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Opinion: Trump’s losing, and liberals are upset?

President Trump speaks at the White House on Nov. 5.
In a statement critized even by some Republicans, President Trump blamed his impending election defeat on fraud by voters, election workers and technology companies.
(Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Before we take a look back at the week in Opinion, let’s talk about ...

Oh, to hell with the pithy introduction — President Trump appears likely to have lost! That’s a big deal! Arguably the most authoritarian American leader ever ran for reelection, and enough voters seem to have told him no. We passed an important stress test that other liberal societies failed when they acquiesced to a strongman’s wish to stay in power. That the president wants to overturn the election only exposes the lethality of the bullet our democracy looks like it just dodged.

This isn’t to say we’re in the clear. As op-ed columnist Nicholas Goldberg explained, given everything we know about Trump — his mismanagement of the pandemic, his refusal to accept the emotional burden of the deaths of 236,000 people, his dehumanization of immigrants, his persistent maladaptiveness — the fact that he was able to draw tens of millions of votes “is just mind-boggling” and does not bode well for the months and years ahead. The Times Editorial Board expressed similar discomfort with Trump’s less-than-demoralizing defeat and contemplated the implications of his “enduring support.”

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Look, I wanted to see Trump and his sycophantic enablers buried in a landslide as much as the next guy, but after the Obama years we have to learn to accept something less satisfying than a 2008-type realigning election. Globally, authoritarian leaders in seemingly healthy democracies have managed to retain power in free and fair elections, only to go on to make the next election a little less free and a little less fair. For all its faults, the United States appears to have bucked this trend and selected as its next leader someone whose defining characteristics were empathy and competence. This is a wonderful development.

Why aren’t Democrats dancing in the streets? My thinking aligns more with that of op-ed columnist Virginia Heffernan, who urges liberals to mute their inner self-critics and celebrate the achievement of their biggest goal: the likely election of Biden and Kamala Harris. The problem, according to Heffernan, is that liberals are natural movement joiners, eternally focused on lofty principles but blind to the realities on the ground. She repeats the advice of journalist Windsor Mann, a Republican who voted for Biden: “Spike the football. Gloat.” L.A. Times

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There is no “Latino voting bloc.” Get used to it. About of quarter of voters who identify as Latino supported Trump, according to exit polls, leading to howls of dismay among liberals over ... what exactly? That the president’s inhumane border policies should have pushed every Latino voter into the arms of Joe Biden? “That assumption isn’t just offensively reductive; it’s not a winning strategy,” says Mariel Garza. She writes: “Really, we have to go through this again, explaining that Latinos are a racially, culturally, socioeconomically diverse group of people with a wide range of hopes and dreams and political leanings and not a uniform voting bloc?” L.A. Times

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On that note, we have a new newsletter dedicated to the complexity of the Latinx experience. It’s called the Latinx Files, it’s free, it’s weekly, and I encourage you to sign up for it. Nearly half of Los Angeles County and a fifth of all Americans identify as Latino, and the experiences of this diverse group will play an important role in California’s future. The newsletter’s author is L.A. Times audience engagement editor Fidel Martinez, who each week will send to your inbox his original reporting combined with the best of the paper’s coverage of Latinx culture, politics, art and much more. L.A. Times

This was the worst week ever for COVID-19 in the United States, and it’s only getting worse. While you were compulsively refreshing your Twitter feeds for ballot updates, new coronavirus infections set a daily record on Wednesday, then a new one on Thursday, then a new one on Friday. With a president who refuses to take meaningful action and much of the country momentarily distracted by the nontrivial task of rescuing American democracy, the pandemic is bound to get worse in the U.S., writes Mariel Garza: “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news at the end of a difficult week, but it’s good not to lose sight of the fact that there’s something more dangerous than partisan politics lurking out there.” L.A. Times

If I told you that anticompetitive businesses successfully bought a law, where would you think this happened? In a post-Soviet oligarchy? It actually happened here in California, where voters probably just thought they were helping out their favorite Uber drivers by passing Proposition 22. What they were really doing was allowing money-losing, billionaire-backed companies rewrite a state employment law they didn’t like and permanently etching it into the books by making it amendable only by a seven-eighths legislative majority. As the New York Times’ Shira Ovide charitably put it, “Uber and Lyft Go Legit.” New York Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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