Sitting down with LJCDS student Ricardo Cervera and hearing his thoughts on the election

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Varun Singh, Staff Writer

This year’s general election proved to be an extremely close one. If the current results hold, President Trump will finish his four years in the White House on January 20th, and president-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. I had a chance to interview a current member of the LJCDS student body, Ricardo Cervera, who is fairly knowledgeable in the electoral process. He gave me his take on the candidates and their policies both before and after the results of the 2020 election.

Pre-election questions:

1. What was your prediction for the election? Why?

What’s different about this year, as opposed to 2016, is that you have Donald Trump coming in as an incumbent, not as an outsider who’s exciting people.– this time he has a four-year record. What I did was analyze the correlation between incumbent approval ratings and how they do in their elections. You do see that the higher the approval, the better they do in the election. Also, my model was based on the popular vote, not the electoral vote. When I applied the correlation, it gave me that Trump is going to take 41 percent of the popular vote and Biden should take around 48 percent of the popular vote.

2. How might the candidate’s different styles of campaigning have played a significant role on election night?

I think Joe Biden, in a large way, kept his strategy of letting Donald Trump shoot himself in the foot. That’s why you weren’t seeing as many Biden appearances because Biden’s strategy was that he’d be out there talking to the people, but I’ll let Trump take the national stage and let him shoot himself in the foot. I think that Trump being on the national stage, holding large rallies, may be seen as grossly irresponsible by some people. But I also think that’s been great for him in a way because it excites his base and brings people out. Similarly, I think it also excites those who are against Trump, because when they see the President on stage holding a rally and campaigning, it motivates them to vote against him. It’s the rallying of the Anti-Trump Movement by President Trump which is really fueling Biden’s candidacy. As a result, I believe that Trump’s campaigning has been beneficial to him in exciting his base, but also detrimental by rallying together his opposition.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mike McCarn

3. How might the market or stock holders react to different outcomes of this election? How might different industries be affected?

I think the market is in a really interesting spot right now. We have been seeing over the past couple of weeks the rise of uncertainty in the market: The Dow sell-offs, and then massive buys. So we’re seeing fluctuations and volatility before the election, and that’s normal. However, we’re also seeing a resurgence of COVID world wide, not only in the U.S. but also Europe, and that’s really gotten to investors. Because Biden had such a clear lead, the market had already priced in a Biden victory. I think the market will fluctuate more if Trump wins, because that will be the unexpected and based on 2016 it doesn’t appear like it’s going to be a negative reaction. The other part of looking at the market after the election is that you don’t know where COVID is going to be at that point. Especially, again, internationally. The last thing that would have to factor is the possibility of a mess after the election. Let’s say there’s no clear winner, there’s no big margin, sort of what you had in 2000 with Gore and Bush. But in this case, it’d be with a man who has repeated over and over again that he will not let go of power easily. If you get a rise of that uncertainty, in the middle of a public health crisis, and in the most powerful country in the world, then you could see high levels of volatility and possible market sell-offs, due to a lack of investor confidence.

4. What do you think about the current Democratic Party’s nominee and his initiative to move away from coal and fossil fuel industries and turn to more renewable sources of energy production? What would be the Pros and Cons of this move? How might different groups be affected?

I think it’s important to understand that the new jobs that came about as a result of technology weren’t given to the people working in factories who lost their jobs due to automation. I think this’ll be the same case with energy. The new jobs that will come as a result of the rise of renewable energy–which there will be a lot: engineers, designers–they won’t necessarily go to the coal miner. That’s the real concern that, yes new jobs will be created and we’re working to long term prosperity, but the problem is that the coal miner is worrying about tomorrow. And I think that’s a valid concern.

Post-election reactions:

1. Do we know who won tonight, or is that not clear yet? 

I think based on the information we have it’s really clear that Joe Biden won the election. The counts indicate that and there have been recounts in certain states with the same conclusion, so there really is no question that the winner of this election was Joe Biden, regardless of numerous allegations. In my opinion, all these allegations are baseless, and it’s clear, due to all the counts coming in, the certifications states have been doing, that Joe Biden won this election based on how the people voted. We still have to see what the electoral college decides; historically it’s always gone with what happens with the actual votes. But Joe Biden won this election on November 3rd.

2. No matter who wins, did you think this election would be this close?

I did not. I think, going into the election, we were in a really interesting spot. This was an election with an incumbent, a current seated president running for re-election. We really haven’t had that many elections with incumbents. We had Jimmy Carter in 1980, Reagan in ‘84, then Bush in ‘92, Clinton in ‘96, Bush again in ‘04, and then Obama in 2012. These are the elections we’ve had with an incumbent dating back to the Mcgovern-Fraser Reforms. What’s really interesting about that is, going into this election, Donald Trump had a horrible economy. The economy was hard hit by Covid, the unemployment rate hit 8%. We also saw Donald Trump going into an election season with low approval ratings, and this was before COVID. And as the pandemic ensued, his approval ratings took an even lower dip. And looking at this, we have never seen an incumbent–or even the party of the incumbent–perform so well [in an election] under such poor economic conditions plus such poor approval ratings. Just think back to John McCain (2008). His performance was horrible and that was in large part because the then current president, George W. Bush (Who was a Republican like McCain), had a horrible economy and his approval ratings were pretty bad. On the other hand, think back to Reagan in 1984. He had a booming economy and phenomenal approval rating and won two terms. So based on the approval rating Trump had and where the economy was, it’s really surprising that it was this close.

3. What states ended up being most important? If some had gone another way, would the result have been different?

Prior to the election we knew the “Blue Wall”(Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania), what Trump flipped in 2016, was going to be key. Biden won Michigan and Wisconsin, and they were considered all that he needed. But he also won Pennsylvania, and so the states that we knew were key put Biden over the top. Another two states that were really interesting during the election were Arizona, and Georgia. Going into the election there were a few states that both Democrats and Republicans were looking at. They were looking at Florida, which held Republican, and that was good news early on in the night for Trump. Democrats were looking at Arizona and Georgia, and were trying to see if they could flip these red states, which would give them an electoral advantage for future elections. And they were able to, and I think that was really impressive for the Democratic side. The fact that they were able to flip Georgia, in the deep South, and also flip Arizona for the first time since 1996 was a big win for the Democrats. Although those two states weren’t necessarily key to the outcome, because Biden would have very well won with just Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, they still say a lot about the change in demographic and where elections will be going toward in future years.

4. What were the results of these senate races? What were some of the most key states?

Yes, so the Republicans actually performed really well in the Congressional Races. The House of Representatives is going to stay Democratic. We knew that going in, that it was very unlikely that the Republicans would be able to flip The House. However, it looks like the Democrats will end up net-losing seats in The House, and that’s a great showing by the Republicans. Nancy Pelosi, or some other Democrat, will remain Speaker of the House, but there was a closing of the gap by the Republicans. However, the Senate was the question going into the general elections. And as of now, the Republicans did really well there. Senator Susan Collins was able to hold Maine, and that was huge. For the Democrats, however, Mark Kelly was able to win in Arizona and now the historically red state has two Democratic senators along with turning blue for Biden. As of right now though, the count in the senate is 48-50 [Favoring Republicans]. There’s possibility for a Democratic majority, but they would need two votes to make it even at a 50-50 split, and then the tie-breaker from vice-president elect Kamala Harris. And so the Democrats need two seats to keep from a Republicans majority, and the Republicans need at least one seat to have a 49-51 majority in the senate. [The only two senate races left are in Georgia] And what’s going to happen, because of Georgia election law, is that because in each of the state’s two senate elections no candidate got to 50% of the vote, there’s going to be a run-off. So there’s two Senate seats up for grabs for Georgia in two run-off elections, and that’s going to decide control of the Senate. It looks likely that the Republicans will take both seats, and that means that Mitch McConnell would remain the Senate Majority Leader, and that the Republicans would remain the majority in the senate. I don’t think the Democrats will pick up both seats. But again, we never know. The Democrats will campaign hard, and we’ll also see what President Trump does over the next couple of months, and see his impact on those races.

Photo credit: Above, 2020 Getty Images of Democrats John Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. Below, Jonathan Ernst/Reuters of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

5. How do you think the rest of this process is going to play out?

Yeah, that’s a great question. Especially considering that Donald Trump is still the president. We don’t know what he’s going to do. Immediately after the election he stayed out of the public eye for a week. His allegations of campaign fraud to the media weren’t getting any attraction in an effort to be cautious about mis-information. And so I think Donald Trump realized that, and decided it was better to just stay away [from the media]. I think he’s going to continue to go off that narrative and say he won. He’ll continue to bring legal challenges, although I think it’s extremely unlikely that any of these challenges will largely succeed. I know the courts of the United States can sometimes have their flaws, but I think the institution of the court is strong enough and independent enough that these legal challenges will get shut down. At the end of the day, I think he’s [Trump] going to make a controversy of it. But I think the U.S. institution of a peaceful transition of power, although it might be damaged by this, is strong enough and carries the history of the past 200 years to allow a presidential transition. I think Republicans in Congress would accept this and embrace the transition of power. Because they’re expecting that, eventually, they’ll have a Republican president-elect and they’d want a peaceful transition when that happens. I think Joe Biden is going to be sitting in the Oval Office on January 20th, because institutions in America are strong enough for that to happen.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

6. Do you think different methods of voting (mail-in, in-person ballots) had a significant effect on the outcome? Do you think access to voting was handled well, keeping in mind that we are in the middle of a pandemic?

Yeah, so did different methods of voting have an impact? I think they did. How large the impact was is unknown. Studies have found that greater mail-in ballots, greater early voting, tends to favor the Democrats. And we saw that just by looking at what percentage of mail-in ballots were Democratic. There is a small advantage, it’s not a big one, and I don’t think it necessarily flipped the election. However when more people vote, marginalized voters tend to be Democratic. Especially with a Republican candidate like Donald Trump who’s extremely reliant on his base. He doesn’t really reach out to those independents. However, having said that, 70 million Americans still voted for Donald Trump, so it does speak to the fact that Donald Trump can try to play the turn-out game effectively. What impact did it have at the end of the day? I think that’s still a big question. Since we’ve only had one election conducted like this, with such a large amount of early and absentee voting, it means we do not have the data to know.

  7. Do you think the increase of mail-in voting increased access to vote for certain communities (marginalized communities, minorities) that tend to be Democratic and increase the blue vote?

I think so, but this in no way means there wasn’t any voter suppression or an attempt to keep minorities from voting, because that still happens in the U.S. The fact that we’re sending out ballots does not mean we’re done with voter suppression. But, having said that, looking at the turnout of this election [the largest we’ve seen in a century] and at our current situation with the pandemic, you’d expect turnout to decrease. But no, it significantly increased and it blew 2016 turnout out of the water. And so I think considering all that, that access to voting was handled pretty well. It was handled in some states better than others. [For Example,] there were a lot more incidents in Texas, while in California there were less incidents regarding access to voting. Overall though, the different varieties of voting provided more access to voting for more marginalized communities, especially in times of pandemic. I think the fact that we got the turnout we did in a pandemic year is enough to show us that there was greater access for this election.

8. Do you think there’s anything people should know concerning the integrity of this election and certain claims of election fraud? Why?

There’s always the possibility that you have two or three fraudulent ballots, in fact there’s been proof of fraud in previous elections. If that’s the case, the question becomes: is that enough fraud to change the result of the election? And for that question the answer is clearly no. The fact that there might be a couple ballots out there that could be fraudulent or maybe they bent the rules in some way does not mean that there’s an off balance to [for example] flip Pennsylvania or flip Nevada. I would consider it very unlikely that every single ballot out there was counted legitimately. The thing is, there’s nowhere close to enough ballots out there for the [amount of] fraudulent ballots to tip the scales of the election.

Well that’s all the questions I have for you, thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?

No, I think that really covers it. We’ll see where the senate heads. If it stays Republican I think we’re going to have a really moderate, deadlocked government until the next mid-term. The markets have been encouraged by the fact that we might have one of those deadlocked governments, but we’ll see. If the senate goes red, you aren’t going to see this blue wave push of agenda that a lot of people might be worried about. If the senate goes blue, Biden is going to have significantly more liberty to do what he wants and you’re going to see a lot more policy come out of the White House and getting approved by Congress. So we’ll see how that goes and then only time will tell how the Biden White House will navigate the waters of Washington D.C. and Capitol Hill.

Cover image photo credit: BBC