In a rehearsal column I offered for mildly whimsical publication Tuesday, I projected what might be the lead paragraph of column I'd write in late evening.
I wrote: "It's 11 p.m. Do you know who your next president is?"
The point was that you wouldn't.
And it turned out you didn't.
I don't think you'll know yet this morning. It's on account of closeness and weirdness.
That weirdness is owing to heavy mail votes tending to be counted later than Election Day votes, with heavy mail votes tending to be from coronavirus respecters and more for Joe Biden, and Election Day votes tending to be from unmasked virus scoffers and more for President Donald Trump.
The election-night effect was that it seemed for all the world like that dreary November night of 2016 all over again.
As happened then, Democratic confidence and hope spent hours deflating first to rationalization and then exasperation.
For all the tweets over those four years, for all the Trumpian outrage, for all the mainstream media obsession with and against Trump, Tuesday night's election coverage revealed a sustaining and formidable part of America wanting or willing to give the guy four more years.
The Democratic failing as a provider of a viable alternative was massive.
In Florida, which Trump apparently won big by Florida standards, exit polls showed more than half the respondents saying this president had handled the virus fine.
That was the Democratic big play--that Dr. Fauci could beat Trump if Biden could latch onto him.
In the three states Biden simply had to win to avoid being Hillary Clinton all over again--Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan--the Democratic nominee was trailing at 11 p.m., mostly because same-day votes were more represented than mail votes.
Wisconsin was saying that even the same-day votes in the Democratic hotbed of Milwaukee wouldn't be counted until 5 a.m.
Pennsylvania was saying the count of mailed ballots probably would take days.
Michigan was saying it might have a verdict by Friday.
Democrats perhaps could assume they'd eventually overtake Trump in those three states, but they couldn't prove it--or know it--at bedtime.
So, they pillowed their heads to try to go to sleep to escape the waking nightmare of 2016 all over again.
Biden could find a little hope in indications of a big-enough lead in early-counted early votes in Arizona. But those 11 electoral votes would not be enough without the Big Three of the upper Midwest.
North Carolina was, at this writing, a likely Trump win but still conceivably a Biden catch-up.
Otherwise, Democratic excitement about being close in Texas, Ohio and Georgia was just that--excitement, important increments portending an electoral shift ... and zero electoral votes.
And the heavy truth for the loud Trump resistance of which I proudly remain a small part was that it shouldn't be this difficult to vote a horrible person out of the presidency, or require waiting until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, assuming he gets voted out at all.
Meantime, it's the same old 2nd Congressional District in Central Arkansas.
I broke my rule of never falling for Democratic optimism again.
For all that noise, and for all the talk of a tossup, Democratic candidate Joyce Elliott piled up a big margin in Pulaski County and saw it evaporate to incumbent Republican French Hill in the conservative suburban havens of Saline, Faulkner and White counties.
She needed a big Pulaski County vote, and Pulaski County voted 15,000 ballots fewer than in 2016.
The inspiration, the excitement--I think it was mostly on my Facebook feed.
For the fine campaign she ran, she didn't do as well in Pulaski County as Biden did against Trump, or as well as Clarke Tucker did two years ago.
Which is simply to say the 2nd District and Arkansas are confirmed Republicans and Trumpians, thus in tune with a lot of the country.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.