Let’s start with news on President-elect Joe Biden. He didn’t have any public speaking events, but he met with the top two Democratic leaders in Congress and is trying to stay unflustered with everything President Trump is doing to hang onto power.
Also, today is his birthday. (And my dad’s!) Biden is 78 and will be the oldest American president.
Here’s what’s happening on the battle-the-election-results front
President Trump speaks before reporters Friday. He took no questions. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Trump met Friday with the top two Michigan Republican lawmakers. They’ve said in days past that they don’t have any intention of using the legislature to give Trump the state’s electors, because Biden won the popular vote.
As of publication time, there isn’t any reporting on what Trump said to the lawmakers and whether they’ve changed their minds. It’s notable that they met with the president at all. By contrast, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said there’s no chance he’d take a call from the president and his advisers right now.
Michigan Republican election officials continue to provide a crack of an opening for Trump. He needs the state election board to be unable to certify results, creating enough chaos whereby he argues the Republican-controlled legislature could step in. (I explain here why legal experts say state lawmakers can't do that.)
One of two Republicans on that state board (it’s divided — two Republicans, two Democrats) said Thursday he’s considering voting against certifying the results until there’s an audit. And he cited evidence-free conspiracy theories about fraud of voting machines: “I do think with all of the potential problems, if any of them are true, an audit is appropriate,” he told The Washington Post.
There are backstops to this. Michigan’s Democratic governor could fire any member of the board, and there’d probably be legal challenges if the board didn’t certify results.
But it underscores how fragile American democracy is, and how hard the president is trying to overturn election results by alleging baseless fraud claims.
Okay, so is this an attempted coup?
Historians and legal experts who talked to my Washington Post colleagues say some of the president’s actions and words meet that definition.
Here’s historian and author Michael Beschloss:
“We have never seen anything like this before. This is a president abusing his very great powers to try to stay in office, even though it is obvious to everyone that he has been defeated in the polls. That is a prospect that terrified most of the founders."
Is Trump breaking any election laws? And more of your political questions
Is Trump breaking any law by openly attempting to nullify the election results?
Not that I’m aware of. It seems more like Trump is exploiting weaknesses in the American democratic process. Democracy relies on an agreed-upon adherence to the rules and political leaders willing to uphold those. Trump has found a way around both.
“The thing that makes a great democracy is the norm,” Meredith McGehee, an expert on political ethics, told me last month. “The norms are the lubrication that makes things work. You can design a great car, but if you don’t have enough oil in there, it seizes up and stops. We have a situation where the norms have been blown up, and they’ve been blown up largely because we have a president in the last four years who was given the support to blow up the norms.”
Why are Trump’s recent firings a big deal? Can’t Biden simply reinstate these people Jan. 21?
Some of them he could rehire, but others are Senate confirmed positions.
There is still plenty of concern about key empty government positions during this vulnerable time for America, such as not having an official defense secretary. As for the firing of a top election official for saying the 2020 election was secure, experts worry it will get harder for that agency to push back on disinformation about voter fraud. “It’s going to be a challenge to overcome the chilling effect from having had a leader of the organization fired for telling the truth,” a former official told The Post’s Joseph Marks.
Trump fired federal election security official Christopher Krebs. (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Can there be legal actions to get the Trump administration to recognize the transition?
Yes, but I’m not sure exactly what the legal argument would be. Biden said Thursday he isn’t ruling out suing the Trump administration, but he also doesn’t seem to think it’s worth it, because courts are slow. “It's not going to speed it up considerably, in my view,” he said, hoping instead that Republican leaders would put pressure on Trump to start cooperating with the transition.
What did the voters dislike about the Democrats' message?
Democrats I talk to are still trying to figure that out. Actually, so are Republicans.
An early emerging consensus is that Republican candidates tied Democrats to socialism or violence or being anti-law enforcement. So, Democrats=radical. (That’s the playbook Georgia Senate Republican candidates are following again for their Jan. 5 runoffs to determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.) Here are more theories from within the Democratic Party about why they did so poorly down ballot.
A Republican strategist I was talking to today worried whether the “Democrats=radical” attack will work in the future. If the party is only against Democrats, rather than for policies, she asked, how can they win back enough voters to win the White House and House of Representatives again?
A Trump supporter in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Many more young voters than usual voted in the 2020 presidential election; do young men tend to vote for one party and the women for another?
There’s a political gender divide in America. Among all ages, women backed Biden (57 percent) over Trump (42 percent), according to exit polls. That seems to hold true for younger voters, but to a lesser degree.
Voters under 30 supported Biden over Trump, by a margin of nearly 2 to 1. I asked The Post’s polling expert Emily Guskin to pull the data on how they voted by gender. She said women under 30 voted for Biden by nearly another big margin, 62 to 36 percent. There weren’t enough men under 30 to break down, but she shared that more men under 45 supported Trump over Biden, 54 percent to 42 percent.
Are there any polls we can trust in the Georgia Senate runoffs?
Let me reframe that question for you: How much stock should we put into polls for the Georgia Senate races? Definitely less than we were leading up to the election, as polls were shown to have underestimated Republican support, including in Georgia’s Senate races.
We can use polls as data points to help us understand the race, but we have to remind ourselves they’re not predictions. (Nor were they.) There haven’t been any high-quality polls on these races I can share with you, but both sides expect it to be neck-and-neck.
Ask me a political question anytime.