The Rational Voter

As of this writing, American voters look pretty rational.

Ballots are still being counted, and several states are still uncalled, but several outcomes are very likely. The President in January 2021 will be Vice-President Joe Biden. The Electoral College count will probably finalize at 306-232 (comparable to Trump’s 304-227 victory over Clinton in 2016). The Democratic party will retain control of the House and the Republican party will retain control of the Senate, both with smaller margins than before.

Partisans on either side are unhappy with this outcome. Most Republicans wanted to elect Trump to a second term. Most Democrats wanted a wider margin of victory and control of both houses of Congress. The partisans got what they deserved. Nobody received a mandate for unbridled excesses.

Democracies are efficient. That is, the result is generally a reliable expression of voter intent. That expression is not the desire of any single voter; the efficiency emerges as an aggregate of independent decisions my millions of individual voters. Voters don’t want to negotiate or compromise, but the system makes them. Politicians don’t want to negotiate or compromise, but voters make them.

The voters have spoken, and now we listen. What have they told us? A few things are clear.

  1. Americans don’t want Donald Trump as President. President Trump was their message, and they delivered it. It’s done, and now it’s time to move on.
  2. Americans are still deeply divided along partisan lines. No amount of lipstick will cover this pig. The union might dissolve in a couple decades if we don’t find a way to deal with it, but for now we can manage it.
  3. Americans aren’t ready to dissolve the union, yet. The gravest national security risk the nation faced was Donald Trump. Trump failed to deal with Russian election interference; Trump was easily manipulated by foreign autocrats; Trump was selling out American interests to foreign bidders. The Trump business has hundreds of millions of dollars in exposure to foreign parties that is still unknown. We don’t know how much, but we now know why Trump never released his taxes.
  4. Americans do not want an expansion of international engagement. Without the support of the Senate, Biden will be unable to make major international commitments or negotiate new international treaties. Our allies and negotiating partners are well-aware of this limitation.
  5. Americans want competent management. The country is about to face several crises simultaneously, including the continuing pandemic that has already killed almost a quarter-million Americans, an economic crisis that will soon leave millions homeless, which will turn into a financial crisis that will exceed the crisis of 2008. We need to deal with global warming, crumbling infrastructure, a messed up healthcare system, a messed up bureaucracy (“deep state”), and an even more messed up legislative branch.
  6. Americans don’t want Federal overreach into local affairs. Police reform is a local matter. American voters don’t want the Federal government imposing reforms through new legislation.
  7. Americans don’t want political power grabs. Now is not the time for “judicial reform”, removing the Senate filibuster, or stacking the Congress with new state representatives. It may prove to be needed later, but not now.
  8. Americans don’t want the sanctimony of the left or right. Voters rejected it both the primaries and in the general election. It’s unlikely the religious right or the “woke” left will get the message. Sanctimony will return sooner or later, but for now, the country needs practical solutions to urgently pressing problem.