The Election Proved I Was Right All Along

The Pundit's Fallacy meets opportunism.

IMHO boggle honest truth
The image is released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.

Because so many people voted by mail this year, the exit polls are even less useful than usual in explaining why people voted as they did. That has not stopped pundits from analyzing the results. Miraculously, to a person, they have all reached the same conclusion: the election demonstrates that, had their pre-existing preferences been followed, their party would have done way better.

This phenomenon has played out most obviously in the Halls of Congress, as the progressive wing of the Democratic Party argues that moderation was the problem and the moderates argue the opposite. But we’re definitely seeing it on the op-ed pages.

For example, Margaret White, executive director of No Labels, takes to The Hill to explain “Why Susan Collins won.” I was expecting some analysis of problems in polling methodology but, alas, not so much. Her argument boils down to this:

Even as Washington conservatives lambasted her for being a “Republican in Name Only” and Washington liberals shook their fists in frustration when, in their view, she did too little to take President Trump to task, voters in Maine actually liked her brand of moderate, balanced, independent politics.

That Collins is in no meaningful way moderate, balanced, or independent—having voted to seat Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and refusing to vote to remove President Trump—is no obstacle to her case. White supports a bipartisan agenda and, if you squint really hard, Collins demonstrates its efficacy in attracting voters.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders took to USA Today to show that the election proves we need more socialism:

The lesson is not to abandon popular policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, living wage jobs, criminal justice reform and universal child care, but to enact an agenda that speaks to the economic desperation being felt by the working class — Black, white, Latino, Asian American and Native American. People are hurting, and they are crying out for help. We must respond.

Even though those policies didn’t prevail in the Democratic Primary and Biden ran away from most of them during the general election, it turns out Bernie was right all along.

So, of course, was Elizabeth Warren, who was given space in the Washington Post to outline “What a Biden-Harris administration should prioritize on its first day.”

  • Cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt, giving tens of millions of Americans an immediate financial boost and helping to close the racial wealth gap. This is the single most effective executive action available to provide massive consumer-driver stimulus.
  • Lower drug prices for millions by producing key drugs like insulin, naloxone, hepatitis C drugs and EpiPens at low costs using existing compulsory licensing authority that allows the federal government to bypass patents for pressing public health needs.
  • Issue enforceable OSHA health and safety standards for covid-19 so giant companies don’t escape accountability for workplace conditions that expose workers to serious harm and even death.
  • Raise the minimum wage for all federal contractors to $15 an hour.
  • Center racial equity by building on Biden and Harris’s commitment to establish a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force by collecting and reporting covid-19 data and reviewing racial disparities in pandemic funding.
  • Declare the climate crisis a national emergency to start marshaling resources toward addressing this challenge.
  • Restore balance and competition by prioritizing strong anti-monopoly protections and enforcement.

As with Sanders’ plan, this lost badly in the Democratic primaries. And, holy moly, this list represents neither prioritization nor something that can be tackled in a single day.

Meanwhile, #NeverTrump Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis takes the obvious conclusion from Trump’s better-than-expected performance that “Trump’s Down Right Now—and Republicans Should Kick Him.”

Similarly, #NeverTrump WaPo columnist Max Boot analyzes the results and determines, “Never Trumpers played a critical role in beating him. The numbers prove it.

Look, I get it. These people all have agendas to push and will use any plausible news hook to do so. But it’s a bit silly.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Humor, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Pundits are victims of arrested development, sort of like the teenager who continually seeks justification for what he/she desires. Evidence is only useful when it supports the position and when there is dissonance, ignore the countervailing facts. Engage circular reasoning when useful.

    My the page reloaded and the edit functions appeared as expected on this and an earlier comment. Progress.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    It’s one of the reasons I like Nate Silver’s and his sites analysis – they report the data and let the numbers speak for themselves. They sometimes have a “hot take” round table but I rarely read it and in any case its more of a “outline a possible scenario and run it up the flag pole” type of exercise. The “Pro” person on any given scenario might be defending it because they believe it, but just as likely it’s just their turn.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: I should probably add that despite the above comment I’ll be reading less of 538. I don’t think polling is as useful as it once was, and I don’t care about sports, which is the other thing they report on.

  4. Andy says:

    Not only that, but we’re already seeing that everyone’s governing “principles” on things like Executive power and federalism are switching sides now that a different party will control the White House.

  5. Not the IT Dept. says:

    The biggest advantage that the Lincoln Project brings to the fight is that they know all these Republicans they’ve turned against, know where all the bodies are buried, and know how GOP strategies work, and they’re willing to turn that against their former allies. For them, this fight is personal and since most of them seem to be in the end stages of their careers, they have no more *bleeps* to give. Their new opponents know that, and it makes them nervous about what might come out in the new few years. The LP has said it’s in for the long fight, and to eradicate any elected non-anti-Trumper in a congressional or governor position. This could be a lot of fun!

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    The one pundit that I’m agreeing with this morning is Ezra Klein and his proposition that our current difficulties can be solved with more Democracy.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: Wait until you see the deficit hawks come out of hibernation after 4 years.

  8. Andy says:


    Yep, that will be another big example.

  9. Gustopher says:

    And, holy moly, this list represents neither prioritization nor something that can be tacked in a single day.

    Maybe you should just accept that Elizabeth Warren can get more done in a day than you can, and thus doesn’t need fine grained prioritization.

  10. Kathy says:


    Nothing on that list can get done in one day, but all of it, and more, can be started in a day.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    As with Sanders’ plan, this lost badly in the Democratic primaries.

    The people lost badly, not the plans. It is not at all clear what the relationship between the plans and the primary outcomes might be, and all of the OPs here have argued convincingly from time to time that nobody is voting mostly (or perhaps at all) based on policy preferences.

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: I’ll be interested in whether the Lincoln Project continues to attack the GOP by moving on to other Republican elites. Right now I’m guessing “no.” Ding dong the witch is dead. It’s time to get back to business as usual in Munchkinland.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    There is no penalty for being wrong in punditry. That’s the problem. No one is going to be right all the time, but if you can’t hit significantly more than random dart-throwing, what use are you? Every newspaper, web site and network should have a twice a year, public reckoning.