All Your Paranoid Questions About the Electoral College Certification, Answered

January 6 is going to be unprecedented, but Biden will still become president.

Ben Jacobs
Published in
5 min readJan 5, 2021
Vice President Mike Pence attends a rally in support of Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat in the presidential election has made the ceremonial counting of electoral votes by Congress on January 6 a consequential event for the first time in modern American history. Is there anything that can happen on Wednesday that would allow Trump to actually remain in office for a second term? Let’s look at the precedents — and what will be unprecedented about January 6, 2021.

Joe Biden is still going to be president, right?


Then why is this happening?

Because everything is unbearably dumb.

There have been presidential elections so narrowly decided that they spawned full-scale political crises. There have been presidential elections that have fallen just within a hair’s breadth of being that close. The 2020 election was neither. Joe Biden won by a clear and convincing margin.

So this isn’t a nightmare situation?

It depends on what your nightmare was in the first place. Scholars feared that a key state would be so close that it would certify competing slates of electors with both Democrats and Republicans legitimately insisting that they had won. This is the scenario that could have come to fruition after the Florida recount had Al Gore not conceded and the situation which sparked a political crisis in the election of 1876 when Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina submitted two sets of electors after both Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford Hayes declared victory.

This is not the situation that exists after the 2020 election. There is no plausible straight-faced argument that can be made that Trump received more votes in any of the states that are contested. Instead, his supporters and allies have relied on legal arguments that can very generously be described as strained.

Then what is this?



Ben Jacobs
Writer for

Ben Jacobs is a politics reporter based in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at @bencjacobs.