Reliving Election Night 2016, Through FiveThirtyEight’s Live Blog

A lesson in how to prepare for when the 2020 results start rolling in

Will Leitch
GEN
Published in
11 min readOct 28, 2020

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A supporter waits for Hillary Clinton to speak after her defeat to Donald Trump. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

One of the more disorienting parts of preparing one’s self for Election Night 2020 is the realization that most of us still aren’t quite over Election Night 2016. The stories of the disastrous Hillary Breaks The Glass Ceiling parties are legendary at this point, famously satirized by Saturday Night Live and, in even more harrowing fashion, by Ryan Murphy in American Horror Story.

But memories of that night are difficult to parse because they are so tied up in how the night ended… and everything that has happened since. To truly untangle how the night went down, and what we might be able to learn from it this year, you have to experience it in real time.

So I decided to go back to the FiveThirtyEight’s Election Night 2016 Live Blog, a constantly updated running commentary on what was happening as it was happening. What did everyone think going in? When did the thinking start to change? When did people start panicking? Was everyone screaming at their television screens like Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story?

I decided to take a look at how we experienced that day as it happened, and how it might help us navigate what’s coming. Come with me, to a land of “Fight Song,” the NYT Needle, and her emails.

9:11 a.m.

Clare Malone greets us with “Welcome to the big show,” and a reminder that the FiveThirtyEight model will be updated throughout the night, once states are called, in a way not entirely different than the infamous New York Times “needle.” To remind you, here is what the final FiveThirtyEight model looked like, heading into Election Day.

Credit: FiveThirtyEight

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Will Leitch
GEN
Writer for

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com