Reflection, More Work

(I wrote this for the Urban News in November 2020.)

Well, thankfully, the hand wringing is over. For days after the election I had anxiety and nervousness. I was constantly checking my cell phone and the TV news networks and the old radio. Finally, it is over. Former VP Joe Biden won the presidential election!!! Sen. Kamala Harris has been elected to serve as vice president.

In the meantime, our current president has been … well, he has been himself. He has spun up conspiracy theories about our elections. The only conspiracy theory that he hasn’t thrown out there on Twitter or Facebook would include the one about the Klingons using their Star Trek transporter to magically cause millions of votes for Trump to vanish into thin air.

What happened?

After the 2016 election, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what happened. Although Hillary Clinton was probably not the best progressive candidate, she was good. She had solid support. Of course, there were circumstances that she could not control, which included FBI director James Comey reopening an FBI investigation into her emails just weeks before the election. Yet there was something else that happened in that race. (Pun intended) Although the polls tightened, they really did not suggest a Donald Trump victory.

In their book Identity Crisis, authors John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, and Michael Tesler try to explain not just the fact that Trump won but how he won. They suggested that race played an incredibly large role in Trump’s victory. Trump won white men with only a high school education by a large margin. Trump connected with that demographic. Somehow, almost inexplicably, Trump also won suburban white women by a large margin. The 2016 presidential election was all about race.

Although we were promised that 2020 was going to be different, it may have been more the same. Prior to the election the national polls suggested that Joe Biden was way ahead of Donald Trump. The polls suggested that states like Texas and Florida were leaning Democratic. Yet Trump won Texas by six points and Florida by three points. Yes, some of this is within the polling margin of error, but there has to be something else going on, since it appears that every poll underestimated the Republican candidate. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis was trailing his Democratic rival in almost every single poll yet, somehow, he won the election. How were the polls so wrong? Some analysts have postulated a “shy Trump voter”—middle-of-the-road, average Republicans who simply wouldn’t admit to pollsters that they’d be voting for Trump. (I think that this explanation is popcock. Trump supporters are NOT shy.) Others have suggested underlying racism among the electorate that Trump appealed to—and those voters, too, wouldn’t admit they liked Trump for that reason.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. All I know is that I’m not sure that it’s wise for anybody to trust polling until we figure out how to fix this problem. Some have suggested that caller ID is the problem. Thirty years ago, pollsters would expect that 50% of the calls that they made the person would hang up and not answer any questions. Now, pollsters expect that over 90% of their calls do not go through. This is a problem with telephone polls.


With all the craziness that happened with polling, it is kind of amazing that Georgia seems to have slid into the Democratic column. Georgia. It is actually kind of mind boggling. If Georgia can turn blue, any southern state can turn blue. Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana—they can all be blue. We still need to do more research in figuring out how Georgia was able to make this huge transformation, but it appears that Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate and former Minority Leader of the Georgia state House of Representatives, was a large part of the reason.

Abrams ran for governor in 2018, and her opponent was Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. It just so happens that the Secretary of State is in charge of running elections in Georgia, so he was making all the rules and decisions about the election in which he was the candidate. And surprise: he won—after removing hundreds of thousands of African Americans from the voting rolls in the months before the election.

It appears that Abrams took all the hurt and pain from an election that was, by most accounts, stolen from her and channeled her energy into voter registration. She and her organization registered over 200,000 Georgians, and motivated them to get out and vote!! Democrats must investigate her strategy and see if it can be applied to other states. This is crucial. This may turn the tide.

Currently, the US Senate remains up for grabs. Democrats hold 48 seats. Republicans hold 48 seats. It all comes down to Georgia. Both of Georgia’s senators are up for election this year, and to win in Georgia, you need 50% of the vote. Neither incumbent reached the threshold, so there will be a run-off on January 5. If Democrats can win both of these races, Democrats control the Senate, because if there’s a tie vote in the Senate, the Vice President—Kamala Harris—casts the deciding vote. It is a huge uphill climb. I’m doing what I can do to send money, love, hope and prayer to both Democratic candidates—Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. I hope every reader does, too.

More Work

It seems to me that after a presidential election, progressives seem to sit back and relax. Although it’s fine to take a short time out to catch your breath then get a drink of water, like a timeout in the basketball game, after the break it’s time to go back to work. We have to figure out how to convince more Americans that Democrats are fighting for them.

The Democratic Party is not the party of socialism; it is the party of progress. The reason that working Americans have paid family leave and paid sick time, is because of Democrats. The reason Americans have Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, and even Social Security is because of Democrats fighting for everyday Americans. The reason we have child labor laws and a 40-hour work week and equal pay laws (the Lily Ledbetter Act) is because of Democrats. Republicans opposed every single one of those programs over the past 100+ years!

We have to remind Americans of what we’ve done in the past and what we want to do in the future. We want universal healthcare. We want an amendment to the Constitution that guarantees a woman’s right to decide what to do with her body. We want a society that is more just. We want a society in which a man jogging in his own neighborhood cannot be gunned down by two ex-police officers, and the case be buried for months with no charges and no resolution.

We need criminal justice reform. We need clean air. We want a tax code in which a billionaire pays more than $750 in federal taxes in a single year. We would like a society in which men and women are treated equally in the workplace regardless of their race. We would like higher education to be affordable. We would like to live in a society in which the coronavirus is taken seriously and eliminated through science and thoughtful federal action.

We need to elect more Democrats up and down the ticket in every state and in every city in America. This is our charge. This is the work that we have to do. No one is going to make the world better for us. It is up to us to make this great country even better.

And just because the election of 2020 is over, doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. Yes, we can congratulate ourselves for the moment, and take a short break before we go back to work.

We have to keep working every week, every month, until we reach that goal.

And in the meantime … Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will taking over as president and vice president in January. Just typing this makes me smile.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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