by the UVA Center for Politics and airing now on Amazon Prime, examines critical voting issues

October 27, 2020

Dismantling democracy logoBeginning with the history of democracy and the unique American take on how to implement it, Dismantling Democracy looks at issues such as voter suppression; corruption; culture wars; foreign interference in elections; the tendency to revert to dictatorial/authoritarian powers in times of crises; and effects of the pandemic on the election, among other topics.

WATCH THE SERIES


REVIEWING JUDICIAL REVIEW

The Supreme Court and its new Justice could play a key role in the election. This episode of the UVA “Democracy in Danger” podcast explores the relationship of the Court to Congress.

October 27, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court on the eve of a presidential election has raised questions about Congress’s duty to check the power of the judiciary. Risa Goluboff, dean of the UVA Law School and a Miller Center senior fellow, offers hosts Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan some judicial history, and weighs the future. What will Justice Barrett do to the Supreme Court? How will it change her? And what’s with all the turtles carved into the court’s building? Well, Goluboff says, the pace of justice is slower than you may think.


TALKING TRANSITIONS: PERSPECTIVES FOR FIRST- AND SECOND-TERM ADMINISTRATIONS

This three-hour event investigated a key moment in every presidency

October 2, 2020

The Miller Center joined the Partnership for Pubic Service's Center for Presidential Transition to explore safe and effective presidential transition to first-term and second-term administrations. The event featured perspectives on transition planning, managing transitions during crises, and the complexities of shifting from campaigning to governing. Appearing were experts such as Joshua Bolten, Andy Card, Denis McDonough, Mack McLarty, Stephen Hadley, Lisa Monaco, John Podesta, Barbara Perry, Melody Barnes, Alexis Herman, Valerie Jarrett, Karen Hughes, and Margaret Spellings.

RELATED READING: TRANSITIONS IN CRISIS