Forward note: I was writing this post the morning of Wednesday, January 6, 2021. It was the morning after a long day into overnight of the runoff election for Georgia’s two seats in the U.S. Senate. I planned to publish around noon. I got behind in my deadline as I fell into watching coverage of the races still underway and the run up to the Congressional joint session to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Slated to start at noon, it got underway around 1 p.m.
Then, after 2 p.m., Trump’s orchestrated rally turned into a march and assault on the Capital.
But, I’m not going to write about that. Even though the resulting violence stormed over what was the major story of the day and night: Georgia’s historic and game-changing election of two Democratic senators, I still wanted to share with you my story about Election Day.
I invite you to go back to a simpler time with me, that time before the Insurrection and read it as I wrote it, naive of what was to come:
I stayed up to watch history in the making
I stayed up. I couldn’t go to bed although my retirement bedtime is 10:30 p.m.
After the polls closed and the early returns began dripping in, the two long-shot Democrats jumped out to a commanding lead of five and even 10 percentage points. But it was very early. One large dump from a Red County evaporated those leads and put the Republicans ahead by a percent. The first couple of hours rolled by quickly and before I knew it, it was beyond bedtime. Julie was running down and left for bed. I had put too much time into phone banking for the runoff not to stay with it. I was in it.
So I stayed up. The numbers continued to roll in, swinging one way and back the other. At some point, it felt like it was settling in with Perdue and Loeffler in the lead. Not by much. But leading. Leading is generally better than not.
Trump tweeted something about watching the Georgia senate race returns and see if a bunch of votes for the Dems magically appear after they know how much they need to win. He continued to sow doubt on another free and fair election.
I was watching Steve Kornacki on MSNBC almost all night. Overtime I had checked out the other networks, switching from FOX News, CNN and ABC. I found that the details of the race that I wanted were on MSNBC and I eventually stopped switching.
Around 11 p.m., with Republicans maintaining leads, I was feeling like it was going their way until Kornacki reviewed the bubbles of remaining votes across the state. Without making a numerical prediction, he did say that Democrats had a path to victory considering the real firepower left from the big Blue counties.
I cross-checked with the New York Times election page of charts and graphs that was showing the same thing.
I got mesmerized in the possibilities and stopped writing down much, like being in class and forgetting to take notes.
Just before 1 a.m., Kornacki outlined the numbers lining the road ahead; the counties left to report were those that highly favored the Democrats and they contained large reservoirs of game-changing votes: DeKalb with 20,000, Fulton with 7,500 and Chatham with around 3,000. The votes left were mostly mail-in, a perceived good sign for the Democrats. Conventional wisdom held that Democrats voted by mail or absentee ballots in greater numbers than Republicans. And now, with COVID19, mail or absentee voting was, hands down, the safest and easiest way to vote because it was hands off. Plus, no waiting in lines.
Republicans, on the other hand, encouraged by President Trump, held out for in-person Election Day voting. Plus, Trump had told his followers that mail-in ballots opened the door to massive fraud. He tried to ruin the reputation of the USPS by casting shade on its reliability to deliver on time as his administration cut the department’s resources and efficiency back and drastically slowed the flow of mail.
If conventional wisdom held true, as Kornacki pointed out, then even in Red counties, the Democrats should do better as the mail-in votes are counted. They will still lose the county, but not by as great a percentage. So, not great news for Loeffler, who was falling significantly behind, nor for Perdue who held on by the slimmest of margins. Unfortunately for the two Republicans, the first counts tallied and reported came from their strongest voting method – in-person election day voting.
I took to my pencil and started scratching out Kornacki’s estimated remaining votes in the bubbles. I multiplied by the percentages of votes each candidate was winning to get at the potential final tally.
I added the projections to the current amount of votes the leader in each race had. It became clear that Warnock’s lead over Loeffler was poised to climb to over 50,000. Ossoff, behind by 1,322 votes, would soon leapfrog Perdue and eventually garner at least a 14,000 votes victory. I felt reassured of potential wins by both, but I wasn’t sure if I missing something that could turn the projection to the Republicans. And, I have lived in Atlanta long enough not to get my hopes up for victory in sports or in politics.
And, of course, there were the military and provisional ballots left and they would be processed last. They too, tend to lean more Democratic, but I didn’t use them to project.
So I stayed up. I desperately wanted to witness DeKalb’s roll in. Those poll workers were diligently continuing to count. I continued to watch. Anxiously looking for the movement I expected.
Around 1:30 a.m., James Carville came on and my ears really perked up. Carville had correctly predicted Biden’s victory in November before Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia were called. He seems like a kook, but he’s a very straight shooter and a hell uv a strategist. Tonight, he said he loved where the Democrats stood in the race. With Warnock up by 20,000 votes over Loeffler, he believed he would just increase his lead, and that Ossoff, down 1,322 votes at the time, would soon move ahead when DeKalb began reporting the more than 70% of votes left to be tallied. Carville said that Georgia was going to finally earn an important place in history by electing its first African-American to the U.S. Senate, and, on the same night, elect a Jewish man who was the son of immigrants. Carville was down right giddy.
I listened hard. I cross-checked the numbers. I wondered and hoped, doubted and hoped again.
I don’t have the time noted, but sometime after 1:30 and solidly in the lead, Warnock posted a live stream in which he happily, but humbly, claimed victory. A bold move because the networks were yet to call the race. He thanked the voters for showing their trust in him and paid tribute to his mother, saying that as a teenager “the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton,…went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.” It was a historic moment for the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Then, at 1:48 a.m., after a small drop of 6,000 votes from DeKalb came in, MSNBC made it official and called Warnock the victor. His lead had grown to over 40,000.
Ossoff, as Carville predicted, leapfrogged Perdue, and now led by 3,560 votes.
Kornacki revealed 90% of this batch of mail-in votes had gone to the Democratics!!! Ten points higher than the DeKalb early and same-day vote. Ten points higher than I had used in my projection! Ten points higher building the lead and a new expectation driving forward. I let out a whoop like I was watching a UNC basketball game, but keeping in mind and in check that there was a long road ahead.
Another drop from DeKalb. The Democrats’ leads grew again. Ossoff jumped ahead to over 14,000. Warnock went up to over 50,000. The roll was on. Victory felt assured.
Loeffler’s campaign responded, not with concession, but by stating their belief that there was still a path to victory.
And then…nothing. Tick tock. I stayed up. All of the house lights on timers had long gone dark. Our automatic thermostats had dropped by four degrees. My grandfather’s clock chimed 2 a.m., then 2:30 a.m. I was almost lying down horizontally in the recliner, covered in an afghan. My eyelids were drooping. My brain was wired but over-tired. I wasn’t processing much, just hypnotized by the TV.
Still, I stayed up. Nothing changed. All of the reporting just repeated itself as if in rerun.
When I heard the chime toll 3 a.m., I realized I was spent. Nothing was happening. We were in a stall much like the November election. Reporting from DeKalb was stuck at 95%. The networks continued to hold the Ossoff/Perdue race in the “Too close to call” category. As much as I hated to, I went up to bed, but not before seeing a text notification that Perdue’s spokesperson issued a statement. In the dark I opened it and read that they would “mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted. We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”
It rang hollow. If not a concession, it certainly revealed that the campaign saw it had little, if any, hope for a win. If you’re already saying you’ll “exhaust every legal recourse” it certainly signals slight hope to win by votes alone. Winners don’t need to exhaust legal remedies. It sounded remarkably Trumpian.
With that I tried to self-wind down and snuck into bed without disturbing Julie. I couldn’t help but think that the unheard of was happening. I practiced a meditation technique of counting backwards from 10,000 to fall asleep. I got further along in that countdown than I expected, but somewhere around 9,900, 9,899, 9,898, I lost count. I woke up and it was 7:30 Wednesday morning. I needed more sleep but couldn’t “not” check in. Finding things still stalled I also was found that I was wide awake. There was no turning back. Maybe a nap later in the day. Heck, I’m retired. I can sleep when I want or need to. This is history in the making. Sleep can wait. So, I got up and wandered downstairs to the kitchen and found Julie making coffee.
There Kornacki was in front of the big board as I left him. Presumably in the same khaki pants. Slightly refreshed hair. Same numbers to report and same pathways to describe. Even he had taken a 75 minute nap so I didn’t feel too badly for abandoning my post.
By 11:55 a.m. Ossoff’s lead climbed to 17,446, which is still 0.4%, just inside the 0.5% margin that triggers a recount. That’s a recount. Not another election.
Warnock led by 54,602 votes, 1.2% ahead of Loeffler and beyond the margin for a recount.
George Sterling, the much berated Georgia election official by President Trump, briefed the press on the remaining numbers, all of which will come out of Democratic counties. If you give 80% of the remaining votes to the Dems it breaks out like this:
- Warnock’s lead grows to 82 thousand.
- Ossoff’s lead grows to 45 thousand.
Both clearly beyond the 0.5% recount trigger point and poised to make for a Democratic sweep…in GEORGIA!
And, on this very same day, the U.S. Congress is set to begin its job to certify the states’ electoral votes. In normal times, this process does not make it to live TV, except on C-span. There have been objections in the past by both parties. Those were generally raised by members of the House who were not enjoined by a member of the Senate and are gaveled closed by the president of the Senate.
But, in one more nod to how “not normal” this era of Trump has been, today’s formality will be covered live on most networks. Why? Because of the number of House and Senate Republicans who have stated that they will object to the Electoral votes from the so-called “battleground states.” And, they had turned in the required objection letter and had secured members of the Senate to join members from the House in their objections.
They are doing so under the clear pressure of an aggrieved and vengeful President. They are putting his willful attempt to overturn the election above the voice of the American citizens. They have organized their “Caucus of Sedition” and have publicly stated that they will object to the electoral results in key states pointing to unsubstantiated fraud and voting irregularities. The very same claims made in 62 lawsuits that court after court has thrown out with the admonition that those bringing the suits had “no standing.”
One major irony in this play lies in soon to be “former” Senator Kelly Loeffler’s plan to join in this challenge. In doing so Loeffler will vote to nullify the votes and thereby disenfranchise her own Georgia constituents. She proudly made this a part of her platform to maintain her seat this week at the Trump rally the night before the runoff election. It may have cost her the election instead of win it.
This should be Trump’s final curtain call of a show he created by his very willful lie that the race was “stolen” from him.
Trump, in fact, has become the great defrauder.
He is the “Fraud in Thief, operating out in the open, debasing the vote of the American people. He’s defrauding us of our vote, defrauding the Biden/Harris ticket of their rightful and lawful election, defrauding them of their legitimacy and defrauding the United States of a peaceful transition of power.
Under his watch, his party has lost the House, the Presidency, and now, the Senate.
Under his watch over 350,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID19.
Millions of Americans are out of work, out of money, out of food and soon, out of their homes.
America has lost its standing among the world order.
Iran is more dangerous.
An embolden Russia grows its aggression against our country by the minute.
Donald Trump is a fraud, a loser and he will be branded so for the rest of time.
We cannot let him bully his way back into our country’s psyche. We cannot ever let him run for another government office again.
It is disgraceful. His reign has been inhumane and unconstitutional at every turn.
To borrow the characterization of where we stand with regards to defeating COVID; There’s light at the end of the tunnel. But we’re still in the tunnel.
That tunnel is the darkness of Donald Trump. The light is the hope of the Biden/Harris leadership. Hope that can emerge once Donald J. Trump is gone from our body politic.
…And then: Inciting an Insurrection.