What we can take away from the 2020 election

On Saturday Nov. 7, as most major news outlets projected that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would be the next President of the United States, many people who voted for the former vice president had two initial emotions: happiness, then confusion. 

Happy that their favored candidate was projected as the winner, but confused that still, after the tumultuous first term of Donald Trump, 70 million Americans voted to reelect the president. Biden emerged with 74 million votes and an electoral college count over 270, but the fact that Trump still had so many votes still puzzled many. Why?

To start, the polling was misleading. Swing states almost always had Biden up by several points: Wisconsin +10, Florida +2, Pennsylvania +5, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll. These states turned out to be much closer than what those polls predicted, as millions of election viewers realized as the night went on. Biden eventually won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which won him the electoral college, but those projections came days after Nov. 3, and Florida eventually went to Trump. 

Even if many of the states that polls projected to go to Biden eventually went that way, Biden’s predicted lead was much greater than what it actually turned out to be. Every election, we keep seeing polls that falsey predict the outcome. In 2016, The New York Times predicted that Hillary Clinton would have an 85% chance of winning against Donal Trump –– or, as they said, Clinton losing had the same probability as an NFL kicker missing a 37-yard field goal. 

So why are the polls missing the mark? Maybe it’s because polling methods are outdated. As phone calls become less common, and landlines approach extinction, polling by phone is now irrelevant and unrealistic. People barely answer the phone now, especially when they don’t recognize the number, so it wouldn’t be surprising that pollsters don’t get to talk to every number on their list. And with Trump’s demonization of the news media, polls conducted by outlets like The New York Times won’t be received well by Trump voters. There is also the demographic issue. According to Vox, pollsters this time around, like in past elections, have undercounted the non-college educated white voter, as well as white women. This overlooking, or presumption, of how demographics vote is causing false extrapolation to occur in polls and predictions. Hopefully after this election, the search for more effective polling ways arrives at an accurate method. 

Another important moment from this election is Biden’s victory in Georgia. It wasn’t just a coincidence, or just because of the growing population of Atlanta, but because of the tireless effort of organizers like Stacey Abrams, who registered over 800,000 voters in Georgia. Activists and organizers on the ground who volunteered to campaign and register voters were the reason candidates like Cori Bush, the first Black woman to represent Missouri in congress, won their elections. 

Organizers like [Stacey] Abrams…are the key to the Democratic Party’s success.

Organizers like Abrams, who are canvassing to get people registered –– people who wouldn’t normally vote –– are the key to the Democratic Party’s success. The party should listen to those organizers, instead of organizations like the Lincoln Project,  or people like Mike Bloomberg, who spend millions of dollars on ads trying to get flip voters to vote for Biden. In an interview with The New York Times, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained why her party should be working with organizers like Abrams, because they obviously know what they’re doing.

“It’s going to be really hard after immigrant youth activists helped potentially deliver Arizona and Nevada. It’s going to be really hard after Detroit and Rashida Tlaib ran up the numbers in her district,” Ocasio Cortez said. “If the party believes after 94% of Detroit went to Biden, after Black organizers just doubled and tripled turnout down in Georgia, after so many people organized Philadelphia, the signal from the Democratic Party is [that] the John Kasichs won us this election? I mean, I can’t even describe how dangerous that is.”

The Democratic Party has lots of work to do if they want to expand their role in Congress. For one, they need to accept the messages of progressive politicians/candidates like Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Bernie Sanders, to name a few.  Recently, moderate Democrats have blamed progressive messaging for their losses in the Senate and the House in the Nov. election. In reality, 112 co-sponsors of Medicare for All were on the ballot Nov. 3, and all of them won their elections. There were also 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal who ran this year, and 97 of them won. Although we saw Democrats lose seats in the house, and if the senate ends up with a Republican majority, moderates shouldn’t point fingers at progressive politicians and their rhetoric, because there is no evidence that it is hurting the party’s chances among voters.

If we’ve learned anything from this election, it is that there is so much work that is still to be done.

If we’ve learned anything from this election, it is that there is so much work that is still to be done. All the issues protested for this past summer won’t go away on January 20, 2021. In her piece “Voting Trump Out Is Not Enough,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in The New Yorker, “Viewing the solution to these problems as simply electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both underestimates the depth of the problems and trivializes the remedies necessary to undo the damage.”