From An Unlikely Candidate To President-Elect: Joe Biden Wins The Election 2020
Joe Biden managed to strike the right chord with voters in key swing states that had previously voted for Trump in the 2016 general election. His key messages of an inclusive America, rebuilding the economy with higher taxes for the rich, espousing Presidential decency and promptly dealing with Covid-19, resonated with the majority of American public.
In a riveting and nail biting election, Americans have broken the record of a century in terms of the turnout. Soon to be President, Joe Biden has amassed more than 74 million votes at this point while President Donald Trump has received nearly 70 million, the highest and second highest in U.S. history. Joe Biden was announced victorious 4 days into election ballot counting process, the longest count in American history after securing 270 electoral college votes, required to win the election.
The story for Joe Biden was very different 7 months ago when he failed to win Iowa and New Hampshire in Democratic primaries. While polling in states had written him off as a likely challenger, the Democratic candidate also seemed poised to lose democrat primaries in more diverse states such as Nevada, South Carolina. However, the political momentum shifted drastically in his favour when South Carolina voted in favour of Joe Biden after a crucial endorsement from African American leader, Jim Clyburn (often termed as a new political life for Joe Biden). A few state primaries later, the consolidation of the centrist vote around Biden meant that the key constituency of the Democratic Party that didn’t align with Bernie’s democratic socialism and deemed Biden electable, had paved the way for his nomination.
Biden’s electability materialised into reality as he has successfully defeated Donald Trump to rebuild the ‘Blue Wall’ by winning crucial key swing states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan albeit with thin margins. Biden has also defeated Trump in republican dominated state of Arizona. Joe Biden managed to strike the right chord with voters in key swing states that had previously voted for Trump in the 2016 general election. His key messages of an inclusive America, rebuilding the economy with higher taxes for the rich, espousing Presidential decency and promptly dealing with Covid-19, resonated with the majority of the American public.
Biden’s personal struggles, reflecting resilience and decency, made him a candidate that majority of Americans believed to be the right man to lead the country during a full blown pandemic. Having buried his first wife, his first daughter, and his adult son Beau, who died in 2015, surviving two brain aneurysms and staying in politics after two failed Presidential campaigns made Biden’s image as a man of perseverance. This effectively helped him outperform Donald Trump among millions of white working class voters in the rust belt states and Midwest.
Joe Biden’s decades-long experience in the United States senate, and as point man for Barack Obama means that his Washington experience will be tested while trying to usher in Democratic Party’s domestic reform agenda on taxes, climate change and race. Perhaps, his workable relationship with Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnel will prove to be instrumental in reaching consensus during a divided government.
What’s next for Donald Trump?
That Donald Trump lost the election is less shocking than the fact that 70 million Americans believed him to be the point man to lead the most powerful country on earth. The vote tally implies he obtained support of nearly 48 % of the public despite four years of political scandal, harsh treatment from legacy media, impeachment and the unrelenting coronavirus outbreak that has led to more than 235,000 deaths
A major take away from this election is that political polarization now defines the United States (Edison research shows 80% who favoured containing the virus voted Biden, 76 % who favoured opening the economy voted Trump). Trump voter coalition is fundamentally at odds with the Biden coalition over national issues like climate change, coronavirus handling and economy. Donald Trump, unlike other one-term presidents, commands popularity in big numbers. From 70 million votes to 88 million strong Twitter base, Donald Trump will most likely continue to be an influential figure in the Republican party ranks. If the office of the President is bully pulpit, then Trump’s twitter account is no less.
This gives him a power base that other one term Presidents like Carter, Al Gore, Bush did not have. He has already entertained the idea of running again in 2024. Even if that doesn’t materialise, Trump’s penchant for disruption is likely to throw institutional republicans out of his way. Trump’s disruption to the normal political process has been tantamount to Republican Party adopting Trumpism as opposed to the other way around. Having successfully driven voters out in historic numbers, it is increasingly clear that conflating Biden’s win with an end to Trump would be as wrong as pre-election polls.
Trump has proven to be the candidate that can stitch a coalition of working class white voters & ethnic minorities. Exit polls by Eidison research validate the claim as we see ethnic minorities, African American voters, Hispanics voted in bigger percentages for Trump compared to 2016. His message has continued to strike the right chord with millions of anti establishment, disoriented, disconnected voters in the rust belt states (where Biden won by narrow margins). Biden has managed to rebuild the blue wall by outperforming Trump in white voters. However, there is no indication that Trumpism will self destruct, or that democrats have succeeded in offering something way more meaningful to millions of previous Trump voters. After all, a reality TV star, with dozen political scandals, sexist labels, racist tendencies who supports policies which the majority doesn’t favour should not be coming this close to Presidency, yet he did.
Impact on Pakistan?
Pakistan continues to be on the periphery from the vantage point of Washington. The one thing we know definitively is that Pakistan’s ambassador at large in US can no longer exercise his influence in Washington because Jared Kushner will depart with Trump. There has been a lot of speculation about Biden’s inclination for democratic strengthening in Pakistan, especially in light of Kerry Lugar Bill. With Pakistan’s diminishing strategic importance for the US, it seems highly unlikely for the incoming American President to demand an end to military intervention in the political processes.
As Trump prepares to be in the headlines over refusal to concede the election, and Biden begins steps to reunite America, there is resounding clarity that Biden has won an election which seemed impossible for him to do so a year ago.
The writer is co-founder Future of Pakistan Conference and a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.