SOUTH BEND — Four years ago, at this point before the presidential election, a columnist wrote of a widely popular sentiment, an oft-heard response to a campaign that drove down approval ratings of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The widespread sentiment was this: “I’ll be so happy when this election is over.” 

But the columnist warned, “Don’t bet on that.” That columnist was me. So, despite what’s suggested in kind, thoughtful emails from militia types and conspiracy advocates, I sometimes can get something right.

When the 2016 election was over, joy wasn’t ubiquitous among all who said they would then be “so happy.” A majority of voters was not happy at all. The majority, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes, selected Clinton, but the unhappy reality for them was that Trump carried key states and won in the Electoral College, where it counts.

Some who didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump also were not “so happy.” Some had voted for the Green Party nominee, who had no chance except as a spoiler, and then realized they could have been decisive in some of those key states if they had instead voted for Clinton, an environmentalist who wouldn’t have dropped out of the Paris climate accord and repealed environmental regulations.

Some decided to stay home because they were mad that Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the primaries. They wanted to show disdain for Clinton. They did, helping to bring about a presidency that didn’t exactly make them “so happy.”

There was happiness. Trump supporters were happy to have a disrupter in Washington. Now, will most of them want more disruption? We will see in this election if those contributing to Trump’s narrow victories in key states last time will bring him a second term.

Back when the ’16 campaign was closing, I was writing about some of the same things cited now, including projections by Nate Silver in his widely quoted “fivethirtyeight.” With a couple of weeks to go, he projected Clinton with an 84.7% chance to win. Now, he has projected Joe Biden with an 87% chance.

I’m glad I warned back in ’16 that “It ain’t over ’til the Fat Lady sings,” not until the votes are cast. In fairness to Silver, he was only calculating then, as now, how the race looked at a specific time prior to the election, not predicting the outcome. And he did capture the tightening of the race at the end after the FBI director devastatingly resurrected Clinton’s emails at campaign close.

Could something devastating happen to hinder Biden’s chances and enable President Trump to win again? Of course. There was much speculation at this point in ’16, with Clinton leading in polls, that Trump’s continued tweets and tirades could bring a “blue wave” that would sweep in Democratic candidates for Congress and state offices, maybe even in Indiana. There was a wave in Indiana, a red tsunami, with Trump carrying the state by nearly 20 percentage points. Hoosier Democratic candidates were washed away.

An important element back then was that Trump, with tweets and tirades wearing thin, held back on that in the closing weeks, sticking to message and gaining support as Clinton was sinking. Will Trump modify the tone again at close this time? Can he? Democrats say the situation is different this time, that Trump now is known for what he is and Biden is not as unlikeable as Clinton proved to be. Trump supporters say the president is, indeed, known for what he is, and that will ensure he wins again.

Once again, we hear, “I’ll be so happy when this election is over.” When it’s over, alas, there won’t be widespread joy across the land. Some Americans will be “so happy.” Others will not be happy at all. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.