Joseph Biden, a Democrat, won the US presidential election defeating sitting president Donald Trump, a Republican. Biden won both the Electoral College votes and the popular votes. It was an extraordinary historical election with the largest turnout. Moreover, on inauguration day January 20, 2021, Biden will become the second US president of Catholic background.
The first was President John Kennedy. Biden’s vice president Kamala Harris will become the first female VP in US history. Harris is a Black of Jamaican and Indian origin. The election was a hard-fought battle. It was not a landslide as some polls have suggested. It took until Saturday, November 7th for the winner to be known.
Pennsylvania gave Biden the victory, reaching and surpassing the 270 thresholds. He won most of the battleground states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016. They were the Trump Rust Belt states four years ago. Trump did well to capture Florida and Ohio, states which the polls have forecasted leaning to Biden. Also, contrary to some polls that had Biden leading in Texas, Trump won the state.
Trump supporters at the White House jubilated when the networks projected the president winner of Florida, Texas, and Ohio. They ate chicken wings in celebration.
The win gave them high hope to put another electoral surprise like in 2016 when most polls indicated that Hillary Clinton would win the election.
CNN did not call in Arizona. But when the Associated Press and Fox News projected the state for Biden, the White House got jittery. Interestingly, Fox News is a Republican-leaning network. Arizona is a Red state, a Republican stronghold since 1996. The projection prompted Trump to say that the state election was rigged.
He also blamed the networks for announcing the result while about 12% of the votes have not been counted. The announcement followed the projection of Wisconsin and Michigan for Biden. Trump’s accusation of electoral fraud intensified, saying that he has won the election but it was stolen from him.
Though Trump was leading in Pennsylvania and Georgia, panicky became to set in as the lead started narrowing. This trend continued the next day, which was Wednesday. By the evening, Biden has surpassed Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia. Biden needed only Pennsylvania for him to be declared president-elect. On Friday, Biden’s leads in these states were increasing. His supporters had gathered in Philadelphia and Delaware in anticipation of the victory celebration. Though Biden and VP candidate Kamala Harris spoke to them in Delaware, the votes did not come in. In his speech, Biden told the crowd to be calmed and patient. “We will win this one”, he said.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters carried out their demonstrations, protesting that the Democrats were stealing the election and called for a recount of the votes. Describing the incident, Rozina Sabur wrote. “Supporters of Donald Trump gathered across the US over the weekend to cast doubt over the presidential election result. They chanted, "This isn't over" and "stop the steal". In scenes which showed just how divided the country is over last Tuesday's vote”, the supporters turned up outside state Capitols in their thousands, some armed and many insisting that they would not accept the result”.
On Saturday, Pennsylvania fell to Biden making him the winner of the election. The real celebration began. As Nick Allen wrote, Biden’s supporters wearing face masks, “sat on car roofs toasting victory, and danced to George Michael's "Freedom." “There was more than triumphalism, a sense of overwhelming relief”, as they listened to Biden’s victory speech near his Delaware home. They chanted, “Go, Joe Biden!” There were celebrations in other cities.
The president-elect thanked the American people for the trust placed on him and called for national unity. He also expressed his commitment to fighting the Coronavirus. "I will spare no effort - or commitment - to turn this pandemic around," he said. He continued. ”Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. And what presidents say in this battle matters. It's time for our better angels to prevail”.
Trump was at a golf club in Virginia when the networks announced the win. Trump hurried to the White House and continued his allegation of fraud and his determination to persuade legal action, including taking the matter to the Supreme Court. As in his first accusation, he never offered any proof of his assertion. Against the advice of some key Republicans and some family members, the president refused to concede, insisting that he won the election.
Georgia solidified Biden’s victory when major networks called in the state for him recently. She was the only state whose votes have not been called. Georgia has not gone Democrat since Bill Clinton won the state in 1992. Georgia will recount the votes manually because Biden won less than .5%. Even if the win is reversed, Biden will still win the election. Some observers credited Biden’s victory of the state to college-educated suburban and ethnic minority voters.
WHAT CAUSED THE VOTES TO CHANGE?
Throughout the election, the Biden campaign encouraged voters to vote early either by mail or in person before Election Day because of the Corona pandemic. Many Democrats paid attention to the advice. The majority of the votes by mail were from Democrats, as data showed. On Election Day, many states first counted the in-person votes. The mail-in votes were counted later. The in-person votes may have favored Trump in the battleground or swing states resulting in his lead in the count. We saw this in the early counts for Georgia and Pennsylvania. But the lead started thinning as the mail-in votes came in and they eventually took over the president’s lead. During the election, the Trump campaign may have realized the Democrat strategic advantage and therefore unsuccessfully opposed the mail-in ballot method in court.
Trump won Florida, thanks in part to the Cuban American votes and those from Venezuela Americans. They support the president’s policy against the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes and perhaps faulted Biden for the “Obama's 2014-2016 detente with Cuba”. But in Arizona, the Latino votes favored Biden. The move was a factor of migration and immigration, which changed the population dynamics of the state. Many Latinos especially from California settled in the state. Other analysts point out Trump’s negative attitude toward the late Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and view that this relationship affected Trump in the election. McCain was the Republican presidential candidate for the 2008 election. The state also produced Barry Goldwater, known as the Godfather of modern conservatism in America. Goldwater was a Republican senator who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency against Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Arizona’s changing demography also benefitted Democrat Mark Kelly to win the senatorial seat for the state this election.
Turnout was a factor in the election. As stated in the article before this publication, a high turnout would benefit Biden. Over 150 million Americans voted in this election, a record number. The majority of the first-time voters, many of them young and urban, may have been Democrats. Biden won the urban votes but he also captured a significant number of the rural votes, unlike Clinton in 2016. While Trump kept his rural support base, Biden won some of the electorates without a college education, a group that overwhelmingly went for Trump four years ago. The vice president gained more votes than Obama. Biden received over 10,000 votes in some states according to a report. So far in this election, Biden won about 79 million votes, amounting to 51% while Trump received 73 million, accounting for 47%. Biden got 306 Electoral College votes while Trump received 232.
Biden did better with the Black votes. He surpassed that of Clinton in 2016. But a surprising number voted for Trump. One African American said on BBC that she supported Trump, though she was viewed negatively by her neighbors for her decision.
But mainly, the CoVID -19 pandemic caused Trump’s defeat. As indicated in the earlier article, the president did well with the economy before the virus. The disease killed thousands of Americans and created an economic meltdown. Trump made fun of the virus and showed no seriousness and commitment to fighting the pandemic. Most Americans felt that he did not care. Biden, on the other hand, capitalized on Trump’s failure and vowed to make a difference. Hence, in other words, Trump would have most likely won the election had the virus not occurred or had he seriously tried to fight it.
Moreover, Trump met a divided country in 2016. Though he campaigned to make America great again, his domestic policy fueled racial tension making the nation more divided than before.
WERE THE POLLS RIGHT?
Most of the polls forecasted that Biden would win. While they indicated that Florida and Ohio were toss-ups, pollsters correctly predicted that Biden would capture most of the swing states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. He won both popular votes and the Electoral College votes as they projected. However, they wrongly gave the impression that the election would be a massive win for Biden. Seemingly, the posters based their forecasts on phone or internet surveys conducted with voters who were not truthful to the questionnaires. The votes were close, particularly in some swing states. Trump surprisingly did better than expected, though he lost.
As indicated also, Trump won 73 million votes, far more than he did in 2016, and thus making him the largest vote-getter than any sitting US president, according to sources. Republican poster Robert Cahaly was partly correct that more Trump’s supporters did not participate or did not choose to take part in the national polling and that they would come out on Election Day to vote for Trump. Though Cahaly’s forecast of Trump’s reelection did not materialize, his survey could give one reason for the rise of Trump’s votes and the error of most posters.
However, Biden set a record, receiving about 79 million votes, becoming the first presidential candidate to gain more votes historically. Thus with these data, both candidates benefitted from the high voter turnout.
THE CHALLENGES BEFORE BIDEN
Biden faces many challenges as the next US president. He must deal with the pandemic, unite the nation, restore the economy, and operate as a world leader. His first move as president-elect was in the right direction. In his first address upon winning the election, he called for the healing of the American soul and vowed to become a president for all Americans, whether you voted for him or not. He has appointed a Coronavirus Taskforce to formulate a blueprint to fight the pandemic; he has appointed the person to lead the transition team and the chief of staff to direct his office. Further, he has indicated to revert some domestic and foreign policies of the Trump administration.
Biden has received many congratulatory messages from world leaders and also from some Republican leaders, including President George W. Bush, Senators Mitt Romney, and Susan Collins. Biden needs them for a better relationship. He must replace Trump’s aggressive and combative style of foreign policy with a better, cordial, and cooperative approach. His plan to return America to the Paris Climate Accord and the WHO is welcoming. Trump withdrew from the WHO because the president viewed it as being under China’s influence. President Vladimir Putin has not yet called Biden to say congratulations. Perhaps the Russian leader is still mourning Trump’s loss. Both presidents had a good relationship. Biden has expressed concern about Russia's behavior. Cuba, Iran, and other nations not in a cordial relation with the Trump administration have indicated the desire to have a better relationship with America under Biden.
Trump has developed strong ties with Israel and had cemented a peace deal normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab countries of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. He supported Israel’s move of her capital to Jerusalem. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have regretted Trump’s defeat, he and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan have individually extended congratulations to Biden and wished for a continual relationship between their respective countries. China also has done the same.
Attention will be on Biden to be a world leader different from Trump. Some experts say that the Iranian issue will be paramount to the new administration. Biden is said to have pledged to bring America back to the Iran nuclear agreement. Also, he is expected to abide by the US accord with the Taliban regarding security in Afghanistan. Indeed in February this year, the Trump government signed the agreement with the Taliban, which the group hopes Biden will uphold.
Biden must particularly reach out to developing countries to form partnerships. He must be guided by his heart and conscience to do the right thing. Obama regretted implementing a wrong policy on Libya resulting in the unjust killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi personally wrote him, appealed to him, and warned that US effort in the country would lead to a civil war, but Obama did not listen. Like in Iraq and Afghanistan, today there is no peace in Libya. Biden must be strong, firmed, fair, and like Obama, must stand for justice for all Americans.
Biden faces a domestically political problem. Although he won the presidency and the Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives, the party lost members in the house and did not capture the Senate in the election. While the party gained some seats in the Senate, the upper house is in the hands of the Republicans so far. The state of Georgia will conduct runoff elections of her two senate seats in January 2021. If the Democrats win both seats, they will be tied with the Republicans in the Senate. Vice president-elect Kamala Harris would break the tie giving the Democrats the edge. Other than that, the Republicans will control the Senate and will make difficult the passage of legislation and the approval of Biden’s political appointments.
Biden also will face an ideological battle with progressives and centrists of the Democratic Party. Progressives would want to be part of Biden’s cabinets and a voice in the administration. The centrist Democrats would want the regime to be in the middle and to avoid radical leftist programs. Biden’s nomination by the party appeared to have been a compromise between the progressives and centrists, as Senator Bernie Sanders, a professed democratic socialist, somewhat forsook his presidential candidacy and gave way to Biden in the party primaries. New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the progressive left, warned Biden not to forget the progressives as president. At the same time, Republicans who want to cooperate with the new government would want the Biden administration not to pursue progressive agenda, for they would fight it in the Senate. Mitt Romney makes no bone about it when he cautioned Biden.
Meanwhile, Biden has an immediate problem. Trump is challenging the legitimacy of the election and is refusing to concede. The president and his administration are making things difficult for a smooth transition of power, including the refusal to providing daily briefings to the president-elect. This could pose a serious headache for Biden.
Andrew Payne of the University of Oxford discussed the impact of a lame-duck president on an incoming government. He gave two examples of this situation in US history. He stated that in the closing days of the Dwight Eisenhower administration, America planned to invade Castro Cuba. But the Eisenhower government did not properly brief and nor gave the incoming Kennedy administration adequate time to review the plan.
Kennedy implemented the plan, known as the Bay of Pigs, and it failed, giving birth to the current hostility between Cuba and America. The incident also led to a crisis between the Soviet Union and the US in the 60s. Kennedy died from an assassin’s bullet during the crisis. That was the period of the cold war. Further, the majority of the Cuban refugees settled in Florida and have become a socio-political force against the Cuban regime.
Another instance that Payne gave is America sending troops to Somalia in 1992. In December 1992 just after the US election in November that year, defeated President George W.H. Bush authorized 28,000 American troops to Somalia. The goal was to guard the UN humanitarian mission and to capture Somali rebel leader General Mohamed Farrah Aideed.
The fighting, referred to as the Battle of Mogadishu, is considered the violent US war since Vietnam, and it killed 18 Americans and 1000 Somalis. Incoming President Bill Clinton was forced into the war. Though he brought home the majority of the troops, about 500 stayed until the crisis ended in 1995. The war caused many damages and disrupted the lives of the Somali people. Additionally, Aideed was never apprehended and peace never came to the Somalis.
Thus with Trump’s behavior as a lame-duck president, he could make things difficult for Biden. He could start an international crisis and leave the trouble with Biden.
An analyst has viewed Trump’s attitude as a reflection of Trump’s personality. Trump does not believe in science, believes only in himself, and thinks that whatever he does is fine and the American people would still like him. In 2016, he was said, “boasting that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and people would still vote for him”.
Certainly, this was an exercise of arrogance, a do not care, and a lack of compassion for others. The analyst said that it is this thinking Trump has with CoVID-19 and it is this behavior he maintains regarding the election. Trump does not think he lost and therefore he would not concede.
Nevertheless, Trump will go down into history as one of the most admired presidents of America. The number of votes he received in this election would support the statement. He is fearless, direct, and speaks his mind, a behavior not often find with many politicians. He will certainly continue to have followers, and as others have speculated, he could run in a future election.
After Trump won the 2016 election, this writer wrote the following: “Trump’s message got across well to most electorates, particularly his supporters and sympathizers in the swing states. Had he lost, he probably would have, with his resources and national exposure, become a crusader spreading his message, creating a movement ……… and he would have had thousands of followers”!
His defeat now and the presidential experience would energize that movement.