Hey, at Least Trump Lost!

The best news came last in the longest election ever

Austinites celebrating Biden's victory near the Capitol on Saturday (Photo by Jana Birchum)

When last we spoke about the election, we were all dazed at the then-tentative outcome. A week later, that tender green shoot on last week's cover looks a bit less fragile, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will definitely be evicting the current occupants of the White House. Right now, the president and his GOP allies are making a great deal of noise, without evidence, of a fraudulent election and an illegitimate Biden presidency. No doubt, some of them will believe this for the next four years; the question now is how influential that cadre will be on Republican legislative leaders in D.C. and here in Austin.

Though spirits were high, street demonstrations in Austin did not escalate, as instead 11th and Congress were each taken over by cruising cars and honking horns.

On Saturday, when Biden's lead in Penn­sylvania widened to more than 0.5% (a little more than 30,000 votes) and the networks called the race, the angry Trump supporters were the first to show up Downtown, originally filling the street at 11th and Congress with their "Stop the Steal" rally before Austin police (some in riot gear) politely cleared the intersection. Thus was established a neutral zone, with MAGA on the north side of 11th (in front of the Capitol) and on the southwest corner by the Governor's Mansion. (The governor himself did not appear.) On the opposite side of Congress, and increasingly south toward Sixth, were the Biden supporters.

Though spirits were high, the street demonstrations did not escalate, as instead 11th Street and Congress were each taken over by cruising cars and honking horns. The Trump side, including (of course) InfoWars provocateur Alex Jones – who must have rushed back from his appearance in front of the Phoenix vote count the night before – dominated the east-west route with big trucks and big flags and pre-positioned sign-holders: "Women for Trump," "Latinos for Trump," and in a statement whose irony was lost on its maker, "Minorities for Trump." On the other side, "F*ck Trump" was both seen and heard, including from children, but the dominant vibe was one of relief.

So what happens now? All eyes will be on Georgia's twin U.S. Senate run-offs in early January, which could dethrone Mitch McCon­nell as Senate majority leader if the Democrats win both, which will be a tall order but not impossible. Locally, we have run-offs for two City Council seats – Districts 6 and 10, which have elected Republicans in the past and which will decide in December whether to elect them again or stick with the progressive incumbents.

We also will have Austin ISD trustee run-offs, in District 5 on the west side (which overlaps some with Council D10) as well as districtwide for the At-Large Place 8 seat. Neither has an incumbent, but each has a candidate who's worked more closely with district administration – on the committee behind the $1 billion 2017 bond program – opposing one who's been endorsed by the teachers' union. We've got in-depth looks at both the city and AISD run-offs in the following pages.

We will not, sadly and perhaps a bit surprisingly, have a Democratic state House, and we appear to already have a new Repub­lican speaker – Dade Phelan of Beaumont, who drew support from both the left and right of his House GOP caucus, as well as from some Democrats who will likely retain their committee chairmanships and key assignments. Unlike bomb-thrower-turned-dealmaker Dennis Bonnen, Phelan is neither, and while he's sure to project appropriate fealty to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the House remains less conservative than the Senate.

We also won't have any new Democratic members of Congress, which is hugely disappointing to many Austinites. Since 2021 is a redistricting year, it's unlikely that the 2022 midterms are going to be much more favorable to the blue team, although Austin may end up being free of these particular out-of-town congressmen. Indeed, the redistricting math may still lead GOP mapmakers to create one or two blue vote sinks to contain metro Austin Democrats, rather than put more of their members at continued risk. We've got some deeper dives into the Travis County numbers in this issue.

The failure of both sides to change the Texas status quo – the GOP was largely unable to recoup its 2016 and 2018 losses in Congress and the Lege – obscures very real below-the-lines gains for the state's Dem­o­crats. In isolation, the unprecedented investment in mobilizing new, left-leaning voters worked as planned; what was unforeseen was that it would be matched by increased turnout on the GOP side. It's still too early to tell exactly what that means for 2022 – what level and kind of investment and organizing will be needed to hold on to these gains for either party once Trump is out of office.

But that's not stopping people from trying to commandeer the post-election narrative! A consensus is building among Demo­crats that the decision to not canvass in person or hold events during the pandemic was a fatal flaw in their efforts that they won't repeat in the December local run-offs. On the GOP side, much hay is being made of Abbott's late-campaign push to tie Dems to Austin's "defunding the police," and he's promised to continue his quest to punish Austin in some undetermined fashion come the 87th Texas Leg­is­lature in January. Even though election season is still not over, the silly season has begun; bill prefiling opened this week.

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election analysis, November 2020 Election

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