FORT WAYNE – Election day and election night were for much of my life intense experiences of adrenalin rush, excitement and tension.

My first thrilling experience was in 1980. I was standing in front a television set, watching Ronald Reagan win the presidency and Republican Senate candidates topple one Democrat legend after another, including our Congressman Dan Quayle upsetting Sen. Birch Bayh. 

It was a Republican wave.

In 1994, I was part of another Republican wave (a tsunami), when I upset Congresswoman Jill Long as part of the Republican Revolution in the U.S. House, when for the first time in 40 years Republicans took control. The Dems had held power for so long, as new Speaker Newt Gingrich said, we found rooms we didn’t know existed in the Capitol Building. 

The Dems thought they could continue their blue wave of 2018 this year, humiliating President Donald Trump, winning control of the Senate, and advancing to a more stable control of the U.S. House. 

Instead they ran into a purple wave.

Here is how you define a purple wave: You have red areas (definition: Indiana) and blue areas (definition: California), and among them you have a bunch of states that cast millions of votes, yet the next day (e.g. Wisconsin, Michigan) the presidential candidates are separated by less than 1%. 

In purple waves not a single incumbent governor loses, including even the Republican governor of Vermont, who had declared that he was voting for Biden. Or a Republican governor of New Hampshire who wins 2/3 of the vote while the Republicans for president and congressional seats get swept in the state. That’s the color of purple.

Purple waves are when the Democrats win the national popular vote by a large margin, though by much smaller than nearly every poll predicted, yet lose House seats and don’t win control of the Senate even though far more Republicans were running for reelection. 

Furthermore, the House Republican takeaways were in places like Dade County (Miami) and New York state. And the Republican winners included three Hispanics, a number of other women, and an African-American. And the biggest African-American surprise of the U.S. Senate races was sterling GOP candidate John James of Michigan, not the heavily touted Jamie Harrison, who was the sleeper favorite against my friend Lindsay Graham in South Carolina. If James can still pull off the upset, a race he was still amazingly leading at noon on Wednesday, he would be the first African-American senator in Michigan history (Editor’s note: James lost to Sen. Gary Peters). 

It was a night of the Purple People Eaters. 

Here are a few of my thoughts from the most addictive night of television watching in many years. It was a political junkies alternative to getting a Weinzapfel dope high.

1. Vote counting had mild COVID symptoms. Results came out as coughs, sneezes, respiratory blockage and certainly were feverish. We seldom knew whether the newly posted votes were early voters, election day voters, or absentee voters. We didn’t know who was not yet counted, or even how many of them. Many states – especially Wisconsin and Michigan, and Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and Nevada and Georgia (to name a few of the most relevant ones) – had an estimate of the percentage of people had voted but did not know, actually, how many had voted. Thus, the percentage of votes cast that was listed was a guess, not a fact, and sometimes gave terribly wrong estimates statewide with even larger variations in major counties. It can lead to such things, as a hypothetical example, a candidate claiming they won and it was being stolen with previously unnoted ballots. Not that such a thing would ever happen.

2. COVID may not be around in the next elections but the counting problems will. Waits pre-election could be six hours or more. Election Day waits were often just a few minutes. In today’s society, voting from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. runs counter to the lifestyle of those who are not retired. It is doubtful we will go back to the old days. Given a choice, people chose to vote early. This system, however, is ripe for corruption and manipulation. Lack of voter privacy is the most obvious, but it also makes foreign manipulation easier when you don’t even know how many have voted or who is missing.

3. Finding people to work the polls is becoming harder, compounded by COVID. Allen County needed to reduce voting sites significantly, so the night before voting, the television news was saying to double-check where to vote because there was a good chance it had been changed. They may be used to this in Lake County, but it was new to Fort Wayne. In Madison County, the final decision on Elizabeth Rowray’s race against incumbent State Rep. Melanie Wright was delayed in part because of a combined polling place where, at 6 p.m., voters in a long line were told it might still take six hours before they could finish the voting. To Madison County’s credit, they kept the polls open until 11 p.m. so all could vote. To the voters’ credit, they stayed to vote. And to the credit of the Madison County election board and workers, they stayed and counted the votes of those 15 precincts and posted the results at 2:37 am. Obviously, we cannot be reducing and moving polling places the day before elections or voting five hours after the polls closed.

4. Elizabeth Rowray won. Elizabeth was once my legislative director. I am very proud of her and she will be a dynamic female legislative addition to the Republican caucus in Indianapolis.

5. Astoundingly, there were suburban women who voted Republican. In fact, if there was one trend that was over-stated it was the media proclamations of Republican collapse in the suburbs due to women abandoning the GOP. I was beginning to think that remaining Republicans were going to be pinned in the exurbs, a term defined by media as pinning the retreating Republicans up against cornstalks far from the city while the Dems took over both the cities and the suburbs. Speaker Pelosi may have already given Christina Hale her office space. Obviously, the Republican Party needs to recruit more women and minority candidates, but we actually had a pretty good night in advancing a few. We need to do more. And suburban voters still prefer Republican values, even if President Trump wasn’t the best salesperson for that cause. 

6. Polling took another severe hit. ‘Nuf said. This will obviously be a major future topic.

7. Never underestimate Todd Rokita. He doesn’t always win, but he always battles hard, at least until quarantined.

8. Never overestimate the Democrats’ ability to finish. It didn’t take COVID to get them to quarantine as the election winds down. I think it is part of their party platform. Nevertheless, if former Vice President Biden pulls out this victory, he will have shown amazing stamina to achieve his goal. Unifying a 50-50 nation is not possible. But how to bring more order and peace, and get some semblance of cooperation is a focus that a President Biden would hopefully pursue. 

Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana.