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Predictions for 2021

A new year is finally here and most of us can breathe easier knowing we survived 2020. It was a wild ride, with unforeseen events occurring almost every week. Last year I thought impeachment would be the biggest story. Oh, how wrong I was!

I thought it would be fun and interesting to write down some predictions for 2021, then, at the end of the year, go back and see if I was right. Some of these are based on what I actually think will happen, and some are just wild predictions.

I prefer to see 2021 as a winding down period for 2020, meaning that a lot of the crises that arose last year will be resolved this year.

COVID-19 – The vaccines that came out in December will become wildly available and Coronavirus will cease to be a major issue. Infections might still happen, but not nearly in the numbers they have been. In March, I thought predictions for COVID deaths in the hundreds of thousands was wildly pessimistic, but now I’m predicting a final U.S. death toll of at least 500,000. I hope I’m wrong.

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How (Not) to Lose an Election

Accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression have become annoying common, but it’s often the candidates themselves who are to blame for their own defeat. No one wins by crying foul. Running an effective campaign, not post-election litigation, is the key to victory.

April 2013, at an election night party at Murphys Pub in Rockford, Illinois, I approached an acquaintance to see how he fared in that day’s race. He ran for Harlem Township Supervisor, the latest in a series of offices for which he put his name on the ballot. He wanted so badly to get elected to public office.

That year, there was a debate in Machesney Park, located in the boundary of Harlem Township, whether or not to allow homeowners to keep chickens in their yards. Joe disagreed, in contrast to his Republican and Tea Party base. When the final vote was tallied that night, he lost by four votes: 2,045 to 2,049. He looked up at me through smeared Coke-bottle glasses, his eyes strained from staring at a laptop for hours, with a look of utter devastation on his face and gasped, “It was the chickens!”

No one likes to lose, especially when you pour your heart and soul into running for office. Candidates put their reputations, time, and often their personal finances on the line with no guarantee of success. I should know. In 2012, I ran in the Republican primary for county board and lost 43% to 57%. In 2013, I was the Republican candidate for Mayor of Rockford and received 18.32% in a three-way race.

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Even in Defeat, the Specter of Trump Haunts his Critics

With his presidency coming down to a matter of weeks, Trump’s refusal to admit defeat has unleashed vitriol the likes of which I’ve never seen before. His critics should be careful not to become the very thing they hate.

I don’t know what it is about President Donald Trump, but even in defeat, he retains the ability to drive his opponents insane. Over the past few years, I have heard a constant barrage of abuse heaped on Trump from just about everyone, and he’s given a healthy dose of it himself. You’d think, after all that time, after it became clear that he was only going to be president for another couple of months, his opponents would breathe a sigh of relief and take a break.

But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

Consider the case of Richard L. Eldredge and Damon Linker, two adult, college-educated men (I assume) who can form coherent arguments from complete sentences. In other words, they’re not banging out epithet-laden rants in all caps. However, when it comes to President Trump, these writers jettison all logic, rationality, and self-awareness.

Writing for The Week, Damon Linker argues that Trump is a “demonic force” literally equivalent to Satan (not literally, he says, but seriously). “Donald Trump is the demon in American democracy.” Why? Because this man who has come to define everything debauched and twisted in Linker’s mind didn’t just vanish from the White House when news outlets proclaimed Joe Biden the winner. It turned out Trump would still be president for two more months, and he continued to act like Trump has for the past four years.

Linker’s description of President Trump reaches Lovecraftian heights of hyperbole, calling him dangerous, narcissistic, satanic, chaotic, and even “a maestro conducting a cacophony of animosities.”

I have no idea what it’s like to be that obsessed with someone.

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The Following Illinois Counties Voted in Favor of Forming Their Own State

Earlier this week, I wrote about several counties in Illinois that approved by large margins a referendum to discuss the possibility of forming a new state excluding Cook County. I contacted New Illinois, the organization which I believed spearheaded this effort, and found out the referendum was actually the brainchild of a group called Illinois Separation.

Still, New Illinois Chairman G. H. Merritt graciously provided me with a list of Illinois counties that have voted on the referendum and the percentage and number of votes in favor and against (which I fact-checked). The issue has appeared on ballots for just two elections: the Illinois primary election in March 2020 and the general election that just took place on November 3rd.

In nearly every instance, the percentage in favor met or exceeded 70% (with one exception, Christian County, which voted 69% in favor). 80% of voters in Jasper County voted in favor of the referendum. Here is the list (percentages have been rounded up):

November 2020

County% Yes% NoYes VotesNo Votes
Bond72%28%5,6772,196
Christian69%31%6,8583,049
Clark73.8%26.2%6,0322,141
Cumberland77%23%4,4111,285
Edwards78%22%1,584452
Hancock76%24%4,7761,495
Jasper80%20%3,786925
Johnson73%27%4,5371,654
Lawrence74%25%4,5281,547
Marion71%29%11,8554,814
Massac70%30%4,5531,961
Moultrie70%30%4,6101,969
Pope71%29%1,469606
Pulaski73%27%4,5371,654
Richland74%26%5,7671,977
Shelby73%27%8,4703,189
Wabash78%22%4,2141,160
Wayne74%20%6,3091,671
White74%26%5,3151,851
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Multiple Illinois Counties Pass Advisory Referendum to Create a New State

Among the more interesting outcomes in the 2020 election was what took place in my home state of Illinois, where multiple counties voted overwhelmingly to explore seceding and forming a new state.

Several news outlets have inaccurately reported this as an effort to eject Chicago and Cook County from the State of Illinois. I’m not sure there’s even a legal mechanism to do so. However, there is a legal mechanism for several counties to vote form their own state, which must be approved by both the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.

If you read the text of the referendum, its intention is clear:

This text on the ballot in Shelby County, Illinois reads:

“Shall Shelby County collaborate in discussions with the remaining 101 Counties of the State of Illinois, with the exception of Cook County, about the possibility of forming a new state and ultimately seeking admission to the Federal Union as the 51st State, pursuant to the provisions of the United States Constitution?”

The text asks whether voters want to discuss with the remaining counties “the possibility of forming a new state…” and entering as the 51st State. It says nothing about removing Cook County from Illinois.

The proposition passed in Shelby County with 72.6% of the vote: 8,470 to 3,189, with over 80% voter turnout. Voters in Christian, Clay, Crawford, and Moultrie counties also voted overwhelmingly in favor.

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Trumpism Repudiated? Reflections on an Unfinished Election

Historic voter turnout, razor-thin margins in the swing states, protests, and legal battles foretell an escalation in our political conflict, not a new Democratic consensus.

A short, middle-aged woman wearing a star-studded, red cowboy hat greets us at the door. She’s happy and energetic, and wants to know if we were volunteers. “Yes?” I hesitantly reply, since I have volunteered in the past, but not that day, since I had to work. Election Day 2020 was not unlike a year ago, also unseasonably chilly for northern Virginia, when I stood near a polling place in the cold handing out election materials. Then, it was easy to predict which party would come out on top. Today, not so much.

The partygoers filling the small room at The Harbour Grille in Woodbridge, Virginia were dressed in an assortment of red and white attire with American-flag themed apparel. Some sported the ubiquitous red MAGA hats left-wing activists liken to KKK hoods. It reminded me more of sports fans on game day, and my wife and I suddenly felt out of place dressed in business casual. We found a seat close to the TV, which was tuned in to Fox News. Outside on the patio, a few diners watched the Occoquan’s dark waters flow slowly past.

Polls were scheduled to close at 7pm Eastern time in Virginia, along with Florida and Georgia, two states to watch closely. Turnout was projected to be unprecedentedly high. Nearly 9 million early votes were cast in Florida and more than 3 million in Georgia. Early voting in North Carolina nearly surpassed its total vote in 2016. Thanks largely to efforts to reduce in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 million people had already pre-voted by election day, 36.6 million shy of the total 2016 vote. If voter turnout exceeded 60 percent, it would be the first time in 52 years. 

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Could Trump Flip Illinois?

It probably won’t happen, but if it does, I want to be the first to call it. The election results right now in Illinois are very interesting. Republicans seem poised to flip at least one House district, with Jim Oberweis eeking out a win in the 14th. And Joe Biden’s comfortable lead in the presidential results might not be as secure as it seems. Let me explain.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Illinois by a comfortable margin–55.83% to 38.76%. Hillary got 3,090,729 total votes to Trump’s 2,146,015. This time, Trump is performing a lot better. As of this morning, he had 43% of the popular vote, with some downstate counties left unreported (the rural areas of Illinois are his strongholds). The four unreported counties are:

  • Alexander
  • Hardin
  • Wayne
  • Cumberland

Trump won three of the four by large margins in 2016.

Biden will win Cook County handily, of course, but with 98% of precincts counted, Trump is already doing better there than in 2016. In 2016, he got 453,287 votes in Cook County. This time, he has 456,943 and counting. His percentage in Cook County in 2020 (so far) is at 26.1 vs 21.02 in 2016 because Biden is underperforming.

Illinois and Pennsylvania are similar in population size. If there’s a chance Biden could close the gap and possibly win Pennsylvania, why not Trump in Illinois? It wasn’t that long ago that Illinois elected a Republican governor.

Joe Biden’s lead in Illinois right now is slightly smaller in terms of raw numbers than Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania (635,082 vs 675,012). If Trump can pick up votes in downstate counties, he might have a chance to close the gap in the Prairie State.