The presidential election offers eye-opening lessons once again

The presidential election offers eye-opening lessons once again

In the history of America’s electoral politics, the 2016 presidential election was the greatest shock, and yet, in its aftermath, both the left and the right changed little. The left became even more outraged, more “woke,” more triggered, and the right remained divided between the #NeverTrump faction and the Republican base.

We apparently learned little from 2016. What, if anything, have we learned so far from the 2020 election? As of this writing, major media outlets have dubbed Joe Biden as president-elect, with more popular votes than any candidate ever and enough Electoral College votes to win the White House. Several states became battlegrounds: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE’s campaign is contesting results in five of them — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania — with lawsuits.

Right, left or center, we all ought to do some serious soul-searching after this bizarre and contentious election.


We’ve learned that our election infrastructure is a national embarrassment. After the 2000 debacle in Florida, then-Gov. Jeb Bush quickly signed election reforms into law, and this year, Florida was notably absent from the list of states left counting votes three days after Election Day. If 2000 embarrassed our country, then 2020 ought to shame us five times as much. This year it is not one state but five, and this reveals that other states should adopt election reforms similar to those in Florida.

We’ve learned that early voting is not as simple as it sounds. And while we don’t yet have reliable data, after the second presidential debate “Can I change my vote?” was trending on Google. Someone who votes in early October does not have the same information as one who votes in November. The “October surprise” is no more.

An even greater embarrassment than our voting system has been the polling industry. One of the lessons of 2016 was that pollsters needed to change their methods and they supposedly did. Yet, they were wrong again on many fronts and, whether by design or accident, it appears they didn’t change much. In fact, it seems they have gotten worse, so whatever methodology they did change didn’t go far enough.

The final national polling average predicted a 3.3-percentage point victory in the popular vote for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm Pelosi top fundraiser moves to House Democratic super PAC Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee MORE; in reality, she won it by 2.1 points. By comparison, one week before Election Day 2020, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found a 17-point advantage for Biden in Wisconsin, a state he ended up winning by some 20,000 votes. The final average national poll had Biden up by 8 points; he won by a little more than 2 points. And this was no November anomaly: the polls remained stable throughout the election cycle, dating to the early days of the primary season.

The easiest explanation for our pollsters’ egregious failure is that there really were far more shy Trump voters than expected, and pollsters failed to capture them.


Prominent among those silent Trump voters were many African Americans and Latinos. The president increased his margins with African Americans and Latino voters, receiving a more significant share of nonwhite voters than any Republican nominee since before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the great ironies of this election is that nonwhite voters warmed to Trump even as a decisive sliver of suburban whites wrote him off as irredeemably racist. 

Democrats should learn the lesson that they must deliver tangible results for African Americans. After 50 years of broken promises by Democratic politicians, a growing number of African Americans support an agenda of low taxes, economic growth, security, the rule of law, and national greatness. Although not decisive this time, we one day may look back at the endorsements of President Trump by Lil’ Wayne and other rappers, and the near election of John James to the Senate, as a turning point for the Republican Party. There could be earth-shaking consequences in 2024 and beyond.

Trump won 8 million more votes this time than he did in 2016 — and more than any Republican nominee in history. Were it not for Biden’s eye-popping vote margins in California and New York, he would have won the popular vote as well.

As I write this, Biden is the president-elect and, while Trump has demanded recounts and filed various lawsuits, the results of the election likely won’t change. Yet if we look beyond partisanship, one thing is clear: Our voting system must be reformed. Public opinion polling can’t be trusted, and our politicians ought to fight for every vote.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”