The 2020 election isn't over yet, but why should that stop the post mortems?

Even as we wait for the final election result, hot takes for Democrats abound.
Image: Crosses, scribbles and tick marks over an black and yellow image of Joe Biden at the podium with a circle of stars around him.
The lessons of 2020 for Democrats are clear: Do fewer bad things and more smart things. Hopefully that helps.Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

After what has felt like several lifetimes of lead-up, Election Day 2020 has now come and gone. The votes are being tallied, and at least we can say with certainty that an election has, indeed, happened — but not much more than that.

Do these facts contradict each other? Absolutely. But — isn’t America, in a way, the biggest contradiction of them all?

Democrats, being the stalwart and pragmatic folks that they are, have spent the last three days vacillating between feeling certain the election has been a complete and utter failure, and holding on to fleeting shreds of hope. In this time of jubilation and/or utter despair, heaps of wisdom and sage advice for the Democratic Party has begun to pour in based on the votes cast, counties won, and — most importantly — fear that the data will never fully shift in their favor.

As we wait, it seems like a good time to aggregate some of those takeaways that have been gleaned from the 2020 election process so far. Is it too soon to make any solid judgements about the results of an election that hasn’t been fully decided? Yes. Do these facts contradict each other? Absolutely. But — isn’t America, in a way, the biggest contradiction of them all?

I figured we could use some satire and irony to help process the slowly unfolding developments of this election. And so, here are the nine most important takeaways from the defining event of the year, according to me.

1. Black voters turned out overwhelmingly for Biden and show the deep bond between Democrats and the black community

Biden went all-in on the Black vote in South Carolina in the Democratic primaries in the first step to winning the nomination. It likewise looks like Black voters, especially Black women, will have propelled him to the White House if he wins, thanks to massive shows of support in major cities like Detroit and Atlanta. Black turnout didn’t quite reach the levels it did when former president Barack Obama was on the ticket, but it definitely beat out the numbers that went to the ballot box for Hillary Clinton in 2016. With Sen. Kamala Harris on course to be the first Black woman to be vice president, it’s clear that Biden can rest easy knowing that the Black community is on his side forever and nothing can change that — ever.

2. Trump doing better with minorities than in 2016 shows that minorities are abandoning Democrats

Yes, Trump is a known racist. But NBC News’ poll of early and Election Day voters showed that 80 percent of Black men supported Joe Biden this time around, compared to 82 percent who went for Hillary Clinton four years ago. He worked hard to get Black luminaries like Ice Cube and Lil Wayne in his corner and it appears that those efforts paid off. And in Texas and Florida, Trump did way better with Latino voters — who should totally be grouped together as a uniform voting bloc — than expected. That shows that Democrats should go into overdrive trying to win back these voters — or give up the idea of ever winning 100 percent of a demographic — one of the two.

3. A Biden win will be because of white voters leaving Trump, so he should ignore the left wing of the party

Trump slipped hard with white voters this time around, especially members of the working class and people living in conservative suburbs, as Politico Magazine’s Tim Alberta wrote in a recent article. Biden appealed to them enough to pull off a win in crucial Wisconsin by just 20,000 votes, according to NBC News’ latest tally. Democrats can’t afford to let that demographic slip away again, and Biden should tailor his policies to keeping their votes locked in for 2024. That includes working closely with conservatives in the Senate and the very canny plan to include Republicans in any potential Biden cabinet.

4. A Biden win will be because of progressive turnout and he should swing to the left in response

Biden absolutely needed to win a string of states in the Midwest for a shot at victory, including Michigan and Minnesota. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar unquestionably delivered those states for Biden, running up the score in their districts. Tlaib, who represents Detroit, beat her Republican challenger by about 200,000 votes. And Omar did the same in Minneapolis, pulling in more than 150,000 more votes than her opponent. If these two overtly progressive members of The Squad can win big, so can Democrats around the country, even in deeply conservative areas. Biden should definitely govern with them in mind and go big on projects like the Green New Deal.

Democrats have spent the last decade and a half leaning heavily on the fact that they’re not racist bigots, but that may be off-putting to some of the voters they clearly need.

5. Democrats shouldn’t focus so much on identity politics over economics

Democrats have spent the last decade and a half leaning heavily on the fact that they’re not racist bigots, but that may be off-putting to some of the voters they clearly need. In some analyses, the decision to focus on things like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights distracted from any effective economic message. Claire McCaskill, former senator from Missouri, said in an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday that the GOP had “adroitly” chosen cultural issues as their main focus:

"As we circled those issues, we left voters behind and Republicans dove in with a vengeance and grabbed those voters. I’ve seen it in the South, I’ve seen it in the rural areas of my state. We’ve got to the meat and potatoes issues, we’ve got to get back to the issues where we’re taking care of their families."

(McCaskill apologized via Twitter on Wednesday for her word choices during that segment, including referring to “transsexuals.”) But failing to completely crush the GOP in the middle of an economic crisis clearly shows that that Democrats aren’t highlighting economic policies that would make inroads to working-class voters. Constant screaming into a metaphorical megaphone about big-budget investment in the American people, following the model of the New Deal, is exactly what the Democrats need.

6. House Democrats lost seats because of "socialism"

Thursday’s call between members of the House Democratic Caucus was … rough. In what was supposed to be a blowout year, Democrats actually seem on track to lose as many as a dozen seats in the lower chamber, keeping the majority but by a smaller margin.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger reportedly implored her colleagues to stop talking about socialism and called the House’s strategy a “failure.” (She also reportedly said that if they ran the same strategy in 2022, Democrats will be “f---ing torn apart again.”) Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell agreed. She lost her seat after her opponent called her a socialist, dragging her down among Cuban and Venezuelan voters despite her denunciations of Communism.

Democrats need to move wholeheartedly away from leftist policies and big spending if they want a chance of holding onto the House in 2022.

7. Moderate Democrats lost seats because they didn’t stand for anything

Many of the House Democrats who lost their seats did so in districts where they ran as solid moderates, barely distinguishing themselves from their opponent. Both Rep. Kendra Horn and her challenger, state senator Stephanie Bice, played up their moderate credentials in the race to represent Oklahoma City’s congressional district. Bice won her primary by noting that she was more moderate than her opponents, before attacking Horn as not being an independent voice in Congress.

Horn, as The New York Times wrote, “had also upheld her moderate credentials and her willingness to break with her party, including rejecting Democratic stimulus proposals for being too costly and partisan.” In the end, Horn lost after winning the seat in 2018, leaving Democrats with no representatives from the state once again. Democrats can’t lean on centrism if they hope to win races in the 2022 midterms.

Democrats can’t lean on centrism if they hope to win races in the 2022 midterms.

8. Moderate Democrats won their seats because they were national security focused

National Journalist columnist Josh Kraushaar pointed out on Twitter that Democratic congresswomen with national security backgrounds outperformed the rest of their counterparts. Moderates like Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin, New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill, and Virginia’s Spanberger serve as a “model” for the Democratic Party going forward, Kraushaar noted.

Sure, Slotkin went out and campaigned in her district and championed health care and held socially distant events unlike some of her counterparts, but that CIA service? I mean, it had to do something good there, right? Democrats clearly need to focus more on getting women who were in the security services to run for office.

9. Senate Democrats didn’t win the majority because they didn’t run the right candidates

Democrats were supposed to be cruising toward January with control of the Senate returned for the first time since 2014. Instead, they’re left hoping that two seats in Georgia go to a run-off that maybe, maybe gets them to 50 members in the 117th Congress. Clearly, this has more to do with the candidates that the Democrats ran than any deficiency in the structure of the Senate itself.

That includes Amy McGrath, who lost in her race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Because everyone knows that a moderate woman who’s a former Air Force pilot isn’t going to fly in that state. The same is true in Montana, where Sen. Steve Daines kept his seat: Why would you expect a popular governor with moderate policies to do well against an incumbent Republican who most people outside the state would need a name tag to identify? This failing is clearly on the shoulders of the candidates themselves — the Senate .

As you can see, the path for Democrats moving forward is clear: They need to stop doing bad things during elections and start doing smart things. With an abundance of discordant lessons like the above, how could the Democrats possible go astray? Onward to 2024!