Everything Is About to Change Forever and Always: A Weekend Reading Guide

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Four years ago, on the Friday before the election, I had a party at a bar in New York to commemorate that the most crazy stressful bizarre election of our lives was finally about to be over. “We’ve almost made it through,” was the idea. Of course, a few days later the election didn’t go as everyone expected and the four years since have been anything but serene.

This Friday is very different—so, we’ll go no more a roving, so late into the night. Even if we were allowed to have parties because there weren’t a spiking pandemic, most of the people I know are too stressed out to go anyway. But that sentiment—”this specific strand of unbearableness might be about to end”—remains; the heart be still as loving, and the moon be still as bright.

How will you spend this weekend? At ease? Beneath the rocking trees? Mourning the old glad days before you knew what evil things the heart of man could dream, and dreaming do?

Right now, our model thinks Joe Biden is very likely to beat Donald Trump in the electoral college.

Panicked? 

This year, [two pollsters who correctly predicted 2016] believe that polls could again be undercounting Trump’s support. The reason is “shy” Trump voters—people reluctant to share their opinions for fear of being judged. Though the “shy voter” idea is thrown around a lot by both Trump supporters and Democratic skeptics, Kapteyn and Cahaly have specific insights into why, and how, Trump support might be going undetected.

Calmed?

[Nate Silver and Galen Druke discuss whether there is] any reason to believe that “shy Trump voters” could provide the president with an upset win on Election Day. (The evidence suggests there isn’t.)

Nervous?

Lawyers for Donald Trump and Joe Biden are poring over arcane federal law to prepare for the possibility that a close or contested election might trigger two little-understood and barely tested scenarios.

Fearful?

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

Would you like to have your fears assuaged?

[E]xperts stress that Trump does not have the power to circumvent the nation’s labyrinthine election procedures by tweet. Elections are administered by state and local officials in thousands of jurisdictions, most of whom are experienced professionals with records of integrity. There are well-tested processes in place for dealing with irregularities, challenges and contests. A candidate can’t demand a recount, for example, unless the tally is within a certain margin, which varies by state. “The candidates themselves have almost no role in this process,” says Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a top Justice Department official in the Obama Administration. “While people may make claims to powers and make threats about what they may or may not do, the reality is that the candidates don’t have the power to determine the outcome of the election. It’s really important that voters understand that while a lot about our system is complicated, this isn’t a free-for-all.”

Precarious?

Yes, the Polls Could Be Wrong. But That Could Help Biden, Not Just Trump

Fired up?

Americans Say They’re Fired Up To Vote—Especially Democrats

Excited?

What I am wondering is if this will be one or the rarest species of national elections—a wave election in a presidential year ending in a zero, meaning it will reverberate for a decade thanks to the coming redistricting.

Would you like to consider the future?

Throughout his presidential campaigns and presidency, Trump has banked on the calculation that his cult of personality can overpower popular concerns about his trashing of democratic values and practices. He won that bet in 2016, and in the years since he has done much to undermine the rules of the republic. That makes the 2020 election a referendum not only on Trump but on the vitality of American democracy. The harm Trump has done is not irreversible, but the lessons from other nations show that countering this erosion will entail smart and strategic efforts on the part of those with power and of those citizens who give a damn.

Would you like to consider the future of the GOP?

November 3 is an off-ramp from the road to oligarchy. But whether Trump wins or loses, the Republican evolution into authoritarianism will go on. Even if his presidency ends in complete ruin and repudiation, Trump has given his party something it never had before: the performance of a despot—bullying his rivals, criminalizing anybody who challenges him, violating the law with impunity. They have a taste for it now. They will crave more.

Would you like to consider how the GOP is failing to consider its own future?

[T]heir relationships to the party now flow through a single man, one who has never offered a clear vision for his political program beyond his immediate aggrandizement. Whether Trump wins or loses in November, no one else in the party’s official ranks seems to have one, either.

Or maybe you’d like to set all of that aside and remember one key important thing:

Now all we have left is the people. The voters, for all their failings, may prove more trustworthy than their supposed guardians. They may deliver us by delivering an irrefutable landslide to Biden. Or, failing that, by going out into the streets in an American version of “people power” to foil the plot against their democracy. A republic, if we can save it.

That last one seems good!

This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg. It regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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