Question: An interesting factor of this election is that the United States had a record-breaking voter turnout. What explanation would you give for this?
Answer: “One of the things that people often observe is that American voting turnout is often very low, and so it was very unusual. I think I saw some statistics that suggested that it was the highest voter turnout as a proportion to the population since President McKinley’s election.
What might explain that? Certainly many people regard this as being an election in which there’s a lot at stake… One thing that I would think explains this is that certainly President Trump is a polarizing figure and he does himself no favors by at times unnecessarily provoking people. Arguably, those same provocations are also reasons why people like him in some cases. Another is that the events of 2020 have led people to be very concerned about the direction of the Democratic Party in some cases, and so, people voting for Biden in many cases were voting really against Trump rather than for Biden. But it also goes the same way in the other direction… I think for both sides there’s a sense that America itself was in the balance.”
How substantial do you believe the claims of fraudulent activity are with this election?
“I think that at this point, based upon what we know, it is unlikely that there was any kind of systematic fraud. Having said that, I would also say that there are adequate grounds for concern that make me want to see where some of these accusations lead. It’s been my impression that some Biden supporters would say that is so obvious that we can just call the election now, as has been done by some people including the Biden campaign, and that Trump should concede… [But] I think there’s a reason to ask questions.”
When Michigan and Wisconsin seemed to flip from red to blue overnight, many questions were asked of whether fraudulent activity was the cause or not. Do you believe fraud was the culprit here or something else?
“I think the most likely explanation is that on the campaign trail, President Trump specifically was calling into doubt the reliability of mail-in ballots… As Election Day proceeds, you’re going to have more votes coming in… [These are likely] mail-in votes being processed. And they’re going to be disproportionately favoring Biden.
There have been circumstances in Michigan… [regarding] accusations being made about the veracity of reliability of the election. So in the case of Michigan… the head of the Michigan State GOP made this discovery that there was a software error which gave six thousand more votes to Biden and fewer to Trump. The accusation was made that this is the software used in a variety of counties in Michigan and so, one would hope… that would be the kind of thing that I would think you would want to look into in order to assure, especially to the losing side, that we can have faith in the democratic system. I want to be clear that I don’t think that there’s anything to that, but there’s enough reason to be concerned that there needs to be [some] looking into it. I don’t think we can perfectly rule out the possibility that that also explains some of these differences.”
How long do you expect the American people to wait for official finalized results?
“Well, I would think that there’s probably some hope that this will be all wrapped up before the end of November, which is approximately when most states have statutory requirements for certifying the vote in that state. I would hope it would be wrapped up well before then, but… depending on what happens with the litigation that we’ve seen already, or anything else that may emerge, this is something that we may be waiting on for a little while.”
What are a few of the top swing states that you believe had a significant impact on this election?
“Well, certainly Pennsylvania was understood to have been a very important swing state. Both candidates went there in the 48 hours preceding Election Day. And part of the reason why that’s significant is that it has a kind of cross-section of different factions in the country right now. The more rural areas of Pennsylvania very much represent the labor union voters… On the other hand, there’s also very much a ‘coastal elite,’ particularly surrounding southeastern Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, which identify themselves with the new Democratic Party… If you could win that state both because of what it represents as a [state] and also just its electoral votes, that matters a great deal.”
“Arizona was an interesting case, because I think it’s very likely that if it turns out that President Trump loses Arizona, which as of right now is yet to be seen, that could indicate the cost of some of his less than stellar rhetoric in the sense of his criticism of Senator McCain… when in fact McCain was one of our great war heroes of the 20th century.”
Florida & Texas
“A final state that I would comment on is Florida, which is representative as much as anything of the changing nature of Hispanics and their vote choices. Particularly Cuban-Americans, it seems, were very spooked by the Biden campaign’s unwillingness to distance itself from socialist rhetoric… [This] had really been the same kind of rhetoric [that was familiar to them and to their families who had fled Cuba]. And so Florida was important in that respect, [as] President Trump got a huge proportion of the Hispanic vote… Most revealing in that respect, though, is Starr County, which is in southern Texas… [Starr County] is by demography the most Hispanic county in America; [about 96% Hispanic], and Trump won that pretty safely.”
What are some negative and positive effects of the Electoral College? Why is this set in place as opposed to popular vote? Do you think it is a good thing?
“One of the things to keep in mind is that the most important feature of the Electoral College is something that is still preserved now, namely the ability of our presidential election to force whoever wins the presidency to satisfy a variety of interests across a wider geographic region. For the same reason that we would say [our] Senate [is a] good thing because it protects regional and state interests; we have an Electoral College which is more likely to protect those same interests. And for the same reason there [are] some people who criticize the Electoral College who also criticized the very existence of the Senate, which strikes me as being very misguided.
[However], there are some aspects of the Electoral College in terms of its original understanding during the Constitutional Convention debates in 1787 that are basically no longer applicable. Originally this was thought to be something that would be an actual college, where a debate would occur. You would appoint people who are not known beforehand [and] they would meet together to talk about what is best and they would deliberate rationally; somewhat like the Senate does or was intended to do, rather. And that clearly is no longer the case since the direct primary system [is now dependent] upon party rules. Every elector that is chosen is pledged to support a particular candidate, and so the deliberative function is certainly no longer there. But in general I think it’s good.”
President-Elect Joe Biden won’t take office until the 20th of January in the New Year. How do you expect President Trump to spend his last two months in office?
“Well, one of the things that President Trump has done that has gotten him a lot of applause from Conservatives is appointing justices to the federal courts, and that certainly is true of the Supreme Court. But it’s also true of various federal courts which have been, in some cases, just transformed by Trump administration officials working behind the scenes and for the most part doesn’t get any press. And so this is part of the reason why, for example, the Democratic Senate was able to say we should not hold a hearing for Amy Coney Barrett during a pandemic- because they were effectively hiding the fact that they had been holding all kinds of hearings for all kinds of federal judges. And I would think that that would continue down to the wire because of the importance of the judiciary.
Based on what we’ve seen, it’s quite possible that President Trump will be uniquely uncooperative [regarding transition of power]. Having said that, President Trump has also shown an ability to play war and then change tactics when it is appropriate to do so… I would imagine that we could see something similar if it becomes clear there’s nothing to these allegations, or [that he’s] not going to win. We may see President Trump change course.”
In his victory speech, Biden said, “I pledge to be a president who does not seek to to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states or blue states, who only sees the United States.” Do you think that this unified nation is possible? Can Democrats and Republicans work together?
“Yeah, I do think it’s possible. One of the reasons for that is that regardless of his ideas, Biden does have a demeanor that at first glance comes across as avuncular and pleasant, and that certainly is very different than President Trump. So it may very well be that in some sense, people are looking for a softer, kinder presidency.
Having said that, there’s also been some pretty serious indications that calls for unity of this kind are not shared by many other people in Biden’s party. That is of great concern. So whether that’s from recent public statements on social media from Michelle Obama or other individuals, there’s still this great sense that the 70 million plus people who voted for Trump are a lost cause and we have no hope for their remediation… Part of the difficulty is that there has been such a geographic division in the country… It’s easier to dehumanize people that you have no familiarity with.”
On September 9th, 1776, America’s Continental Congress officially gave the new country the name of “United States.” The hope here was that in tying all the different states together, they would remain free and independent of England yet unified as one nation. Looking at modern-day America, this idea seems lofty and entirely out of reach. But what if it wasn’t? What if we could look past our partisan differences and make compromises in order to ensure the stability of government and politics? After all this country has been through, let us not allow the results of the election to divide us, rather let it reunify us under a common purpose- to truly be states that are united.