, 11.07.2020 05:52 PM

My Sun column: why Biden and Harris won


There are lots of theories about why Joe Biden beat Donald Trump.

That Trump had offended lots of people. That Trump had alienated Americans of color. That female voters hated him.

But the reality is that Trump dramatically increased his vote total over 2016 — including with minorities and Republican women. The reality is that the Republican President received the second-highest share of the popular vote in American presidential history.

But it wasn’t enough. He lost.

Because the reality is also this: Joe Biden won an even bigger share of the popular vote. And that happened — his win happened — because of organization.

Full disclosure: This writer worked as an unpaid volunteer for Joe Biden and the Democrats for many months. I’ve helped the Democrats for years, and was to be an accredited volunteer at their August leadership convention in Milwaukee.

But the coronavirus had other plans. With the border closed, I couldn’t cross the border to knock on doors and get out the vote for Biden.

So, I and many others worked the phones. Night after night, day after day, we ran phone banks, calling millions of American voters. And our objective was always the same: Encourage them to use absentee ballots. Encourage them to vote early. Encourage them to mail in their ballot.

Over and over, we’d tell voters how to use the so-called absentee ballots: Get them from the town clerk. Put an X on the ballot. Put it in the small envelope, seal it. Sign it — with your real signature. Put the small envelope in the big one. Then take the sealed big envelope back to the town clerk — and don’t trust the postal system!

I made hundreds of such calls to Americans from New Hampshire to Florida to California. And, over and over, I was amazed by how enthusiastically voters — particularly Democratic voters – were embracing early voting.

We would’ve preferred a landslide election-night win, of course.

But months ago, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley-Dillon told us on a conference call three things: One, the polls were wrong, the race was going to be tight. Two, our voters were much more concerned than GOP supporters about the coronavirus. They were more concerned about possible vote suppression dirty tricks, too. And, three, we weren’t going to win big landslide on election night. Instead, O’Malley-Dillon told us, we’d have to fight a long, hard organizational war to identify our voters early — and then get them to vote early.

So we did that. And the Republicans just didn’t.

The other guys had big rallies, sure. But those rallies are always just preaching to the converted — particularly when the TV networks aren’t televising them.

Trump needed to grow his vote base. He needed to reach out to first-time voters. But he didn’t do that.

Joe Biden did. The Democrats did.

The media, and the Republicans, didn’t pay attention to what we Democrats were doing. I will never understand why. When around 100 million Americans are voting in advance, isn’t that newsworthy? When that many voters are motivated enough to vote in that way, isn’t that something that should deeply worry the incumbent?

Joe Biden won because he was a specific antidote to Donald Trump — he was decent, he was human, he was less partisan, he was experienced.

But mostly, we won because our voters were more motivated, and because our disciplined army of staff and volunteers were one thing the Trump Republicans simply weren’t:


[Kinsella worked as a volunteer for Joe Biden and the Democrats in several US states]


  1. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Amen, brother.

    However, I would go further: foolishly, Trump thought being the Trump that won election in the first place was all that was required to win another mandate. Trouble is, he at minimum, so alienated and at most, royally pissed off so many people that on a one-to-one basis, that helped enormously to seal the deal for Biden. It predisposed so many Democrats to actually vote because nothing on planet Earth was more important than getting rid of Trump.

  2. Lee Hill says:

    There are a lot of challenges ahead for Biden-Harris and America as a whole (and the rest of the world, whether we like it or not, can’t help but be affected by how the US acts the days ahead…David Bowie nailed that feeling back in the 90s), but they were both on fire last when they gave their speeches in Delaware last night. I have missed that combination of energy, intelligence, empathy, graciousness and pragmatism for a long time and I doubt I am alone. If they continue to bring those qualities to the next four years, there is no limit to what the rest of us can do to make the world a better place.

  3. Robert White says:

    Trump is a New York City Real Estate scion that built his
    brand and reputation off of a confidence game that may have worked in NYC, but lacks relevance in the real world of geopolitics. His character and personality prevented him from learning from his tried and true pattern of instilling confidence in his constituency.

    In politics Trump was not going to succeed with his Vaudeville act where he impersonates Henny Youngman for impression management purposes and because he lacks original talent.

    No, to put this in perspective Trump was not dealing with a gaggle of NYC Mafia hoods n’ wannabe wise guys that would laugh at his every gesture and joke.

    Trump had no act worth voting for as he failed miserably to find reasoned passion and a voice that the electorate appreciated. His discourses killed any chance he had to govern from on high in any legislative position.

    As a fighter Trump failed to be respectful of the competition, and he was never a good sport about winning any concession with his adversaries. His position and perspectives were ill informed and off-the-cuff staged Vaudevillian acts purposed to impress his base without reasoning behind the staged plays for accolades never really deserved, or hard won.

    In brief, I, for one, think Trump blew all of his chances to lead because he simply spent far too much time staring at himself in the rear-view mirror.

    Narcissistic rage for slights experienced in childhood is not sufficient reason to run for the office of POTUS.

    Trump is a loser that lost yet again to his own failing ego which trips him up like shoelaces undone in a foot race for a child.

    The man-child is finally off the stage.

    Thank you for volunteering to oust this one hit wonder neophyte politician, Warren. My crushing headaches are now gone.


  4. A. Voter says:

    Columnist Andrew Coyne calculated that Mitt Romney would have become president if Romney had another 400,000 votes spread out over the right four states. I wonder how close Trump was to re-election. Maybe Coyne will do the math.

  5. Yet Another Calgarian says:

    Biden in the White House and GOP controlled Senate is a win / win for the US.

    Should stop anything too crazy from happening over the next couple of years while the GOP sorts out whether they want to return to McConnell’s vision of the party or Hawley’s vision of a working class party.

    The Dems should be more interesting to watch though. Be curious to see how the establishment Dems deal with their CRT party insurgency. I expect it will end up resembling a good chunk of what liberals in Iran experienced after they crawled into bed with the Khomeinists.

    Based on people like Nicole Hannah Jones at the NYT I suspect that will end up pushing a lot more Latinos and Asians towards the GOP in time for 2022…

    Also sincerely hoping a couple three terms of whipsaw back and forth executive orders countermanding each other will actually make people condiser serious limits to Executive powers which is desperately overdue.

    Should be an entertaining couple of years. Even more so than the last two.

  6. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I stand to possibly be corrected but I would argue that Latino growth in favour of Trump only has to do with the Latino makeup in Florida. Everyone knows that those people are by a plurality right-wingers. However, the younger Latinos are somewhat more progressive. My own Canadian-born cousin is widowed, having previously been married to a Cuban-American Republican. The plurality of Latinos elsewhere are by a plurality genuine progressives — that doesn’t necessarily mean they are liberals — so I don’t expect gains there unless Republicans return to the Reagan model. If they stick with the Trump model, they are likely screwed in four years.

    • Yet Another Calgarian says:

      A lot of the returns in Texas showed a surprising amount of support for Trump in Latino areas Ronald. Actually pretty much across the southern US. The NYT has a great interactive map where you can look at the breakdowns and there are some surprises in it. In both directions.

      I would agree with your statement about them being the Reuplicans to lose… and i honestly expect them to do so being the GOP… but having people in major media outlets writing articles about why Latinos are actually white and not people of colour and therefore don’t deserve to be treated as anything other than dumb ass white people is not going to help the Dems with those voters.

      The radicalized and racialized media is going to paint the Establishment dems into a corner on a lot of things.

      As an example the DSA mouthpiece Jacobin magazine is calling for Trump level resistance to Biden now and the portland mob destroyed the Dem campaign office in Portland last night. Tad bit of foreshadowing I believe.

      But this is the kind of thing that plays out over the course of a decade not overnight so as I will stand behind my entertaining couple of years comment. Be kind of funny if we get to see Trump vs Clinton in 2024 though.

  7. the real Sean says:

    It’s funny, I just assumed that’s that Dems were doing that all along. But then I’ve slogged through the phone banks / door knocks / E-day stuff on a few campaigns. So early voting / alternative voting in massive numbers seemed naturally intuitive this time around. Reps couldn’t do it because their leader was such a knucklehead he told his own people not to.

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