Wednesday, November 4, 2020


Hold the confetti. America has spoken, but the final outcome of the 2020 presidential election is still a secret. Most of the credit, or discredit, goes to Pennsylvania. Rather than a keystone from which it takes its nickname, the commonwealth has tossed a brick at the fragile U.S. election system. Americans pondering their future course can do nothing but wait.

Already weary from a year of disease-borne anguish, citizens must now reckon with the political turmoil of an inconclusive count from Tuesday’s national leadership contest between incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. With apologies to “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher for mutilating her wise admonition, this is no time to go fracky.

The 140 million voters who cast their ballots for president can only try to suppress mirthful madness bubbling up from the unwelcome prolongation of an excruciating election cycle. Both candidates are banking on Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes to reach the White House-winning threshold of 270. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month in favor of the state’s petition to count mail-in ballots, even those without clear postmarks, received up to three days after polls close on Tuesday. And mismatching signatures on those ballots are being treated as the real thing. Nothing to see here, folks.

At the time it was announced, President Trump called the Pennsylvania ruling “a terrible decision.” Addressing the delays Wednesday morning, he went further: “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country.”

Democrats are thrilled, though, determined to scratch and claw for any advantage in the hotly contested Middle Atlantic swing state. “If all the votes are added up in PA, Trump is going to lose,” chortled Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a tweet. In normal times, votes are counted before a winner is declared, not the other way around.

If Mr. Biden ultimately falls short in energy-rich Pennsylvania and, perhaps, the nation as a whole, Democrats can blame the former veep’s reckless tongue. While promising during the final presidential debate he would not keep his previous vow to end fracking, he inadvertently owned up to plans to phase out fossil fuels. Voters are understandably loath to give a job to the man who would eliminate theirs.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state to slow-walk the scorekeeping. Talliers in the crucial battleground states of Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada have allowed neither clock nor calendar to hasten their calculations. North Carolina may have won the race to be last, though, gaining Supreme Court permission to keep counting ballots until — unbelievably — Nov. 12.

Once upon a time, Mrs. Thatcher warned of going “wobbly.” Though the 2020 presidential election process borders on the fracky, serious-minded Americans can only shutter at the prospect of becoming a laughingstock of the democratic world.

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