What The 2020 Presidential Election Means For Our Future : Code Switch Election Day has come and gone, but we're still awhile away from knowing what the outcome will be. But while there's a lot we don't about the results, we do know that this election will tell us a lot about what our electorate looks like. With some help from our friends at NPR's politics podcast, we're looking at what happened, and waiting with bated breath to see what this portends for the future.
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We ... Don't Know Anything Yet

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We ... Don't Know Anything Yet

We ... Don't Know Anything Yet

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I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.


I'm Gene Demby, and this is CODE SWITCH.



MERAJI: As of the time we're recording this, which is Wednesday morning on November 4, we still don't know who won the presidential election of 2020.

DEMBY: Existential uncertainty. Shereen, how could an election in 2020 have turned out any other way? I mean, really?

MERAJI: Well said. It's true. It couldn't have.


MERAJI: And as of this moment, votes are still being counted. And after they're counted, you know there's going to be some fights over whether or not they should count. So we might not know who won this election for a minute.

DEMBY: Right. Shereen, I mean, you and I - we've been texting since last night, so I have a sense of this.

MERAJI: (Laughter).

DEMBY: But how are you feeling right now?

MERAJI: Gene, you know this. I'm a bit annoyed at these headlines that are coming out that are saying, the young vote did this; the Latino vote did that.

DEMBY: (Laughter) Right, right.

MERAJI: I'm like, OK, well, what about young Latinx voters? What about them? What did they do? Oh, no, we can't be that specific, can we? No, because we don't have that information yet. And to stay on that for a second, there's been a lot of hand-wringing over 4% of the Latino population, Cubans (laughter) - two-thirds of which live in Florida. Like, there's just been so much media attention on them, and that's been a little bit irritating to me. Just to remind people, we just don't know how all of this is breaking down yet. But we do know something.

DEMBY: What do we know?

MERAJI: (Laughter) It's your birthday. Today is your birthday.

DEMBY: Boo. Hiss, hiss.

MERAJI: (Singing) Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you.

DEMBY: Are you done?

MERAJI: (Singing) Happy birthday.

DEMBY: Are you done?

MERAJI: How did I do?


MERAJI: Well, feliz cumpleanos.

DEMBY: Thank you, homie. I appreciate you. Fun fact - I was born on the day - I'm barely a millennial. I was born on the day that Ronald Reagan was elected president for the first time. The next time my birthday fell on Election Day, Barack Obama was elected president for the first time. So my birthday, every four years, is around some sort of electoral consequence.

MERAJI: Well, this time we don't know who the president is on your birthday. And there's another thing we don't know, which I mentioned already, which is what the electorate looks like. We do not have the final numbers on who voted in what percentages. No matter what y'all may be reading or watching, we do not have this information yet. And the question about what the electorate looks like is another way this year's election is an inflection point, a seismic one perhaps. You know that stranglehold that boomers have had on U.S. electoral politics? Maybe it's over. We know America is getting younger and browner fast.

DEMBY: So in 2024, the two youngest voting-age generational cohorts - that's the millennials and Gen Zers - they are, by the way, 45% people of color and 49% people of color, respectively. Those two generations will outnumber the boomers who vote in the 2024 election. But by 2028, millennials and Gen Zers will dwarf voters from the older generations - that's baby boomers; that's Gen Xers - not just in terms of voters, but in the number of eligible voters.

MERAJI: Right.

DEMBY: That's according to States of Change, which is a nonpartisan think tank.

MERAJI: And that demographic transformation is going to have a huge impact, lots of consequences for the way the two-party system works in the United States.


MERAJI: We know that millennials and Gen Zers are typically much more liberal. They are deeply skeptical of the GOP. The Republican Party, which - as we've mentioned before - is nearly 90% white and has leaned pretty hard into Trumpism.

DEMBY: And there was a time when there were enough white votes out there for the GOP to win and win comfortably with nearly all-white support. But to put it plainly, the GOP is running out of white people. I mean, according to The New York Times, the number of voting-age white Americans without college degrees - you know, that's a big part of Trump's base - that number has dropped by more than 5 million people just between 2016 and 2020. So this is all happening very quickly.

MERAJI: On the flipside, it's not a given that younger people's distrust for the GOP means that they'll automatically be steadfast Democrats...

DEMBY: Not at all.

MERAJI: ...You know, ride that donkey toward their policy goals.

DEMBY: (Laughter).

MERAJI: That may not be what happens. So there's going to be a lot of internal battles among Democrats about how far left they should move.

DEMBY: Right. And remember that generational stuff we were just talking about? You know, the average senator is 63 years old. The Senate is still overwhelmingly white. So there's going to be a growing generational and ideological divide between, you know, this presumptive Democratic voting base and the Democrats who actually represent them in Washington, too. So it's not that simple.


MERAJI: Well, listeners, we are going to be hitting you soon with a lot more analysis about what this election means and what it can tell us about race and identity in this country. But if y'all are anything like us, we know that what you really want is updates on what's happening right now - not 2024, not 2028. We get it. So today we're turning it over to our friends at NPR's Politics Podcast.

DEMBY: Yep. They were up into the wee hours of the night, probably doom-scrolling just like you, trying to make sense of all of this stuff. So here they are. And as they always remind us, by the time you hear this, a lot of stuff might have changed.


SUSAN DAVIS: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

AYESHA RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

ASMA KHALID: I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the presidential campaign.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

DAVIS: And as we long expected, it is taking some time to call the presidential race. We had been warning people that this could drag out beyond election night. And here we are. The current electoral tally is 236 votes for Joe Biden to 213 votes for President Trump. We're still awaiting critical results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Here's Joe Biden addressing supporters.


JOE BIDEN: We feel good about where we are. We really do.


BIDEN: I'm here to tell you tonight we believe we're on track to win this election.

DAVIS: President Trump on Twitter called tonight, quote, "a big win" and falsely accused Democrats of trying to steal the election. Here he is speaking from the White House.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people. And we won't stand for it. We will not stand for it.

DAVIS: Domenico, we don't know who's going to win this election. But I think it's safe to say that tonight was not the election that Democrats were hoping for.

MONTANARO: Yeah. Wow. What a night and a strange night, you know, overall. I mean, this was the kind of map that if you and I had talked about it a year ago, we could have come up with pretty much the path that's out there right now, you know, where a lot of these Sunbelt states - North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas - would go to President Trump, although North Carolina and Georgia, as of 3 a.m. here, have still not been called. There's some votes still left to count there. You know, it's a close race. And, no, Democrats had wanted a blowout. They wanted a big win as a full repudiation of President Trump. And they didn't get that.

DAVIS: Both Trump and Biden believe they have a path to victory here. Ayesha, what is the Trump campaign saying?

RASCOE: Yeah, and we should say you only need one path to win - right? - to make it. What the Trump campaign is saying is that they are optimistic, but President Trump has gone beyond that. He spoke, you know, after 2 in the morning, and he basically said that he believes - and there's no evidence of this - that he has won already.


TRUMP: This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.

RASCOE: And then he was threatening to go to the Supreme Court so that votes would - that there would be no more voting. And, obviously, that is also not true because voting has stopped. You know, states are simply counting the votes. There had been concerns that he would prematurely declare victory, and that is exactly what he did. And he clearly still has a path, but he has prematurely said that he won, and he did not.

DAVIS: And what about Biden?

KHALID: Well, Joe Biden came out to address supporters here in Wilmington, Del., earlier. I guess it's earlier this morning at this point. And he, you know, praised folks for their patience. He said that he believes that they are on track to win this election. He feels good about where they are at this point and that he knew that it was going to be sort of a long slog.

You know, what I will say, though, Sue, is that it's, to me, sort of a difference in how we're hearing the tone of Joe Biden. And there is really the - you know, I think he exuded this level of confidence about where things are. Some Democrats I've been speaking to, depending on where they are in the country tonight, they do feel somewhat anxious, right?

DAVIS: Yeah.

KHALID: Like, I think to Domenico's point, some folks saw the polls and they really were anticipating a much larger margin for Joe Biden. They thought that this race wouldn't be as tight as it seems to be. And so, you know, the word of the night from a lot of Democrats was that they are cautiously optimistic. They feel like a lot depends on Pennsylvania.

DAVIS: Can we focus just on two states tonight? Because I think each is critical to each of the candidates' path. Trump won Florida, but I wonder what we know about the coalition that showed up for Trump to make that win possible?

RASCOE: Well, we know that Biden definitely underperformed in that Miami-Dade area. Trump did very well. And the thought is that he did very well with Cubans and, you know, Venezuelans and others in that area, other Latinos in that area, and that Trump was able to really greatly outperform what he did in 2016. And Trump has shown strength with Latino voters. We knew that, and there had been some polling to show that, but I'm not sure that we knew that it would be at this level.

KHALID: Really, those Miami-Dade results are some of the most stunning results, I think, of any county that we've seen tonight. You know, you talk about a county that Hillary Clinton won by roughly 30 points, and President Trump was able to shrink that margin down to the single digits. I believe it was seven points only that Joe Biden won that county by.

And, you know, I remember I was out reporting in Northern Florida earlier this summer. And one of the things I heard was that, you know, sure, Democrats seem to be making gains in a place like Duval County, the suburban, college-educated voters there. But this one guy told me the challenge of Florida is that you can't just pick out a couple of counties and say, OK, I win this county; I'm going to win this state. He told me that Republicans are experts at finding votes in rural exurban towns and that, as they get their polling and their data together, Republicans just have a really strong infrastructure in the state.

DAVIS: And in Arizona, what was the coalition that delivered it for Biden?

MONTANARO: Yeah, and I was just going to say, I think that Latinos across the country, as far as in the Southwest, are a different group of Latinos, obviously, than are in Florida. You know, it's - Florida's more Cuban, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican. Arizona is more people who've come from Mexico previously or have family - you know, lineage back to Mexico. It's a different kind of group. And, frankly, Biden had been polling pretty well with them and he, you know, is winning there - all the votes not in but has been up by more than three points, which is about where the polls have been leading into this night.

Also, you know, he won Maricopa County, which is where two-thirds of the vote comes from, where Phoenix is. And that's not just Latinos, but the Biden campaign really targeting especially white women, white suburban women in Maricopa County.

DAVIS: All right. Let's take a quick break. And when we get back, we'll talk about what comes next.

And we're back. And let's try and make some sense of what we know is still to come. Domenico, clearly, the blue wall is so critical for Democrats still.

MONTANARO: Well, you know, let's do some math. Biden now has 238 electoral votes. Two more have gone his way since we started this podcast, and those were two in Maine. So Joe Biden is now at 238 electoral votes; President Trump is at 213. So President Trump still needs a few things to go his way. He still needs to win Georgia and North Carolina, which, by the way, are not completely done deals just yet. North Carolina is separated by just 1.4 percentage points, less than 77,000 total votes. And Georgia is separated by 2 1/2 percentage points, about 117,000 votes.

And there's still a bit of vote to go there. Remember; in North Carolina, there was that court case that allowed ballots that were postmarked on Election Day to be counted up until Friday. But to get Joe Biden to 270, for example, there is a pathway, obviously. Arizona helps his case because if he wins Nevada on top of that and he is able to pick off Wisconsin and Michigan, he wouldn't even need Pennsylvania; he would be right at 270.

RASCOE: So, essentially, Trump right now has to win - you know, he has to win that blue wall back. Does he have to win all of it back to win?

MONTANARO: Well, look. President Trump's at 213 electoral votes. So even with Georgia and North Carolina - those are 31 electoral votes - he's just then to 244 electoral votes. He's still 26 electoral votes short. That leaves Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Wisconsin has 10; Michigan has 16; Pennsylvania has 20. Slice and dice it. If you wanted to put Wisconsin and Michigan together, that gives you 26. If you want to Pennsylvania and maybe Nevada in there, that would give you 26. But this means with Joe Biden winning Arizona, President Trump, if he loses Nevada, he can't just win Pennsylvania alone in that blue wall; he's got to win Pennsylvania plus one to be able to pull this out and get to 270.

DAVIS: Asma, I was talking to our friend and colleague Scott Detrow tonight, who's also out on the road with Biden.


DAVIS: And he made the point that I think is worth making here, too, that, you know, it's been a good night for Republicans, but that Joe Biden's most viable path to winning is still a very viable path.

KHALID: You know, Scott is right. And this is akin to the map or the pathway that many Democrats saw for Joe Biden months ago. What I will say, though, Sue, is, you know, in talking to, you know, a few of the supporters out in this drive-in car rally tonight, there was some concern, though, that despite everything this country has been through over the last year, specifically the coronavirus pandemic, that there wasn't sort of this larger mandate that they felt they might see for Joe Biden. And even they felt like, you know, the pandemic, wearing masks, et cetera, all of that, everything is now largely seen through a partisan lens, meaning it's - you know, how you feel about these things is largely a referendum on how you feel about the president himself or how you feel about Joe Biden.

DAVIS: Look. We don't know who's going to win this election, but I do think another point that I think is worth talking about is that, win or lose, Republicans really seem to have become even more the party of Donald Trump. I think those down-ballot victories in this election climate is going to make his allies even stronger, especially on Capitol Hill. And I think that they will look to some of the results tonight in these down-ballot races as an affirmation of the past four years. And I do think that there is a feeling of boldness coming from the Trump campaign this evening that we don't necessarily feel from the Biden campaign.

RASCOE: But that's dependent on a Trump win - right? - because if Trump loses and yet all of these Republicans won down ballot, is that really a win for Trumpism?

KHALID: I don't know. But, Ayesha, my question was, if you look at some of those, like, pivot counties - right? - places that were Obama-Trump counties - Danielle Kurtzleben, one of our colleagues, and I - we were both looking at places like that in Iowa and in Ohio. And what I was struck by is how much redder some of those places look, right? There was all this talk that Joe Biden was going to try to peel away some of those Obama-Trump counties and win them back.

MONTANARO: But, Asma, you know the demography as well as I do. You know, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, even Minnesota - a place that President Trump really made a push in - all of those are majority-white, noncollege states. In other words, whites without college degrees are a majority of the voting-eligible population in those states. President Trump was never out of the game because of that because we've seen such a realignment with whites without college degrees who have now shifted Republican and whites with college degrees who have shifted Democratic.

KHALID: Yeah. You know, you're right, Domenico. And I think my takeaway from that is that it feels like the places that are red, some of them seem to have become even redder and those that are blue are bluer.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I agree with that.

DAVIS: All right. Well, let's leave it there for now. There is so much more election coverage at npr.org and of course, on your local public radio station. Remember; you can support all of us on the NPR POLITICS PODCAST by supporting your local station. Just head to donate.npr.org to get started. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

KHALID: I'm Asma Khalid. I'm covering the presidential campaign.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

DAVIS: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.


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