Good morning. I trust you slept well and soundly last night.
As I write this, no serious news organization has declared the winner of the US presidential election. Based on current vote counts (9:15am) and the likelihood of remaining Democratic-skewing mail ballots being counted, Joe Biden is more likely than not to win the presidency, but Democrats are unlikely to win control of the Senate.
Democrats are waking up this morning to the consequences of false optimism. Based on an analysis of polls, Fivethirtyeight.com gave Biden an 89% chance of winning and Democrats a 75% chance of taking control of the Senate. While Biden may win, the Senate is now a long-shot. Polls are not votes; optimism is not a strategy. Without the Senate, no one is adding Supreme Court Justices or new states. Elections are always uncertain.
Donald Trump is waking up with a similar problem. He declared victory at 2:30 am Eastern Time this morning, and said voting should stop, despite the fact that decision desks have only declared him the winner in states totaling 213 of the required 270 electoral votes, and he’s behind in the states he needs to win. The votes he would stop counting were cast days ago and were received by election day, sent by people who imagined that their mailed-in votes would be counted like anyone else’s.
Nobody is taking this false claim of victory seriously. Chris Wallace of Fox News said, “This is an extremely flammable situation and the president just threw a match into it. He hasn’t won those states.” And I like this characterization from CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell:
The president of the United States, castrating the facts of the election results that have been reported tonight, falsely claiming that he has won the election and disenfranchising millions of voters whose ballots have not been counted, sadly because of the raging pandemic and the failures of the administration to contain the pandemic. There has been a massive vote-by-mail operation and those votes have not yet been counted. We at CBS News are not projecting a winner in this presidential race. We will not disenfranchise the millions of voters in those battleground states.
News flash: “Quit while you’re ahead” doesn’t apply to presidential elections; we like to count all the votes.
Believing what you most would like to believe is not a character trait that any leader should have. Would you trust a military commander who positioned troops based on what he hoped the enemy would do? Would you follow a corporate leader who refused to review data that contradicted their intuitions?
For that matter, can you imagine any US president, of either party, who operated the government based on ignoring data he didn’t like? (The only other instance I can think of this the “weapons of mass destruction” case for war that George W. Bush made, in defiance of some of the best intelligence available.)
Regardless of whether it’s pandemic infection statistics, hurricane paths, measures of the economy, or sales data, analytical thinking and decision-making depends on doubting what you want most to believe and scrutinizing all available information in hopes of making an unbiased assessment.
Anything else is dangerous, and will always bite you in the ass in the long term.