The most dangerous time to write an election analysis is when it is too late to predict what will happen, and too soon to know what happened. But we do know a few things already about what happened last night, and they illustrate the big, messy, infuriating diversity of our country.
There was a fairly unanimous pre-election consensus among the media, entertainment, and artistic elite who dominate American public discussion — and among active social-media users — that Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party were headed to a colossal defeat, repudiating the rule of a tiny, isolated minority of the population and sure to be swamped in a high-turnout election. It didn’t happen. Trump may well lose — at this writing, that seems the likely outcome — but Republicans appear to have held control of the Senate, gained seats in the House, won all but one of the seriously contested gubernatorial races, and generally seem to have done quite respectably down the ticket across the land.
They did so in an extremely high-turnout environment, maybe the highest in over a century. Trump got 1.2 million more votes in Texas than he did in 2016, burying the idea that Republican strength in the state is solely a feature of its historically low voter turnout. He got a million more votes in Florida, too. There was a blue wave, but there was a red wave to meet it. Republican senators who were supposed to face close races against lavishly funded opponents instead won in blowouts, such as Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, John Cornyn in Texas, Steve Daines in Montana, and Dan Sullivan in Alaska. Joni Ernst was fairly easily reelected in Iowa, and it appears that Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Susan Collins in Maine, and David Perdue in Georgia may all have survived. Exit polls suggested an electorate that was not consumed by monolithic rage at Trump, and did not see the COVID-19 pandemic as his unique fault.
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