In a night of tight competition and inconclusive results in the most competitive presidential competition of modern times, Joe Biden talked to his followers and advised, “We must be patient until the hard work of counting votes is finished. It is not over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”
While Trump made a false claim of victory due to incomplete returns, the former vice president spoke shortly after midnight to encourage supporters to “keep the faith”. Trump did better than preselected polls predicted. But the count was far from over in important battlefield states; The race was too short to call.
About the time Biden spoke he chaired the referendum by about 1.5 million ballots, though that margin would certainly increase as the number continued in the West Coast states that he won with overwhelming margins. The Democrat was ahead of the electoral college between 223 and 174 and worked out a scenario in which he could secure the indecisive states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and remove Trump from the presidency. But at the end of the night he was not on the way to the landslide victory that the most optimistic of his supporters had believed possible.
A 2016-won state of Trump, Arizona, and a congressional district, Nebraska’s second, leaned toward Biden as the former vice president spoke. But Democratic hopes for victories in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas – states that Trump won in 2016 – faded over the course of the long night. And Trump was a leader on the three Great Lakes battlefields, where he narrowly prevailed in 2016. Just hours later, just before dawn, the counting of postal ballot papers from industrial cities would offset the Democrats in Wisconsin and Michigan, and revealing Pennsylvania was very much at stake.
When Biden spoke around midnight, Democrats grappled with the daunting prospect of Trump’s second term. And Trump fed the waking nightmare.
Just after midnight on the east coast The president tweeted“I’m going to make a statement tonight. A big win! “And he showed the desperate dishonesty the Democrats feared:” We are BIG, but they are trying to steal the election. We will never let it happen. No votes can be cast after the polls are over! “Twitter flagged the statement with a Warning: “Some or all of the content of this tweet is controversial and could be misleading about an election or other citizenship process.”
A Twitter warning, however, was insufficient to counter fiction spread on social media and from the bullying pulpit of the White House, where Trump would claim in the wee hours of the morning that “we have already won” to claim victories in states in which ballots are still being counted, threaten an intervention by his allies at the US Supreme Court and encourage the fantasy that “a very sad group of people are trying to revoke their license [his supporters] and we won’t stand for it. ”
Biden had to speak on election night, and he took the opportunity to deliver a necessary reminder: tens of thousands of millions of votes had to be counted nationwide – and hundreds of thousands had to be counted in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Many of these votes have been tabulated in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee – cities where Democrats invariably make big profits and which often give the party’s presidential candidates a late boost.
One frightened night it fell to Biden to explain the obvious: counting many votes takes time. And that counting many votes in democratic cities could still bring democratic victories.
“We feel really good in Wisconsin and Michigan,” advised the former vice president. “By the way, it will take some time for the votes to be counted. We will win Pennsylvania.” He was even hoping for the as yet unreclaimed Georgia.
Patience, said Biden, was necessary. “Look,” he argued, “you know we could know the results in the morning, but it may take a little longer. As I have said all along, it is not my job or Donald Trump’s job to explain who will win this election. That is the choice of the American people. ”
Biden’s shocked supporters had to hear that. It was also the truth.
The long, slow count everyone feared is on. It will take some time. Trump made his outrageous claims. Biden countered them with the facts and with clear confidence in a democratic process that – despite the president’s lies – works as it can and must.