As of Wednesday morning, something odd was happening in American politics: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared to be on track to win the presidency — President Trump's false and premature claims of victory notwithstanding. Yet, Democrats were mostly grieving.
They were grieving because, no matter the result, Trump managed to at least make a race of it. There was no "blue wave." Voters did not utterly repudiate this president, despite having seen his mishandling of the pandemic, and the turbulence of the last four years.
For many left-of-center observers, Trump's resilience is sobering.
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"Biden kept saying about the awfulness of the Trump era, 'That's not who we are,'" tweeted Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist. "Well, it's not who the majority of us are — [Biden is] probably going to win the popular vote by 5 percent or so. But it is, it turns out, who a lot of us are."
This is true, but it was always true. For all the talk of "the failure of polling," the polls have got one thing absolutely right in recent years: Trump has never been popular — but he has never been massively unpopular, either. He has generally held an approval rating of at least 40 percent, which means there have always been a lot of Americans who like Trump and what he represents.
There are few definitive, final victories in American politics. The work — like this election, apparently — never ends.
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