The morning(s) after

How the election looked from the UK 

By James Hingley

It was a US election, but mattered to all of us, and we woke on 3 November with a sense of relief: FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver projected Biden to win and historian Allan Lichtman’s 13 keys fell in favour of the former Vice President. Yet, as ever with Trump, nothing is true and everything is possible; the line between landslide and nail-biter was razor-thin.

From the UK, we looked on incredulously as he accused his opponents of trying to steal the election without anything to substantiate his claims

Those of us watching from afar, tried to make sense of it all. In Florida, the signs did not bode well for Biden: the polls underestimating the Republican leanings of many Cuban Americans.

As at 01:23 GMT Trump was expected to win Florida – the clearest indication of how the night might unfold. The race, we realised, was much closer than we had thought. Biden, though, remained overwhelmingly the favourite. In the words of the Democrat campaign, “Florida is nice, but not the necessary path to victory”.

But then, at 07:21 GMT on Wednesday, 4 November, many people’s worst fears came true. Trump declared victory whilst making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, just as he had threatened.

It was a “red mirage”: with in-person votes counted on the night strongly favouring Trump and overwhelmingly Democratic postal votes largely uncounted, Trump seized the opportunity to prematurely claim victory.

From the UK, we looked on incredulously as he accused his opponents of trying to steal the election without anything to substantiate his claims.

Even Nigel Farage, probably closer to Trump than anyone in the UK, admitted there is “no evidence of fraud”. Then we saw how even members of Trump’s own party, such as Republican loyalist Marco Rubio, started to distance themselves.

Besides, Trump’s claim of victory was predictable. In the world of Trump, if he says he won, then he won. As he announced before a single vote was counted, “Winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me it’s not.”

Throughout, Biden and his team maintained he was on course for victory. With the numbers looking promising in the rust-belt states of Wisconsin and Michigan, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon felt confident enough to predict that “we are on a clear path to victory this afternoon”.

But the cautious sense of optimism detected on the morning of 5 November was swiftly culled by Trump’s reaction to imminent defeat. He filed legal suits to halt the voting in Pennsylvania and Michigan, to stop the voting along with requesting a recount in Wisconsin, and challenging the handling of ballots in Georgia.

Trump’s ultimate plan: take this all the way to the US Supreme Court, now stacked with conservative justices.

Almost forgotten amid these continuous updates and Trump’s Twitter rants was Fox News’s unwillingness to endorse the President’s claims.

When the likes of Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson focus instead on how the absence of a “blue wave” has saved US Democracy, and Judith Miller describes Trump’s claim of victory as “fraudulent”, even from here we know his second term is hanging by the finest of threads. Still, we had to wait.

It was now just a matter of time before Biden would be declared the 46th President-elect of the United States

A major domino fell at 09:34 GMT on Friday, 6 November when it was announced that Biden had overtaken Trump in Georgia. Meanwhile, Biden’s position in Pennsylvania was going from strength to strength. Winning either state meant victory.

When, at 13:52 GMT Biden took the lead in Pennsylvania – the one state Trump could not afford to lose – the official response was swift.

A no-fly zone was established over Biden’s residence in Wilmington and the Secret Service sent additional agents to Delaware in anticipation of victory for Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris.

It was now just a matter of time before Biden would be declared the 46th President-elect of the United States. That moment came, at 16:28 GMT on Saturday, 7 November, when the Associated Press called Pennsylvania for Biden. Cheers could be heard even on British streets. Many of us were delighted most by Kamala Harris.

It was John Nance Garner, the 32nd Vice President, who said that the Vice Presidency “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”

Perhaps true then, it is no longer so, and Harris’ imminent arrival in the west wing represents what many around the world hope is an enduring change in America.

 

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