GP Insights # 435, 8 November 2020
After four days of tensed vote counting, Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate has won the 2020 Presidential election against Donald Trump. The counting got delayed, because of the heavy postal ballots.
Joe Biden, in his first speech as the President-Elect, addressed the need first to unite the US within. He made an explicit point that there are no Blue and Red States, only the United States. Besides addressing the political red and blue divide in terms of the Democrats and the Republicans, he also mentioned the need to restore to the soul of America, heal the country and push the harsh rhetoric away. There was no gloating in his speech against Donald Trump. Though he did not talk about the global issues, in his first speech, he did mention about making the US respected again internationally.
Kamala Harris, the Vice President-elect, emphasized on the need to protect the democracy, and build a better future together. She referred to the sorrows, sacrifice and the pain of people during the last few months (referring to the COVID). Kamala Harris also underlined the role of women in the elections and their role in taking the US into the future. She referred to her ethnic background, talked about her mother, who came to the US at the age of 19 and referred to the Black, Asian, Latino and Native American women as the backbone of the democracy. "Tonight, I reflect their struggle. I stand on their shoulders." She also stated, "I may be the first woman in this office. But, I'll not be the last". In a nutshell, Kamala Harris referred to the need to bring everyone, who have made the US their home.
There has been no response from the Trump campaign so far. A few tweets earlier by Trump has not given any indication, that he would accept the verdict gracefully, and leave the White House. (Not until, this Alert goes online on Sunday morning, Indian time)
What is the background?
First, the 2020 US Presidential election was a tough one. A record number of Americans turned out to vote in person, and also through postal ballots. The counting delayed, primarily due to the second factor. The voting pattern also ensured that there was no swing in favour of either Biden or against Trump, during the first three days. It meant every single vote needs to be counted until the end to declare the winner.
Second, Biden may have got enough votes to become the next President, but the Democrats have not swept either the Senate or the House. In the 100 seats Senate, as on Sunday morning, the Democrats and Senate are tied with 48 seats each. In the House, the Democrats have secured 215 seats so far, while the Republicans have 196. The Democrats would need three more in the Senate and four more in the House to have a majority. For the new President, a Democrat majority in the US Congress would be important, if he has to take the US forward – internally, and also with the rest of the world.
Third, a confrontational approach by Donald Trump so far. Until Saturday, Trump has been talking of "stealing the vote" and fraud, especially in the postal ballots. His campaign has also filed a few cases to stop the counting, citing fraud though without any clear evidence. The primary question, as the counting comes to an end is: will Trump leave the White House gracefully?
What does this mean?
First, Biden will have to address the domestic expectations from him, and also address the internal divide. While the final vote may have pushed Biden to be the next President, there was no "wave" against Donald Trump. A substantial percentage has voted for Trump; this would mean, they believe in what Trump has been selling them in terms of making America great again. Today, the US stands polarised within, than it has been ever before. Restoring the soul of the US, and "making America the beacon of the world" as Biden commented is not going to be an easy task.
Second, Trump's legacy at the international level. Biden's statement made – that he would make the US respected again at the global level, is also not going to be an easy task for the new President. Trump has derailed many global commitments that the US has made earlier – from climate change to trade. Trump's policy towards China, the Middle East (especially Iran) and Russia – will pose tough questions to the new President. Also, Trump's handling of the American allies – especially Canada and Europe, means Biden will have to rebuild relations not only with adversaries but also with the allies.
Tough task. But not insurmountable.