Air date: November 4, 2020
Well, Election Day may be over, but the ballot counting continues, with Joe Biden tentatively ahead in enough states to win the presidency and, as expected, the president and his allies are falsely declaring victory, lying to discredit the results, and trying to stop the count altogether. For more on this, it’s time for “A Closer Look.”
[Seth] We’re taping this at 5:00, so we can’t say what will happen as states continue counting ballots, and they should all be counted, but as we’re taping this, the president’s path to victory is narrowing. Wisconsin and Michigan have both been called for Biden and, as New York Times election analyst Nate Cohn noted, “Biden now leads in states worth 270 electoral votes–the number needed to win.” Or, as Trump put it, in his unhinged, middle-of-the-night complaint fest…
[President Trump] This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. [Cheering]
[President Trump] We have won Georgia. [Cheering and applause] We’re up by 2.5%, or 117,000 votes, with only 7% left. They’re never going to catch us. They can’t catch us. Likewise, we’ve clearly won North Carolina. [Cheering and applause] Where we’re up 1.4%. Or 77,000 votes, with only approximately 5% left. They can’t catch us.
[Seth] Alright, first of all, yeah, they can catch you, since you lumber like a retired Frankenstein looking for a golf ball in a sand trap. Second, no, you haven’t won those states. You might win some of them, once the counting is done, or you might lose them, but the counting isn’t done. For example, I don’t know what’s going to happen in Georgia, but, as we’re taping this, there are more votes to count in Democratic areas and that godforsaken New York Times needle has it tilting toward Biden. Spent all time staring at that thing and, every time it moved, it was like hearing a twig snap in a horror movie. I feel like that needle is a murder’s ice pick that I’m just trying to keep away from my eye.
It’s a big deal that Trump and Biden are even neck-and-neck in Georgia, and Trump knows that because, in the final days of the campaign, he was whining that he even had to campaign there at all.
[President Trump] I shouldn’t even be here. They say I have Georgia made.
[Seth] Wow, what are a shock you’re underperforming there. [As Trump] I shouldn’t even be in this backwater state, you swamp people. When my campaign manager told me we were going to Georgia, I said, “Georgia?! With those redneck yokels. Don’t those people eat rocks and drink gasoline?” Anyway, vote for me, if you can figure out how to sign your name on the ballot, you freaks.”
In fact, as we speak, Trump’s campaign is asking for a recount in Wisconsin and spent all night fighting with Fox News to withdraw their call for Biden in Arizona. And you know Trump’s in bad shape when he’s fighting with Fox News, an entire network dedicated to repeating everything he says. That’s like the Kardashians fighting with E! I’m told. [Laughter]
So, in those states, Trump wants to keep counting, but, in early states where early return had him up, like Pennsylvania, he’s trying to stop ballots from being counting and suggested he wanted the Supreme Court to help him steal it.
[President Trump] We’ll going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.
[Seth] You can’t just go to the Supreme Court and tell them to stop counting. That’s not a thing. Trump talks about it like he’s just going to walk down the street and knock on their door. [As Trump] Hello, is Brett there? We’re drinking beers with Tobin and Squee.
This is deeply dangerous authoritarian behavior and a major test for the national media. We have to resist this. Trump’s logic here is obvious. It’s grotesque. He wants to keep counting Trump votes, but stop counting Biden votes. If he had his way, he’d get to personally sift through every ballot and cross out Biden’s name. So, as of this taping, they’re still counting ballots. We’re still awaiting results, but, as we said, the path for Biden looks much better than the path for Trump, which is why Trump and his allies on Fox are going all out to falsely declare victory and discredit the results.
But, first, let’s retrace what happened last night and how we got here. If you were a Democrat or a sane person hoping for an early landslide, as we all know, that did not happen. In fact, Democrats’ hopes for an obvious, overwhelming result early in the night were quickly dashed in a state where Democrats’ hopes are always dashed, the state that has toyed with and tormented Democrats for years, the Loki of swing states… Florida. The state ping-ponged back and forth for a while, until it eventually became clear it would not go Biden’s way.
Welcome to the roller coaster that is Florida.
If you’re look at Florida right now, it’s a roller coaster.
Welcome back to the roller coaster. Joe Biden has pulled ahead by 7,784 votes in the state of Florida.
Trump just took the lead in Florida.
Again, this is going to be a roller coaster by 28,000 votes, right?
Palm Beach turned blue. It is red at the moment. It the has gone back and forth several times, in just the last 15 or 20 minute.
Let’s take a look at Florida as we go through it. Again, this one is always a roller coaster.
[Seth] Stop calling it a roller coaster. If you’re going to be on TV for 14 hours, learn like a second word to describe up and down. We know it’s a roller coaster. Every time, we look forward to it, then, we experience abject terror and we end up barfing in a trash can and say never again. And Florida isn’t one of those roller coasters at a legit theme park. It’s one of the weird, traveling carnivals where none of the rides have safety bars and the petting zoo animals are just two donkeys and a dog. [Gruffly] Don’t touch the dog.
Why is it that every election starts with Democrats getting hopeful about Florida and then getting burned? It’s the political equivalent of that kid from The Twilight Zone. We’re begging him not to send us to the cornfield and then, he smiles for a second and we breathe a sigh of relief and then, he points to us and sends us to the goddamn cornfield. And then, they are wandering around the cornfield, saying, “Nate Silver said this wouldn’t happen!” And then, Nate Silver says, “No, I said this probably wouldn’t happen.” And then we scream, “Not now, Nate! I’m corn!”
We were fold Biden had a 90% chance of winning, that the polling had been consistent for an entire year, that he was going to win by like eight points. The early returns felt like a put-on, like some sort of elaborate joke.
[CNN] Election night in America, brought to you by Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
[Seth] Damn it! He did it again. He’s so good. John King was Sasha Baron Cohen the whole time, wasn’t he? I should’ve guessed when he said Democrats were underperforming in the crucial Wisconsin county of Wawaweewa! [Laughter]
Suffice it to say election night was not fun. After one state, I was already deep into the whiskey and my stomach felt like Chernobyl. Who could possibly enjoy this?
[CNN Live] This is why elections are fun.
[Seth] Oh, right, people who are completely unaffected by the outcome. John King, I assure you, you were the only one having fun. That’s like hearing your surgeon lean over, right before putting you under, and saying, “This is why brain surgery is fun. Oh, whoa! I did not see that on the scan.”
Another thing to remember is that these anxiety-filled election nights are a completely unnecessary product of two things — cable TV and the electoral college. If we just had a national popular vote, like a sane country, we wouldn’t have to come up with all this complicated math to fend off unpopular fascist demagogues and we wouldn’t have to learn the names of all 254 counties in Texas where, somehow, there’s always more Trump votes left to come in. “As you can see here, Biden doing well in Stonefield County, but over here in Dinkington County, we’re expecting about 6 million more Trump votes, so, keep an eye on that.”
And, at some point, even the cable shows that thrive on this contrived drama ran out of stuff to say, leading to moments like this —
[CNN Live] You see a lot of red, but you see a lot of blue as well.
[Seth] Oh! Thanks, Wolf. Are you a news analyst or a tour guide at the Guggenheim? [As Blitzer] There’s a lot of red and also a lot of blue and over there is one neon light on a wall.
So last night did not start well for Democrats, but we should’ve expected that. We were told for weeks that’s what would happen, that, because of mail ballots, there would be a red-to-blue shift, that Republicans would look good early and then, Democrats would gain overnight, and, yet, we couldn’t heed our own advice. It’s like walking into a casino telling yourself you’re going to play one game of craps and then, an hour later, you’re trying to sell your watch to a parking valet for 10 more chips. This exact same thing happened in 2018, when Democrats ultimately beat Republicans by a record margin and won a huge majority. Remember how that night started? Democrats lost races in Florida and this is how everyone reacted.
[CNN Live] When you look at what’s going on here tonight, this is not a blue wave.
[NBC News] This is not a blue wave. It is not a blue wave.
[Fox Live] It’s nothing like a blue wave or a tidal wave. Right.
[CNN Live] It’s not a blue wave.
[NBC News] So we haven’t seen the blue wave. There is not a blue wave.
[Seth] Which, in retrospect, was wrong. It was a blue wave, with Democrats winning by a historic margin and a national repudiation of Trump and the GOP. Watching all that early punditry was like watching Jim Nantz call the game for the Jets after the first drive because they kicked a field goal. [As Nantz] Tony, I just don’t see how the Chiefs come back from this and I’m sorry. While I was talking, the Chiefs have scored 21 points.
Last night, early in the night, we all started to get that queasy feeling that it was 2016 all over again. I spent most of the night clenching so hard, I have six-pack abs now. And, in those moments, I will say, I was very happy that we weren’t doing a live show. It’s like no one wants to have a panic attack, but, if you’re going to, you prefer to have it alone in your apartment, instead of on the subway, in hush hour. But this morning, as millions of votes actually got counted, it’s starting to feel more like 2018. For one thing, Biden is on track to win a large popular vote victory, which would be the seventh time out of the last eight elections that the Democrat won the popular vote. And, yet, in our ridiculous, Rube Goldberg political system, that’s just a fun piece of trivia, instead of, you know, the deciding factor. The bottom line here is we need to count every vote and there are still mountains of mail ballots to count, which is what always happens. As we’ve been saying on this show for weeks, this is how it’s been since the nation’s founding. You think, 250 years ago, they stopped counting votes at 11:59 pm on election night? They probably didn’t even use clocks. Ben Franklin just looked at a candle in a jar, guessed that it was midnight, and then went back to sleep. Side note — here’s my impression of Ben Franklin from the “John Adams” miniseries. [As Franklin, posh accent] I concur with Mr. Adams. [Snoring] Tom Wilkinson, everybody, one of the greats. They did you dirty in Michael Clayton, T! Also, just to be clear — I know nothing about colonial times. I’m just assuming they didn’t use clocks. Don’t correct me. This is “A Closer Look.” It’s not school.
Anyway, the people claiming now that counting votes the morning after an election is somehow a scandal are just bad faith, soulless ghouls. They all claim to be traditionalists or originalists, or whatever ridiculous euphemism they want to use for being anti-Democratic reactionaries. When the Constitution was written, it took weeks to count all the ballots. That’s why the electoral college meets in December and the inauguration was originally in March. Hell, it probably took weeks just to fill out the ballot because you had to use a quill and inkwell. On the other hand, the calligraphy was beautiful. Again, I know nothing about colonial times, except what I learned from John Adams, which holds up. Highly recommend. If you want to call yourself a traditionalist or an originalist, or whatever the hell Republicans call themselves, then you have to own that, but when the rubber his the road they all abandon their supposed originalism and scream about how every vote needs to be counted instantaneously. Trump did this for weeks, including just this weekend.
[President Trump] I think it’s a terrible thing, when people or states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over. And I think it’s terrible when we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election, in a modern-day age of computer.
[Seth] A big tell that someone is in their 70s is when they say something like, “a modern-day age of computer.” You don’t have to say that. We all use computers. They’re everywhere. They have been for decades. That’s like saying — [As Trump] We should know the outcome on election night. After all, it is the age of the automobile! What do computers have to do anything? They’re mail-In ballots. We’re not voting online. This is a presidential election, not a BuzzFeed quiz. You don’t send in your ballot, then get a letter in the mail that says, “Congratulations, you’re a Samantha.” This argument is bewildering in its stupidity and insanity and we can’t forgot that. It’s important to remember. They’re literally just counting ballots. That’s it. The ballots didn’t magically appear. Trump has his way of making very normal, everyday things sound like nefarious conspiracies, until you take three seconds to think about it. You just have to take the psychotic stuff he says and sub in normal human details to see how crazy they are. Take this tweet, which, by the way, was censored by Twitter because it’s a deranged lie.
[Seth] They’re not surprise ballot dumps, Algernon. They were always there. They’re just getting counted now. Trump’s like a guy who loses at poker night, whining — [As Trump] After the first hand, I was leading, often solidly, in many key categories. Then, one by one, my chips started to magically disappear as I went all-in on a Jack high and a surprise pair of fives was counted. Very strange. Honestly, I’m at a loss at how to explain this any more succinctly to these people. I mean, what else can you say? They’re counting ballots. That’s it. It’s so straightforward. This is like trying to teach an infant how to say their first word. At some point, all you can do is just point and say it over and over again, until they get it. Banana! Banana! Come on, man, how much easier can I make it for you? But Trump and Fox News have been priming their audience with these lies for weeks and, now, the moment is here and they’re taking the outrageous and unprecedented step of falsely declaring victory before all the votes are counted and insisting that any votes that come in for their opponent are somehow fraudulent. It’s an authoritarian movement intent on detonating our democracy and turning it into an autocracy, with a healthy sprinkling of psychosis. I mean, listen to this explanation from the president of the United States last night, as to why he falsely thinks normal, routine ballot-counting is somehow rigged against him.
[President Trump] We were getting ready for a big celebration. -Oh, yeah. -Yeah! -We were winning everything and, all of a sudden, it was just called off. We won states and, all of a sudden, I said, “What happened to the election? It’s off.” And we all these announcers saying, “What happened?” And then, they said, “Oh…”
[Seth] Why does Trump always sound like he’s describing a dream to a therapist? [As Trump] We were getting ready, you know, for like a big celebration and then, all of a sudden, it was called off. And I was naked in a room full of Easter bunnies, so I don’t know. Seriously, it’s incoherent, it’s insane. And I know we say that a lot, but especially on this day, of all days, we can’t lose sight of that. This is all just bewildering in its insanity. Like let’s go back to this.
[President Trump] I said, “What happened to the election? It’s off.” And we have all these announcers saying, “What happened?” And then, they said, “Oh…”
[Seth] What are you saying? I hear individual words that I recognize, but the sentence structure is gibberish. You sound like me, trying to give directions in Times Square to a French tourist. [French accent] Uh, ooh, where la boutique de M&M’s? Uh, ooh. Uh — [Speaking French] Septième Avenue uh, eh uh, uh, si tu vois Crevette de Bubba Gump [Laughter] to eh, uh… Gone too far.
Sure enough, Fox News picked up on Trump’s line of bullshit. As soon as he ended his speech, moments after they cut away from Trump, ex-Bush hack Dana Perino, who served as press secretary during one of the most disastrous and catastrophic stretches in recent American history before, you know, the next Republican president, had this to say about Trump’s speech.
[Fox News] Dana, but he was also saying, “We don’t want them to find votes in Pittsburgh or any other part of Pennsylvania.”
[Dana Perino] Yeah. All of a sudden, you’re going to find 100,000 votes that just happened to be in some trash can behind — I think that’s what he was talking about.
[Seth] You ghouls love your evidence- free musings, don’t you? That doesn’t belong in the news. That belongs in a PennySaver column called… There’s literally no proof for what you’re saying. These people are so insane, they think election officials are finding ballots the way George Costanza found that eclair. [As Costanza] It’s a good ballot, Jerry! It was above the rim! [Laughter] Then, this morning, Fox News went to work, trying to sustain the deranged conspiracy theory that just counting votes mean magically finding votes because they can’t do basic math.
[Fox News] This thing is down to the wire and it’ll be Biden who has to come back to try to grab it.
[Fox News] The president is up nearly 700,000 votes in Pennsylvania! You can’t statistically go back and tell me that that thing is still really in play. How are they going to go get 700,000 additional votes? I just don’t think it’s going to happen.
[Fox News] One of the things that would be a tragedy in Pennsylvania — Philadelphia was the birthplace of liberty and, if a lot of these votes, you know, sort of suddenly get found and they get counted days after the election, it would be a real shame if Philadelphia became the place where liberty also died.
[Seth] Counting votes is not finding votes. They’re not scanning the beach with a metal detector. This isn’t a scavenger hunt. “Oh, look, I found a ballot, a bird’s nest, and a toy car. Now, all we need is an autographed headshot of Steve Guttenberg, and we won the election.” Again, they are all valid ballots that are just getting counted the way we always count ballots, days or weeks after an election. This always happens. And you, of all people, should know that, Mike Huckabee, since, the last time you ran for something in 2016, you came in ninth in the Iowa caucuses. You did worse than John Kasich, who I’m pretty sure sells reverse mortgages now; and Carly Fiorina, who is so unpopular, she literally disappeared at a campaign event. [Laughter] One of our favorites. I hope she’s okay. It’s been four years. We probably should’ve checked. [Laughter]
And, in case you’re confused at all by that extremely dumb math you just heard, here’s an actual smart person explaining early this morning why Pennsylvania was definitely not in Trump’s column yet.
[Steve Kornacki on MSNBC] The big picture in Pennsylvania, we think there are upward of 2 million ballots that have not yet been counted and that are not a part of this tally. Donald Trump’s lead, right now, in what has been tabulated, is sitting at a little bit less than 700,000. Again, nearly 2 million to come and they are disproportionately — Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montgomery County — Democratic areas.
[Seth] God bless Steve Kornacki. I don’t think he was off camera once last night. They even had a Kornacki mini cam in the corner of the screen when someone else was talking, like he was a panda at the National Zoo. Kornacki’s the new picture-in-picture. When you’re watching Thursday Night Football this week, he’ll be in the corner, counting votes in Mecklenburg County.
And, yet, Trump and Fox News have spent months priming their audiences for the blatant attempt to steal the election and call a Biden victory fraudulent. We knew it was going to happen and, now, it’s here. Fox News kept putting liars on their air, like a supposed GOP pollster who falsely claimed nonexistent voter fraud was just baked into the system in Pennsylvania and Fox’s supposed news anchors — not just their opinion hosts — actually took him seriously.
[Robert Cahaly on Fox News] The way I look at Pennsylvania is, unfortunately, I think he’s got to win by four or five to overtake the voter fraud that’ll happen there. It’s very systematic in Pennsylvania. I think it’s achievable to get to four or five, but I think that’s the kind of margin he needs to have in Pennsylvania to survive.
[Sean Hannity] You’re not predicting that. You’re basically saying that he will win, but they’ll steal it? [Laughing] Is that what you’re predicting?
[Robert Cahaly] I’m saying he better win by 4% or 5% to make sure he actually gets the victory there. I think that’s the margin he’d need to avoid what they will systematically do.
[Martha MacCallum] It’s anticipatory to say that there’s going to be cheating, when we haven’t seen it happen yet. Why are you so confident of that?
[Robert Cahaly] Well, first of [Chuckling] all, Pennsylvania has a long history of this, especially in the Philadelphia area.
[Seth] First of all, I didn’t know Colonel Sanders had a son. [Southern accent] We’re projecting a lead of 11 herbs and spices for the president on election night. If you don’t believe me, just ask my droopy bowtie. Second, no, there is no history of this blatant lie you’re repeating on national cable TV and why are Fox’s supposed news anchors taking this guy seriously? Is it possible they’re not actually news anchors, but party hacks hired to do Trump’s bidding? Or, to put it in Trump-speak — if you turn on on Fox News, you have all these professional liars…
[President Trump] Saying, “What happened?” And then, they said, “Oh…”
[Seth] In fact, the Republicans are the ones responsible for the delays in ballot counting they’re now complaining about. We could’ve started counting all these early mail ballots in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania before Election Day, but Republicans refused.
[CNN Live] You may be thinking, “Why are we still waiting to hear from Michigan and why are they still counting our ballots?” Well, for about 18 months, the election clerks throughout the state of Michigan and I called on our state legislature to update our laws to provide time for pre-processing of ballots that were on par with many other states, like our neighbors in Ohio, who were able to count the vast majority of their ballots yesterday. Now, our state legislature chose not to make that change to our laws.
[Seth] Yeah! They’re the ones who said no to counting mail ballots before Election Day and, now, they’re the ones claiming a delay in counting mail ballots is somehow suspicious. That’s the con they’re running. It reminds me of that classic Supreme Court case… It will take time to fully process the results of this election, and that’s normal and routine and that’s how it should work. Every ballot must be counted and we can’t let Trump cheat or discredit those ballots. Moreover, Biden appears to have won a sizable popular vote victory over Trump, who’s running behind many down-ballot Republicans. Will the Democrats have some soul searching to do? Sure. But was Trump repudiated last night? We’re still awaiting final results, but it’s very much looking like that’s what happened. If Trump had any self-awareness at all, he’d look at the state he’s left the country in and say…
[President Trump] I shouldn’t even be here.
This has been “A Closer Look.”
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