Teaching history in North Carolina

The North Carolina Board of Education is discussing how to teach U.S. and North Carolina history in public schools and some Republican members of the Board are saying proposed changes are “anti American” and wrongly teaching students that the U.S. is “racist” and “anti capitalist.”

Lorda mercy.

Why don’t we elevate and teach some of the stories that I did not learn in 4th and 8th grade units in North Carolina history, and in two units of U.S. history in high school. Get the kids talking about why (1) this did not used to be taught; (2) why we are doing it now; and (3) let them discuss what they think this means for the World we are leaving them.

Several topical suggestions that can provide students with a sense of discovery and get them talking about Race, based on engaging some of our history that has been avoided.

  1. Ask Students to read and then rewrite Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution in modern language. What was being said here? Is that section still in force?
  2. In 1871, Governor William Holden of North Carolina became the first Governor in U.S. history impeached and removed from office. Why was he removed?
  3. In 1898 the local government in Wilmington, N.C. was deposed and run out of town and a bunch of folks got murdered. I never heard of this event until I was 30, even though I grew up in Goldsboro, about 75 miles from Wilmington. Why did this event take place? Why did I not learn of this until I was 30?
  4. Today in the U.S. Capitol building, the two statues representing N.C. are Governors Zebulon Vance and Charles B. Aycock (from Goldsboro!). They have been there since the 1920s (Aycock is being replaced by the Rev. Billy Graham later this year). Why were they the two N.C. statues for nearly a Century? In 2011, the North Carolina Democratic Party changed the name of their annual fundraiser away from the Vance-Aycock dinner, so named in 1960. Why did the Democratic Party add and then remove their names when they did?
  5. There has been lots of discussion of removing Confederate monuments and memorials. Let’s talk about when they were put up and where. In the first wave from the 1860s-1880s they were mostly in military cemeteries (purple bars), while in the twentieth Century they were mostly put up in public places like town squares and college campuses (orange bars). Why the change? [the below is one slide in this link on the “Silent Sam” monument that used to be on the UNC Chapel Hill campus].

I promise the students will do a better job talking about what this history means for our World today and their World tomorrow, than their parents or grand parents will.

Confederate monuments in North Carolina, by year of erection. Purple is in cemetery, Orange is in public place like a town square, or a campus.

Should Race be used in vaccination guidelines?

The draft report of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on November 23, 2020 suggested the use of Race in prioritizing the allocation of limiting COVID19 vaccination as a means of promoting justice and reducing health inequities. This move was controversial and the final ACIP recommendation released on January 1, 2021 removed the explicit use of Race, and emphasized the use of age once health care workers were vaccinated, before moving into further specific risk groups that prioritized congregant living and occupational exposure. Is there any scientific and epidemiological evidence that Race should be used to prioritize the limited supply of COVID19 vaccines? In short, yes.

The United States has had more direct discussion of the role of Race in American life this year than in the rest of my life combined, focused on COVID19, the BLM movement, the spate of Confederate monument removals, and the differential treatment of White protesters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. However, the idea of using Race to help allocate limited vaccine supply caused an immediate, and guttural pushback. Why?

CDC data shows that Race is a predictor of increased risk of COVID19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The CDC describes Race as a proxy for poorer outcomes, and Black, American Indian and Latino/a persons all have substantially elevated COVID19 mortality as compared to Whites:

Race and ethnicity are risk markers for other underlying conditions that affect health including socioeconomic status, access to health care, and exposure to the virus related to occupation, e.g., frontline, essential, and critical infrastructure workers.

Measures of Biological Aging and Distribution by Race

Telomeres are caps on on DNA strands whose length provides a measure of cellular aging, and an emerging body of research suggests that cellular aging is more rapid for Blacks as compared to Whites, even after controlling for other factors that influence Telomere length, such as poverty, obesity, smoking and exercise. This remains an emerging field that is limited by the samples available for study, so more work is needed. Life expectancy at birth is 4.6 years less for Black males as compared to White males at birth; and 1.8 years shorter given survival to age 65 (red underline males; yellow highlight females). It is longer for Hispanic males and females, a complex phenomenon know as the Hispanic/Latino paradox.

The discovery of Telomere length differences by Race support the Weathering hypothesis explanation originally put forth by Arline Geronimus in 1992 to explain shorter Black life expectancy, that posited that the cumulative social stress and Racism experienced by Blacks in the United States leads to accelerated aging. Subsequent work has identified Allostatic Load, a cumulative measure of stress processes that is linked to the processing of Cortisol that floods the body during fight or flight situations, as a likely pathway through which Blacks experience accelerated cellular aging as compared to Whites as measured by Telomere length. More recent research has confirmed the independent effect of Racism and “living while Black” on Telomere length and allostatic load. There is a plausible biological pathway linking Racism to shorter life expectancy, particularly remaining life expectancy given attainment of age 65.

Age is by far the largest predictor of COVID19 mortality, in the U.S. (data through December 20, 2020), and a far stronger predictor than is Race (The relative risk for Race is 2.6-2.8–see figure 1, while age 65-74 has 90 times the mortality compared to age 18-29–figure 2). However, given the evidence of differential cellular aging identified among Blacks as compared to Whites, Race may well be a reasonable age-modifying variable that would allow us to better target those at most risk of death from COVID19. For example, the top priority group after front line care workers is persons age 75+ a standard that could be modified to be age 73 for persons who are Black, for example, using life expectancy at age 65 results shown above. This would easily be implemented via electronic medical record notification and a different age cut in mass inoculation events. A similar adjustment could be made for American Indians, as well as for Hispanic/Latino individuals though for the latter the excess mortality due to COVID19 is in the opposite direction of the Hispanic/Latino paradox and may be more related to occupational exposure than cellular aging and Weathering, making that subgroup finding all the more striking.

The United States was fully unprepared to have a conversation about the use of Race as a modifying variable for distributing a highly sought after commodity, in part because White people tend to lay the blame for worse mortality outcomes for Blacks as solely being the responsibility of people who are Black. We tend to exempt ourselves from any responsibility for the systems we live in that benefit us and harm others. We have strong scientific evidence that Racism and the social stress of living while Black in our society causes cellular level harm that plays a role in poorer outcomes experienced by Blacks, including reduced lifespan. There are scientific advances that are needed to better understand and operationalize the use of allostatic load and telomere length for public health interventions, but the most important task may well be that White people learn to talk about how Race impacts our world today in a less defensive, and more informed posture. It will be hard, but we will only get better with practice.

Re-norming our Government

On January 20, 2021, the day that Donald Trump leaves and Joe Biden moves into the White House, there are two principles that I believe are most important for the next four years: accountability for the assault on our democratic norms, not only for President Trump, but for enablers in the Republican Party and beyond, while seeking to reimpose and reinforce these same, fragile norms.

Unfortunately, the rhetorical phrase “but that is not as bad as what President Trump did” now covers anything short of a successful, violent overthrown of the Constitutional system of transferring power. What we saw on January 6, 2021, was four years in the making, and it could have gone differently. The system did not work, we got lucky. We need to heal, and the first step toward that is confession by elected Republican enablers telling their supporters the truth, that the election was not only a fair one, but the most parsed and adjudicated election in U.S. history. It seems to me these Republican enablers also owe their constituents an apology for misleading them.

Democrats and Progressives cannot control what Republicans will do, but we can control what we do.

We need some old school boring civics the next four years. On immigration, the House should see if it can pass a bill, and the Senate do the same. Pass a rule in the House that allows floor amendments, let the Senators make their case and then vote. Then lets have an old school conference committee see if they can bang out a deal that can pass both Houses of Congress and be signed by President Biden. The Congress needs to be reinvigorated as the Article 1 branch of government that it is, and we have to get away from omnibus legislation linked to debt limit increases for money we already spent getting jammed into must-pass legislation at 11pm, the night before we default. I know immigration is hard, as is COVID19 relief, health care, voting rights and elections, etc. If members of Congress cannot lean into hard work, then they should resign.

I am not suggesting a head in the sand Jedi mind trick approach that pretends that the last four years did not take place, I am saying that we need to hold people accountable while reinforcing our democratic system of government so that we make something worse less likely in the future. Our peaceful transfer of power string has been broken, about two and a half Century’s into our history, and we should now know that nothing inevitably continues. It will take work.

What Next?

The January 6, 2021 insurrection designed to disrupt Congress from fulfilling its Constitutionally proscribed powers that was incited by President Trump, and enabled by numerous persons, some known and others not is a departure from the rule of law and norms that must be answered forcefully. Next steps:

The President should resign. He has committed at least two impeachable offenses since New Years Day. If the Republican Party were functioning in the interests of the nation, they would insist as they did with Richard Nixon.

The House is correct to push the Vice President to invoke the 25th Amendment, which is cludgy, but nevertheless would immediately remove the President, almost certainly until January 20, 2021 at Noon.

The House of Representatives should impeach the President, who has not only violated his Oath of Office, but there is also a separation of powers issue–the Executive Branch sought to stop the Legislative Branch from exercising its Constitutional duties. The President’s own words on the January 2, 2021 call and the January 6, 2021 rally are enough for him to be removed. It would not take such a long trial.

The Senate has said they will not be in session until January 19, 2021, which is that bodies Constitutional right (each chamber makes its own rules). They could of course reconvene earlier.

The worry about an all-encompassing trial of the former President during the first weeks of the Biden administration is a reasonable one, though elected Republicans are using it to try and rehabilitate their culpability in everything from joining him, enabling him, or turning a blind eye because they liked his judges, their taxes being lower, or just to “own the libs”. If all the Republican Senators called for his resignation today, it would happen. The route to healing is accountability, confession and repentance meaning a change in behavior and telling the truth.

The Speaker of the House openly discussing an end run of the President’s Article II powers with the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while comforting when looking through the lens of the next ten days, is worrying and perhaps illegal. This is why impeachment is needed–that is how the House can best be heard per the Constitution.

The House of Representatives could delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, perhaps for the first 100 days, allowing the Biden Administration to get going, and giving Republicans in the Senate a chance to show their desire for national healing by supporting a full inquiry and not gumming up the works in the Senate for nominees and covid19 relief. A trial after the President is out of office is apparently allowable since an available penalty is barring him from seeking federal office again. A conviction in the Senate would also remove the President’s pension, lifetime travel budget, and Secret Service protection. He deserves far more punishment. My guess is that in 100 days there will be lots more known about what transpired and who was involved. A Senate impeachment trial might be quite a good way to lay out exactly what happened, who is responsible, and what consequences should be imposed, and to whom. Do it on the floor of the Senate, divided 50-50, seeking to tell the truth so that we can move ahead as one nation.

The Biden Administration’s three most important tasks are: (1) getting control of the COVID19 pandemic, by accelerating pace of innoculations, invoking the Defense Emergency Authorization powers to mass produce low cost in home tests, and to get high quality masks to the entire country. (2) An economic relief/infrastructure package to further support the nation through COVID19, and to address some bread and butter infrastructure needs. (3) Re-professionalizing and de-politicizing the Department of Justice, FBI, and undertaking a full investigation of not only the insurrection of January 6, 2021, but the build up to it. This must include a frank truth-telling about White Supremacist domestic terrorism in the United States, and a strategy to combat same, including acknowledging the problems in the military, and in the military to police pipeline that is a key source of police forces nationally. The double standards in policing are anathema to the anthem of “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. This is best understood as unfinished business, a task deferred for 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. We have another chance to live into the promise of these Reconstruction Amendments, and there is a winding, but identifiable trail from the 1877 ending of Reconstruction to today. We must reckon with this Century and a half re-creation of White Supremacy after the ending of Slavery.

January 6, 2021

The most important task of leadership is to correctly define reality; to tell the truth. The insurrection and mob overrun of the U.S. Capitol that disrupted the counting of the Electoral College votes that officially marked him as the loser, was incited by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. He and others clearly and plainly incited the violence yesterday during a rally, but it did not start at Noon. His entire political candidacy and Presidency has been one ongoing incitement, that found plenty of fertile soil and craven opportunism in the modern Republican Party.

President Trump’s jump from reality show celebrity to Presidential candidate had as its essence the Racist Birther lie that President Obama was not an American citizen and thus ineligible for the office he held for eight years. In a crowded primary field, this was the kernel of his support, that never wavered, and likely will now be transformed into a type of Trump-centric lost-causeism that will haunt this nation for years to come. A new manifestation of an old idea that some people are more human than others. All Republican’s did not and do not share in the Birther lie, but only a very few were uncomfortable enough with it to depart from the vehicle (Donald Trump) that they saw as most likely to advance their public policy interests, rendering their long claim that “character is destiny” perhaps true, but also only showing it to only be a tactical tool for partisan uses.

The events of January 6, 2021 were despicable, scary and are cause for lament and reform moving forward, but they were not surprising or shocking. President Trump told us exactly who he was from the start, and he never stopped saying out loud what used to only be whispered. He laid the ground work for yesterday by saying he was cheated in the popular vote in 2016, and then saying over and over, the only way I can lose in 2020 is if they cheat. His campaign went to court in several dozen cases across several states and they won one case in Pennsylvania. There have been detailed investigations in numerous states, easily the most investigated election in U.S. history. In Georgia, they have found two cases in which they believe someone fraudulently voted a dead person’s name. No election could be perfect, but in 2020 they were well done under very difficult circumstances, yet the President continues to lie and say he won in a landslide because that is what he believes is best for him.

In numerous public statements, tweets, and comments by his children and other surrogates on TV, January 6, 2021 was identified as a key day, the last chance to change the result. And Senators Cruz and Hawley, both Ivy League trained lawyers, a former Supreme Court clerks, who want to be President, groveled about nonsense, and knowingly lied to a mob because they thought it would help their political aspirations. There was nothing surprising at all about the goal and inevitability of the effort to interfere in yesterday’s counting, though the effectiveness in stopping the process was surprising and sobering on numerous fronts. The counting of electoral votes concluded this morning about 4 am, and roughly half of the elected Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted to not accept the electors from several States, even after they saw the fruit of what they had helped to create. They now must acknowledge lying, or continue to lie, and they are the opposite of patriots.

I have been working on a book that has turned into a memoir of Race, of my personal reckoning with how racialized my life has been, especially my growing up in rural, Eastern, North Carolina. My primary insight is that for how clearly I see the effects of Race on me and our country now, I did not for the first half Century of my life. There was no penalty for me not understanding or acknowledging the truth, because I am a White man. This is not a statement of guilt, just an observation. A fact.

My personal reckoning was been spurred by my finding a case of land theft in the 1920s of the descendants of an Enslaver and an Enslaved woman where I grew up, and coming to understand that while everything is not about Race, just about everything important has Race cooked into the cake. When White people say “this is not us” they show themselves to be ignorant of United States history. The reason the election of 1876 was disputed was directly related to violent efforts to keep freed Slaves from voting, just a few years after we said we would not do that in the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The “Commission” Senator Cruz invoked as the model for what he wanted this year ended with a political deal that ended Reconstruction, and began a near-Century delay in making the Reconstruction era Amendments to the U.S. Constitution more than just words on paper. Listen when people tell you who they are.

In 1871, Governor William Holden of North Carolina, a Whig turned Democrat turned Republican, became the first Governor in United States history to be impeached and removed from office. His sin was taking over two counties (Alamance and Caswell) to try and stop the KKK’s campaign of murdering Blacks and White’s seeking to live into the 13th-15th Amendments, and provide a more equal chance at a better life. Alamance County is the place where Black and White protesters held a march to the polls on October 31, 2020, but never made it.

In 1898, there was a coup d’etat in the vibrant port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, an event designed to put a stop to a multi-racial political and economic coalition and society that was being built. A Black man owned the biggest newspaper in town then. In 1921, Blacks were murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma to stop a successful Black business district and to stem rising economic and political power among the descendants of freed Slaves, by Whites who had been deputized by law enforcement to put a stop to what they did not see as progress.

These are just four examples, spread over the half Century after the Civil War showing that White people resorting to violence when outcomes they did not like were in process, is not a new thing. Please note that in each case, they were opposing what could only be understood as seeing to the 13th-15th Amendments to the Constitution being made real in the lives of freed Slaves and their descendants. They were stopping progress toward what we said we were going to do, making us a nation of liars.

Unfortunately, this has always been us.

(edited next to last paragraph to fix a typo & edit for clarity)

Electoral Counting Act of 1887

The election of 1876 was close, with no clear winner and the country was a mess. Since either the House or the Senate objecting to a State’s slate of electors was enough to not count the electoral votes from a State, there was no clear way to resolve the election and an informal deal was cut between the Democratically controlled House of Representatives and the Republican controlled Senate. There was no “Commission” created, not to look into voter fraud as some Republican Senators said yesterday, but there was an unwritten deal cut to decide the outcome of the election.

The deal was that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes would be President, if he would agree to remove Federal troops from the South who were overseeing Reconstruction. The Southern States “promised” to protect the Civil and voting rights of freed Slaves. This lead to the widespread disenfranchisement of generations of Black people and made the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution largely meaningless words on a piece of paper for nearly a Century, so far as Blacks were concerned.

To prevent such a mess again (basically one House of Congress being able to derail an election whose outcome they did not like), the Electoral Counting Act of 1887 was passed and is here. There were a variety of changes, but now it requires both the House AND the Senate to decide to overturn an election whose outcome they do not like. If you are speaking the language of “bothsides“, you are wrong factually and historically, and you are helping this country move toward not having a functioning democracy. And if you think “they are only doing this because they know it will not work”…..well, I hope you are correct but I don’t think so and we may find out in four years. Since 1887, we have not had:

  1. A President say for months that the only way he could lose was if his opponents cheated
  2. Republican controlled states delay the counting of mail in ballots allowing the President to be ahead on “election night” but likely to lose (he did)
  3. A President then say “stop counting, I am ahead!”
  4. Then once it was clear that he lost, file numerous lawsuits, that have all, save one, been rejected. Numerous ones dismissed on the merits.
  5. Continue to scream fraud, I lost, and have one party turn into what is now essentially a cult
  6. And in this context, have more than half of the Republicans in the House and one-fifth of those in the Senate say, “our elections were fine, but the President, elected on the same ballot, got cheated.”

And Republican Senators invoke the “commission” that was actually an unwritten “deal” in 1877 to end Reconstruction and abandon to the project of seeing to freed Slaves becoming full citizens for nearly a Century. When people tell you who they are, listen.

Increasing vaccination pace (a lot)

The covid19 vaccine rollout really has been a disaster, from top to bottom, by governments of all levels and private entities like health systems. We must increase the pace of vaccination by a lot, and ensure that we do not waste doses of vaccine. The North Carolina DHHS covid19 guidelines provide the State’s adaptation of the CDC guidance and are fine.

We need to move ahead with this general guideline, prioritizing how to get the maximum number of people vaccinated as fast as possible. The one addendum I would suggest is that each county should have a plan for what to do with doses that are at risk of being wasted after being thawed/hitting shelf life maximum. My suggestion would be to have places that aggregate people and say “if we have 100 doses about to waste, lets go there and vaccinate 100 people.” I suggest the Durham County jail for Durham County, and then other carceral congregate living facilities, and homeless shelters.

The language of illegitimacy

Only one President since I have been able to vote has not had the label of illegitimacy tagged to him–George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. (At least not that I recall). A quick stroll down memory lane.

Bill Clinton was so labelled because he only got 43% of the popular vote; GHW Bush 38% and Ross Perot 19%.

George W Bush was called by me I think, “the President select” given the Bush v Gore Supreme court case and he not only didn’t get more than half of the popular vote, he lost the popular vote to Al Gore. The popular vote is constitutionally irrelevant, but not politically so.

Barack Obama won a fairly convincing victory in 2008, but he was labelled as illegitimate by adherents to the Racist birther lie that he was not born in Hawaii, but rather born in Indonesia or Kenya or somewhere “other.”

Donald Trump also lost the popular vote by around 3 million votes. And some people said that Russia stole the election, or that Russian interference in the election tainted the result. Here is the report from the Republican controlled Senate Intelligence committee report, put out in August 2020. Here is one quote from the report:

(U) The Committee found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian
effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak
information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president. Moscow’s intent was
to harm the Clinton Campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the
Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the
U.S. democratic process.

The Senate report does conclude that there is no evidence of effect in the election in terms of hacking, altering vote counts and the like.

Joe Biden is said to be illegitimate by some Republicans because of a conspiracy between elected Democrats and Republicans, working in the States of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, who nevertheless failed to take control of the U.S. Senate, lost seats in the House of Representatives, and failed to get control of the State legislature in key states like North Carolina, so the Republicans can control redistricting in 2020. Also, several dozen cases brought by the Trump campaign failed to prove meaningful fraud anywhere. No evidence of such a conspiracy has been brought forward by President Trump in court.

Any President who does not get the most votes is going to have a whiff of illegitimacy, even though the popular vote is constitutionally irrelevant. And in a winner take all series of state races, Bill Clinton got 370 electoral votes with 43% of the vote, and even though he got the most votes, it is also true that more people voted for someone other than him. I agree that seems weird, but the electoral college is a weird, anti-democratic holdover from the 19th Century.

Given that so many Republicans bought into the Racist birther lie, and that this was how Donald Trump himself first fueled his jump from reality show TV host to Republican nominee for President, Republicans were always going to say the election was stolen, or that President Elect Biden was illegitimate. Mr. Trump certainly said it over and over during the campaign. For once he told the truth, he did exactly as he said he would.

The two American Ideas

Ideas are important because what we think affects how we act, and ideas are persistent–an idea can only be replaced by another. It has taken me around five decades to come to understand United States history primarily as a struggle between two profound and persistent ideas.

The first is “all men are created equal” announced to the World by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This was an aspiration the day he wrote it, in spite of the language he used with regard to being self-evident, which was primarily a literary device that signified that the Church was not needed to behold truth. The messy and inconsistent life of this Founding Father should not cause us to reject this most basic American idea–it can and should still serve as the North Star for the United States. These words are fine, we just need to live into them.

The second idea is the existence of a “hierarchy of human value that has most commonly been marked by Race across U.S. history” plainly codified just 11 years later in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution (emphasis added):

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

This second American idea is the anti-thesis of the first, however, they have coexisted across the fullness of history until today. The United States has never fully reckoned with this duplicity of ideas that are at the shared heart beat of the nation, and such a reckoning is my primary intellectual interest and passion today. I am a late arriver to this understanding of the World and it is important to say that clearly. As a White man, it was relatively easy for me to roll through life without being jarred as I am today by the juxtaposition of these two ideas that have been present from the beginning.

I understand reckoning to a process and not a set of facts or beliefs–everyone can only start from where they are! The process has three basic parts:

First, learning about the past and the present, realizing that incomplete and false history was not taught to you by accident. Second, learning how to talk about Race and other ways in which there are hierarchies of human value–this takes practice and the only way to get better is to learn and talk about it. Finally, as both individuals and most importantly as a community, we must decide what our new understanding means for the future. What will we do about what we learn?

I would be honored for you to join me in the journey.

Norms v Laws

Expecting to know the winner of the Presidential election before bedtime on November 3, 2020 is a norm–something that we have grown accustomed to over the past 50 years because most state-level elections are not close. Alabama will be a blow out for the Republican, California for the Democrat and so on. However, state laws govern elections for President because Article II, Section 1, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants states the authority to determine how a state’s electoral college votes will be assigned.

All 50 states have chosen an election as the means of determining which candidate gets its electoral votes, with 48 of the 50 states having winner take all assignment (Maine and Nebraska apportion based on districts). Each state has detailed laws governing elections, including how and when the election results are certified, which is the official determination of which candidate gets a State’s electoral college votes, and not CNN or FoxNews making a projection. The earliest certification date is November 5, 2020 (Delaware) and the latest is December 11, 2020 (California). In North Carolina, the date is November 24, 2020.

When an election is not close, we “know” who won on election night, even if the official and legal process of certifying the winner takes up to 5 weeks.

If there are numerous close states this election, we will not know who won on election night. This may be somewhat unusual or upsetting, but we have detailed laws to govern close elections, including recount provisions. If the election is super close, lets all take a deep breath and follow the law.