The President Versus Democracy

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Good morning. Biden’s position remains strong, and Trump tries to stop vote counting.

This is a dark and dangerous moment for American democracy.

A sitting president has spent months telling lies about non-existent voter fraud. Now that his re-election bid is in deep trouble — but with the outcome still uncertain — he has unleashed a new torrent of falsehoods claiming that the other side cheated. He has demanded the Supreme Court intervene to decide the election in his favor.

His supporters are staging protests in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania meant to interfere with legitimate vote counting. In Phoenix, some have showed up at the State Capitol with guns (as you can see in this short video taken by my colleague Simon Romero).

The worst democratic outcome — in which judges appointed by the president’s political party intervene to overrule the apparent will of voters — seems likely to be avoided. The Supreme Court has shown no signs of halting vote counts, and Joe Biden’s leads in the decisive states may end up being large enough to avoid the election hinging on the sort of ballot-counting minutiae (like hanging chads) that decided the 2000 result in Florida.

But President Trump’s actions are still causing significant damage. They undermine his supporters’ faith in the country’s government. They also undermine the credibility of the United States around the world. And they force election officials, journalists and social-media platforms to choose between telling the truth and sounding nonpartisan; it is impossible to do both about Trump’s election claims.

In the simplest terms, the president of the United States is attacking American democracy in an effort to remain in office.

For more: Dahlia Lithwick, Slate: “We are as confounded today about the lies as we were in 2016. We ignore them at the peril of democracy; we engage with them at the peril of our sanity.”

Susan Glasser, The New Yorker: “There have been many times, over the past four years, that covering Trump’s Washington felt like a foreign assignment to me, never more so than while driving around the capital these past few days and seeing boarded-up storefronts and streets cordoned off for blocks around the White House, in anticipation of unprecedented post-election violence. I have seen such scenes before, in places like Azerbaijan and Russia. This is Trump’s America. It is not the America I have known.”

Steve Vladeck, University of Texas law professor: “For anyone complaining about the ‘late’ shift in totals toward Democrats in MI, PA, and WI, most of those votes actually came in *first.*” But Republican-controlled state legislatures refused to allow the counting of mail ballots as they arrived.

Nicholas Kristof, a Times Op-Ed columnist: “If Biden wins after this poisoning of the chalice, he will inherit a badly divided country after an election that many will deem illegitimate, and it will be harder to govern and more difficult for the United States to exert influence around the world.”

Vote counting

Trump reduced the gap with Biden in Arizona as more votes have come in and has a chance to overtake him. The next release of votes in Maricopa County, the state’s largest, is not expected until tonight, according to my colleague Jennifer Medina, who’s in Phoenix.

But Biden remains in a strong position overall. The Times declared him the winner in Michigan and Wisconsin, putting him at 253 electoral votes. He has several paths to 270, which would clinch victory.

If Bidens wins only Pennsylvania, that would be enough, and election analysts consider him the favorite there. “If the absentee votes continue to break for Biden by the margins they have so far — and as we have every reason to expect — then Biden would win by around 2 points,” The Times’s Nate Cohn wrote.

Biden could also get to 270 by winning any two of Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, all of which are close. Here are the latest results, and all the paths to 270.

“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Biden said yesterday.

The Trump campaign said it was mounting legal challenges, seeking to halt the counting of ballots in Pennsylvania, Michigan, challenging the handling of mail ballots in Georgia and calling for a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden leads by 0.6 of a percentage point.

Even if Trump loses, he has made clear that he will remain a public figure, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman write.

Go behind the scenes at the White House on election night: Trump’s mood changed from upbeat to grim when Fox News called Arizona for Biden. (The Times has not called Arizona and still considers the result to be up in the air.)


In Michigan, Democratic Senator Gary Peters won re-election. In Maine, the Democrat Sara Gideon conceded to Senator Susan Collins. The combination leaves Democrats with 48 Senate seats and four races still undecided, but the Republicans candidates appear in strong shape in two of those (Alaska and North Carolina).

The remaining two races are both in Georgia, and Democrats would need to win both — as well as the vice presidency — to take Senate control. That is unlikely but not impossible.

One of the Georgia races is already headed to a January runoff. It will be between Kelly Loeffler — the Republican incumbent, whom the governor appointed to the seat after a retirement — and Raphael Warnock — the senior pastor at the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached.

The other Georgia race — between Republican Senator David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff — will go to a runoff if the remaining votes to be counted cause Perdue’s total to fall below 50 percent.

In the House, Republicans will probably gain between seven and 12 seats, The Cook Political Report estimates, but Democrats are expected to retain their majority.

other elections

A slim majority of Puerto Ricans voted that the island territory should become a state, with 52 percent backing a nonbinding referendum.

Democrats failed to flip state houses in Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan and also fell short of capturing either chamber of the North Carolina legislature. Republicans flipped the New Hampshire legislature, and races to determine control of the Arizona Legislature are too close to call.

Austin and Orlando elected progressive prosecutors who have pledged to reduce the prison population. Democrat-backed judges won a majority on the Michigan Supreme Court. Democrats also narrowed Republicans’ majority on the Ohio Supreme Court to 4-3.



The U.S. recorded more than 100,000 new virus cases for the first time yesterday. Hospitalizations have topped 50,000 for the first time since early August.

The country’s supply of protective gear — particularly N95 face masks — is being strained again, The Wall Street Journal reports.

New Jersey released more than 2,200 inmates to reduce the risks of infection in crowded prisons.

Italy imposed a nationwide 10 p.m. curfew and closed museums and high schools. In six hard-hit regions, including Sicily and the city of Milan, the government will shutter restaurants and limit travel.

other big stories

Ethiopia’s prime minister sent troops into his country’s northern region after the regional government attacked a federal military base, The Washington Post reports.

The United States formally quit the Paris Agreement, the global accord to combat climate change. If Biden wins, he has said he would recommit to it on his first day in office.

In response to widespread protests, Poland has delayed the implementation of a near-total ban on abortions.

Archaeologists discovered a 9,000-year-old female skeleton buried with a “big-game hunting kit” in Peru, challenging a belief that male members of the ancient society hunted while females gathered.

Morning Reads

A luxury fashion house recently began selling scratch-and-sniff T-shirts for $590, which inspired the Times reporter Caity Weaver to delve into the history of scratch-and-sniff technology — and what, exactly, a blackberry smells like.

Lives Lived: Three decades after becoming the first Black student body president at Penn State University, H. Jesse Arnelle helped start one of the first minority-owned corporate law firms in the United States. “It was an audacious plan,” Arnelle told The New Yorker in 1993. He died at 86.

Subscribers make our reporting possible, so we can help you make sense of the moment. If you’re not a subscriber, please consider becoming one today.


Easy cooking

This chicken Marsala is easy to make thanks to a quick sauce of mushrooms and shallots. Serve it over some linguine or with roast potatoes.

A gripping new show

The latest hit Netflix series is about chess. Set in the 1950s and ’60s, “The Queen’s Gambit” follows a prodigy from an orphanage as she becomes an elite player. Adapted from a 1983 novel, the series depicts a world that’s both glamorous and wrenching, as Beth — played by Anya Taylor-Joy — excels in a male-dominated sport while struggling with addiction.

“If you did it as a movie, it becomes a sports movie: ‘Is she going to beat the Russian guy?’” Scott Frank, the series co-creator, told The Times. “And that’s not what the book is about. For me, it’s about the pain and cost of being so gifted.”

More chess: Read The Times’s former chess columnist on what the show gets right and wrong about the game.


Here are some tips to cope with stress.

The late-night hosts are ready for the election to be over.


The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were archival, archrival and chivalric. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Snowman’s neckwear (five letters).

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The word “reshook” — about Election Day’s twists and turns — appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Biden’s edge in the election. On the latest Modern Love podcast, two stories about a man and his dog.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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