It has been a long night for those of us who regard ourselves as ‘political junkies’ with a penchant for following US presidential elections. Some months ago I issued a rather low key tweet predicting that President Trump would be re-elected, but wobbled about a month ago before concluding that this would still be the case.
Although it was a minority position, I did find a few people with whom I confided this heretical belief. To do so in the UK places one in a minority, not least because as I sampled the media, it was very hard to find any evidence in the public sphere that that intuition was right. The polls were unanimous: the BBC American correspondents betrayed a visceral dislike of the President, and it was rare to find a knowledgeable US commentator being interviewed who could advance a credible case for the outcome that appears to be emerging.
On election night, I could not bear to watch the complacency of the usual news channels, but by chance followed another tweet to a YouTube channel where an analyst by the name of Richard Baris (‘People’s Pundit‘) was gathering the data and carefully explaining the significance of each small change in reported turnout and prediction in real time.
With each state being considered, a map appeared with each county displayed, and within each data cell he could relate the present situation to previous elections. It was an extraordinary performance. Rarely do ordinary people encounter the power of ‘big data’, but from early evening the young Mr Baris was able to explain why a large majority for Joe Biden in postal votes in certain counties was in fact bad news for his campaign. He should have been doing better if the polls were right… and so the story unfolded through the night.
While mainstream pundits were declaring Ohio as trending for Biden, Richard Baris was on hand to identify where those projections were coming from and why his own modelling was more sensitive and accurate. Bleary-eyed at 4.00am, the story could not be abandoned.
In the coming days, others will pick over the story and draw conclusions. Joe Biden was a weak candidate. The mainstream media might begin to show an interest in the corruption stories that they ought to have investigated properly weeks ago. Some might notice the two big takeaway discussion points, that while Joe Biden energised younger voters, Donald Trump had reached unexpectedly into the Black and Hispanic votes, and this may prove his historic legacy to a rather sullen Republican Party which has not always embraced him for his achievements.
Like the UK Labour Party, the Democrats chased identity politics and woke culture, and a rather boorish Donald Trump stepped in and offered the ordinary working people a sense that he was for them. This is the second time they’ve made that mistake.
In writing this so early, the story is not yet over. The Biden team may once again try to obtain through the courts what was not won on the day in the ballot box. And so might the Trump team. In fact, President Trump has already announced that this election was “a fraud on the American public”, and is proceeding to the Supreme Court.
But that is not the story for now.
Across the media, academia and the ‘expert’ commentariat, the US Presidential Election of 2020 was declared a virtual foregone conclusion. The same mistakes have been made by the activist-journalists, their editorial teams, and by those who kept them in role having badly miscalled Trump 2016 (and, incidentally, Brexit too). There ought to be serious questions asked about the US correspondents of all our national media, who once again miscalculated, missed the story, and offered little context or depth of understanding.
The obscure Richard Baris did a much better job, and should be engaged by someone ASAP. Whatever happens from here, the biggest loser last night was the credibility of the chattering classes.