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America’s election system is stressed but surviving

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Today's Agenda

There Are Many Reasons Not to Hate This Election

This week has been a long six months, but at least it's ending on a high note. For one thing, former Vice President Joe Biden is on track for a clear election victory over President Donald Trump. This is obviously not a happy ending for Trump supporters, but an undeniable outcome will be healthier for the republic than a prolonged, nightmarish fight over a close election.

Trump has threatened such a battle, but his temperature may already be cooling as reality sets in. Because it's a day ending in "y," Trump has launched several lawsuits contesting the results. But Tim O'Brien notes this has long been the president's go-to move to avoid taking blame for his own failures. He often loses these suits, including the one he filed against Tim. 

Trump has declared the Supreme Court will bail him out, especially newly installed associate justice Amy Coney Barrett. But by clumsily announcing this expectation, Trump has made it more likely Barrett will have to recuse herself, writes Noah Feldman.   

It hasn't all been smooth, but despite the pandemic, polarization, record-setting turnout and Trump's months-long effort to stir panic about election fraud, the voting went shockingly well, writes Jonathan Bernstein. This is a credit to the tireless people running it on the ground.   

It has been maddening to wait for all these different states to count votes in their own special ways. Nevada's glacial pace alone has launched a million memes. But just consider, Cass Sunstein writes, how much less trustworthy this process would be if it were run by Trump's own federal government. It could use some fixes, sure, but the founders set this crazy-quilt elections system up for a good reason. 

Democrats are unhappy the blue wave promised by polling didn't happen. They lost seats in the House and may not take the Senate, and Trump was not crushed in a Reaganesque landslide. But Frank Wilkinson says Dems should buck up: They had one job in this election, knocking out Trump, and they did it. Incumbents are hard to beat, and Trump has a die-hard core of voters. And yet Biden could be on the way to the biggest popular-vote victory over an incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

Of course, progressive dreams will have to wait, possibly forever, writes Ramesh Ponnuru, and several libertarian ideas gained ground even in blue California, Tyler Cowen writes. That should at least help ease the pain that this week brought many Trump voters.

The Economy Could Do Without a 2010s Revival

What nobody should be happy about is the possibility divided government will hurt the economy as it did for much of Barack Obama's presidency. Yesterday Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned against a revival of that era's austerity fever, notes Brian Chappatta. We have yet to see any sign Republicans are listening, though Mitch McConnell's apparent desire for stimulus is encouraging.

For now, the economic numbers are holding up OK. The October jobs report was much better than expected. And the dollar is weakening, which should give Biden an early economic lift, writes John Authers. But an out-of-control pandemic and endless wrangling over stimulus won't help.

Further Election-Economy Nexus Reading:

China Is Its Own Worst Tech Enemy

After decades as the world's cut-rate factory, China now has designs on becoming the world's next Silicon Valley, threatening America's high-tech dominance, Hal Brands writes. There's a good chance China will soon outshine the U.S. in AI and other cutting-edge technologies. It will take new global alliances to counter this threat and keep China from gaining a permanent upper hand, Hal writes. 

Then again, China can't seem to stop sabotaging itself, as evidenced this week by its harsh punishment of Ant Group over co-founder Jack Ma daring to criticize the country's financial system. Bloomberg's editorial board writes such arbitrary interference sends a warning to high-tech investors to stay far away. And anyway, Ma's criticisms were on point, writes Anjani Trivedi: China shouldn't treat fintech like regular banking. 

Telltale Charts

The latest Covid-19 wave is the worst yet, writes Justin Fox. But we're starting to see a connection between people going out less and getting outbreaks under control, as happened in the Sunbelt over the summer.  

Dating apps boomed as lockdowns eased and lonely singles rushed to mingle, writes Alex Webb — a good sign for what may happen when the latest pandemic wave finally ends. 

Further Reading

Europe may cheer Biden's win but can't count on him fully repairing broken relationships. It must still learn to fend for itself. — Lionel Laurent 

Japan is conducting risky experiments with crowded stadiums to prepare for the Olympics. This can't end well. — Adam Minter 

Target-date funds are too aggressive to be good for savers. — Jared Dillian

ICYMI

An FDA panel didn't back Biogen's Alzheimer's treatment. (For more, see Max Nisen on this yesterday.)

Trump will lose his special Twitter treatment.

His former campaign manager Brad Parscale may have a book deal.

Kickers

Nasal spray prevents Covid in ferrets.

Sharks never run out of teeth.

The joys of being a stoic.

How to wear your baby to work.

Note: Please send shark teeth and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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