As a product of 1980s Democratic politics, I rarely believed that the Democrat was going to win. Four years ago, I canceled my Tuesday class. Traffic, I said, as I raced out of an Annenberg Panel at 5:05 p.m., pretending that Fox might need me (even though I had gotten fired for representing Roger Ailes). No traffic this time, but COVID-19 had me leaving the panel the second it ended. I never make predictions that my side will win. Except in 1992, when I knew all the math. The rest of the time, generally, I bet to lose. And most of the time, I'm right.
It's not because we have fielded the wrong candidates, objectionable outliers who did not fairly represent the party. Quite the contrary, we mostly ran liberals, the most liberal candidate who could make it through the primary with any chance at all of winning, until Bill Clinton came along and persuaded everybody that a guy who seemed liberal and talked conservative might be the ticket. And it was. He walked the walk; he just didn't talk the talk. It worked brilliantly for a while. And then Barack Obama was the most talented person I had yet to see run for political office, making his liberalism more acceptable.
The point is neither of these guys — the ones who won — won in landslides. The earliest I ever left Fox News on election night (I was the house liberal, an old friend of Roger's and his lawyer when he needed one) was way after midnight. In 1988, I talked myself blue in the face on national television before I uttered the words, "Congratulations, President Bush," at 11:03 p.m.
Al Gore graciously called George W. Bush to concede minutes after the Supreme Court issues its decision in Bush v. Gore.
The moment someone called this election, every lawyer in America on the endless phone banks kept by both parties was on high alert.
Literally, within seconds of the networks declining to call Nevada, I got my first, second and third emails from variations of the "Fight Fund" to support legal actions to block Donald Trump's efforts to "steal" the election. Seconds later, I saw nearly identical ads asking the president's lawyers to fight for Trump.
Both campaigns were telling me that they had thousands of lawyers waiting for their marching orders, and now, they just needed $25 from Trump and Biden people to enlist all the law firms whose clients they rewarded with billions of contracts.
But there is a very, very big difference from 2016.
We are all smarter: local officials, state officials, ballot counters and, yes, the Supreme Court.
It appears Biden won this election; the federal judiciary will not save Trump. After all, no president has sustained a more concerted assault on the judiciary in this country.
Was he really expecting a thank you?
Susan Estrich is lawyer and political commentator.