There were a few moments on Tuesday evening, Election night, when my confidence wavered. I juggled shoving pizza in my mouth, flipping between CNN and MSNBC, updating Jezebel’s Election Day liveblog as the deluge of dread flooded my Twitter timeline. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was not meeting Hillary Clinton’s numbers in Miami-Dade County, Donald Trump was leading Florida with most of the vote tabulated, and the state’s heavily red panhandle hadn’t even come in yet. An early Biden landslide wasn’t on the menu, and panic quickly set in and multiplied. Cynical tweets declaring Trump’s win abounded, even though the only swing states getting dissected at the time were the red-leaning states in the South and Midwest states that had a fraction of the vote counted thus far.
Anxiety spreads with ease, especially among left-of-center Americans who are used to disappointment; many people I know set themselves up for the worst just in case, afraid of a 2016 repeat. Whenever my eerily pragmatic boyfriend refreshed that awful New York Times needle or his Twitter feed and let out an occasional groan, I wondered if our assuredness of a Biden win somehow cursed chances of a Trump defeat. (I also told him he wasn’t allowed to make that noise anymore, unless it’s actually bad news for Biden... that’s how shit my nerves got around 10 p.m. on Tuesday.)
But at some point, the doom that’s so easy to get caught up in—misery loves company after all—stopped making much sense. With only a handful of states decided and the most vital swing states guaranteed to take well over 24 hours to call, especially mail-in votes from populous cities (both of which favor Democrats), it was evident that going into Chicken Little mode after a Florida loss and disappointing results in Texas was premature.
I took a look at the map I drew up on 270towin a couple of days earlier, and even in my worst-case scenario—a Biden loss in Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, while flipping Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin—Biden narrowly won the electoral college.
I then ignored the needle and both Nates, headed to the New York Times interactive election map, and poked around at the counties in vital swing states. I soon realized that many of the votes in the most populous Democratic-leaning counties were barely counted thus far. For example, when it appeared that Trump initially had a massive lead in the state of Pennsylvania, only a tiny percentage of Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs had been accounted for. The situation was similar in Michigan, where Detroit was still tabulating countless votes while red counties were largely accounted for; the Associated Press eventually called Michigan for Biden on Wednesday.
I tried to bestow this calm to my friends and colleagues who were filled with dread. A few later of them later thanked me for helping them off the ledge so to speak, but this wasn’t just a matter of manifesting good vibes. For my own sanity’s sake, I had to make sure not to let 2016's trauma overtake basic math: Trump’s path to victory is a lot narrower than Biden’s, and Biden’s advantages were only increasing with every glorious number dump. At the moment, Trump is leading Biden by a little over 116,000 votes in Pennsylvania. Once you realize that there are still several hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots left to count from the states’ most populous and overwhelmingly Democratic regions, and the only way that Trump can win the presidency at this point is by winning that state, it becomes a little easier to breathe.
Several scary factors remain: Voters are unpredictable, Trumpism is strong, that revolt of suburban white women was a bit of a mirage, conservative courts could still work in Trump’s favor, and Biden’s Latinx outreach left a lot to be desired. Not to mention the fact that Trump’s supporters are already acting a fool about the election results and the numbers coming out of Nevada are far too close for comfort. Jezebel’s Editor-in-Chief, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, was hesitant to approve this blog, understandably afraid of jinxing everything. But look, I’ll take my L if I end up being wrong, and I could very well be! That doesn’t change the fact that for now, and for the last 24 hours or so, I’ve felt pretty confident that Biden will win, a belief that only strengthens with every unhinged Trump tweet claiming that the votes have been fraudulent.
Breathe. Keep a clear head. Hopefully the numbers will not be in Trump’s favor, and we can move on to freaking out about the Senate instead.