Donald Trump has lied so many times – more than 20,000 times since he became president, according to a Washington Post count – that when he most needed people to believe him, few did.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” the president of the United States declared from the White House at 2:30 am on Nov. 4. But nothing happened. Nothing.
None of the TV networks paid any attention to the president. Nobody officially declared him the winner of the election. “We want all voting to stop,” he said later, at the very moment that several states were counting votes. But no one obeyed him. The states continued to count votes, as though whatever the president had said did not count.
Trump was right there the living image of a man who had lost his authority and his credibility, speaking to a divided nations that did not believe his words.
Many Republican politicians who supported him have not come out now to defend him. Even those who voted for him may have reason to doubt the presidential claim. The reality was very different from what Trump was saying. He did not have the 270 electoral votes needed to win reelection. There was no winner yet.
Trump’s problems had started a few hours earlier. At 11:20 pm on Tuesday, November 3, Fox News – Trump’s favorite – reported the president had lost Arizona. That was a harsh blow. Trump had won Arizona in 2016, and the state seemed to be escaping his grip. Without Arizona, it would be very difficult for Trump to remain in the White House.
One Trump adviser tried without success to get Fox to retract its call, according to The New York Times. The Latinos in Arizona were taking their vengeance on Trump for his anti-immigration policies. Many remembered the years of terror suffered by the Hispanic community under Trump ally and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. His officers acted as immigration agents under the controversial law SB1070. A new generation of Hispanic activists organized to make sure those days of terror were not repeated in Arizona, and campaigned intensely against Trump. The results were clearly visible on election day.
And how did Trump react to the bad news? With a Tweet, of course. “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” he wrote at 12:40 am Wednesday, Nov. 4. But there was no evidence at all of fraud. Twitter censored the presidential Tweet, in an unprecedented decision, covering it with a warning that it “might be misleading about an election.” Facebook did not block the presidential message but did add a note clarifying that “No winner of the presidential election has been projected.”
No one was buying the presidential lies. Something was changing. That happens anywhere in the world when someone with a lot of power begins to deflate. His horrible handling of the pandemic – which has taken more than 240,000 lives and infected nearly 10 million people in the United States –was Trump’s biggest vulnerability in this election. The president was wrong and late with decisions, did not tell the truth at key points – to avoid “panic,” he told journalist Bob Woodward – contributed to the spread of the virus with his mass gatherings at the White House and campaign events and set a terrible example by refusing to use a mask during all his public appearances.
The pandemic also dramatically changed the way in which people vote in the United States. Nearly 102 million did so early and by mail. And that clearly hurt Trump.
Even so, Trump did better in the elections than the polls had predicted. As in 2016, pollsters did not find those closet Trumpers and were wrong again. An average of polls gave Joe Biden an 8.4 percentage point lead one day before the election. But Biden’s lead over Trump in the popular vote now stands at less than three percent.
No matter who is sworn in on January 20, Joe Biden received the most votes in any presidential election in U.S. history – more than 73 million. And in the end, a majority of U.S. voters sent an unmistakable message about what they want: A future without virus and without Trump.