More than 67 million Americans cast ballots to keep as president the man who stood in the White House early Wednesday morning and called for disenfranchising other millions of voters.
Donald Trump railed against any continued counting of legitimate
ballots--because he'd win that un-
democratic way, and couldn't be sure the democratic way.
Reconciling voting for such a czar-like affront to democracy ought to be more difficult than it seems for those 67 million, including 62 percent in Arkansas.
Trump said without the slightest evidence that election officials would cheat him if they were allowed to keep counting.
In Fulton County in Georgia, officials were still at that time trying to catch up on mailed ballots. It turned out that the room in which the ballots had been stored had been flooded earlier in the day by a burst pipe. That didn't affect the ballots, thank goodness, but it delayed the start of tabulating.
Biden was getting most of those Atlanta votes and stood to make gains in close Georgia as counting continued.
So Trump proclaimed essentially that such a process amounted to cheating him. The water pipe apparently was in on it.
The strange thing was that Trump stood at the time a decent chance of winning fair and square, to the dubious extent the Electoral College might be considered fair.
It looked at that point as if Trump would win Pennsylvania because there probably weren't quite enough uncounted mail ballots to offset his 700,000-vote lead, even if, as expected, he lost 70 percent of them.
Biden looked like a narrow winner in Wisconsin, but that wouldn't be enough.
Meantime, Democratic confidence that Trump's steady lead in Michigan would evaporate as soon as Detroit came in struck me as a bit heavier on hope than mathematics.
In fact, this election night was largely indiscernible from that eerie one four years ago.
Trump also was expected to lose then, but he kept hanging around until it turned out that Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin had delivered him margins both tiny and historic.
For all the four-year noise, practically nothing seemed to have changed.
Democrats went to bed with the same uncertainty and despair, wondering if they'd wake one more time to news of an apparent Trump victory.
Then the sun came up Wednesday, and the votes of what I call virus respecters for Biden, meaning covid-avoiding mail voters, waged their comeback against what I call virus scoffers for Trump, meaning covid-defiant disciples of Trump's pandemic indifference.
The late counting of early mailed votes lifted Biden to a lead in Wisconsin. And similar mail vote-counting put Biden on Trump's heels in Michigan and gave him momentum for a lead he would soon achieve.
Two of the three states that had taken the presidency from Hillary Clinton by a scant few thousand votes appeared primed to take it from Trump on an even narrower margin.
The prospect arose that Biden could win the presidency even without Pennsylvania by combining those emerging narrow leads in Wisconsin and Minnesota with the 11 electoral votes of Arizona, the six of Nevada and one of the three that Nebraska allots to its congressional districts in a rare Electoral College concession to democracy.
It turned out that the consummately red mid-American farm state of Nebraska has a congressional district in and around Omaha that had gone solidly for Biden.
That would be 270 electoral votes, one more than needed, unlikely compliments of Omaha.
Trump is certain to demand recounts and allege corruption in Detroit and Milwaukee--and Philadelphia, if needed--and to go into court with his lawyers arguing something or other to suppress votes. It will be Florida 2000 multiplied twice or thrice, and it will not be pleasant.
Whatever the eventual verdict--and I think it'll be for Biden--it is significant that Republicans performed better than expected and Democrats worse in this election.
In that regard, the most moving television commentary Tuesday evening came from Van Jones on CNN.
He said there were many Democrats who were hurting because, while a political victory still seemed possible for them, the "moral victory" of an "utter repudiation" of the meanness of Trumpis--caging children and excusing white supremacists--had not remotely materialized.
Speaking of things that didn't materialize, there were the polls showing nice Biden leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. I think polls may be finished after this. I'm not sure what I'll use for analysis, but retrieving from one's posterior might be approximately as sound.
Meantime, just for fun: Biden was winning the national popular vote by 2.5 million votes, a margin likely to grow with California mail votes and eventually exceed Hillary Clinton's 2.8 million-vote margin.
So even if Trump manages to pull off this election, his second-term presidency would remain the preposterous second-place one.
Thank goodness the phrase would be saved.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.