Stephen Colbert counted down the minutes on Monday night, as the clock ticked towards 3 November – America’s election day, the “day we’ve all been hope-dreading while laugh-screaming at our doom-scrolling”.
“We are in the grip of the gravitational forces of democracy, which are pulling us toward the results,” the Late Show host said of election eve, for which he endeavored to stay calm. “It’s like our country is a deep space object falling toward a black hole – either we’re gonna get sucked over the event horizon into a well of corruption that not even votes can escape from, or we’ll use this gravity well to slingshot and pick up speed and go off in an entirely new democracy.”
The election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump marked a “test of the strength of American voters, but also the institutions that we have built”, Colbert added. “This president has exposed a lot of weaknesses in our government, but it just needs to hold together for one last run.”
Trump has threatened to prematurely declare victory on election night, and falsely claimed that all votes counted afterwards are illegitimate. “What he doesn’t understand is that democracy’s not done until all the votes are counted,” Colbert responded. “You definitely don’t want cooking the Thanksgiving turkey – ‘it’s turkey sashimi, keep chewing, the gobbling means it’s fresh!’”
Tensions have ratcheted up in the days before polls close, especially in swing states such as Texas, where a caravan of armed Trump supporters in pickup trucks surrounded a bus of Biden/Harris staffers on Saturday and tried to run them off the road. “Well, it took two years but Texas is finally being menaced by Trump’s terrorist caravan,” said Colbert, referencing the president’s past fearmongering on migrant “caravans” at the southern border. The “highway hooliganism has no place in a free country,” Colbert added. “So obviously Trump was super into it.”
At a rally on Sunday evening, Trump called the truck drivers “really good people” who “escorted” the bus along the highway. “Clearly false,” said Colbert, “but I’m guessing not the first time Trump has lied about an escort.”
“How’s everybody feeling tonight, relaxed?” asked Jimmy Kimmel on the eve of the election. “What a great time to be alone in a house filled with giant bags of mini candy bars,” he added, for an evening akin to “somewhere between Christmas Eve and the night before a liver transplant”.
The whole mess of a pandemic, high-stakes election “really is unbelievable”, Kimmel continued. “Right now, they’re erecting a massive protective fence around the White House in the event that things get crazy. Took four years, but Trump finally got his wall built.
“And you’d think that that would be too much even for Donald Trump,” Kimmel continued. “Well, turns out it’s not. In fact, he encouraged them to do more.”
In a tweet, Trump called the armed Texas pickup truck caravan that surrounded a Biden/Harris bus “patriots” who “did nothing wrong” and claimed the FBI and Department of Justice “should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!”
“He cares nothing about this country,” Kimmel said. “If he loses, he wants us to pull each other’s heads off.”
With one day to go, “at this point, the election is like choosing between going to the ballet, and breaking into the zoo to watch chimps mate”, joked Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. “You know which one fits your vibe.”
“Look, we all need to be reasonable,” he later added. “There’s no need to violence. Although, according to the candidates, maybe there is?” On the campaign trail this weekend, both candidates joked about taking punches at the other candidate in what Noah imagined as “the first UFC fight sponsored by Life Alert”.
Trump also falsely claimed ballots counted after election day should be considered illegitimate, “which makes no sense”, Noah said. “That’s like saying that oh that’s not your kid because it was born after its due date.
“Nobody is surprised by this,” Noah concluded. “Trump wants the race called on election night because he thinks that’ll ensure that he wins. But I promise you now: if Biden wins on election night, then Trump will say you have to hold everything until all the votes are counted.”
And on Late Night, Seth Meyers demanded news networks prepare to accurately cover a premature declaration of victory by Trump. “If Trump decides to just declare victory, TV networks should refuse to air it, or at the very least make clear that it’s meaningless,” he said.
“You can’t just declare yourself president any more than I can go to the mall and declare myself New Hampshire’s sexiest man.
“There’s virtually no dispute about who’s actually going to win more votes, so this is all Trump and his allies have left: cheating,” he added. “The president and Republican party have left the nation in tatters after four years of crisis, incompetence and greed.”
Trump Republicans, in other words, “have nothing to run on”, Meyers added, “which is why they’ve built their entire campaign strategy around whipping up fear and calling anyone who opposes them an angry mob”.