48 years after he was first elected to the Senate in Delaware, former Vice-President Joe Biden achieved something incredibly rare in American politics – he defeated an incumbent President in a presidential election.
President-elect Biden has flipped the ‘blue wall’ lost to Trump in 2016, and may have also taken the two sunbelt states of Arizona and Georgia (although more votes are yet to be counted in those states, alongside a recount in Georgia).
Biden’s election is a hugely important one and marks a repudiation of how Trump has acted in office, with a disregard for the Constitution and pandering to white supremacists.
When Biden is inaugurated on January 20th next year, he will begin a four-year term where he has pledged to work to unite the country and reverse the toxicity of the Trump administration; particularly re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement, ending bans on refugees, passing an Equality Act to prohibit discrimination on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
His plans will do a lot to restore a sense of normality back to American politics not only domestically but also on the international stage, having also pledged to renew and restore its commitment to its allies and to NATO.
As Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter, a new dawn is coming in America. However, the storm of Trumpism will outlast his presidency and will linger into the first months and years of Biden’s presidency.
Firstly, Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court remain regardless of his defeat. These justices will have huge sway in the direction of the country, pushing America more conservative and potentially threatening the future of the Affordable Care Act, abortion and same-sex marriage.
Although some Democrats had talked about packing the highest court in the land, this proposal – along with many other progressive plans – may have been neutered by the party’s poor performance in Congressional races. The Democrats have lost seats in the House, putting their majority at risk in the 2022 midterm elections, and failed to win a range of crucial Senate races. If the Democrats want to be sure of passing important legislation, they now have to depend on winning not one but two Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January. Given the Democrats previous record in runoff elections, this will be a huge uphill struggle.
As well as potentially losing the Senate, the party has lost control of some state legislatures at a crucial time, when redistricting for the next decade is due to take place. Now that Republicans could have control of drawing county lines, this could close the door to Democratic gains in a variety of different states until 2030, and potentially prevent new talent and future House, Senate and presidential candidates from making their first step into politics.
In addition, results that have come through have shown that the Republicans have managed to make gains among ethnic minorities, in particular Hispanic and Latino voters. Given the Democrats regular pitch to minority voters, this should be a major concern – especially given the huge surge in Republican support in the former Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade County. Whilst the party should celebrate their win against Trump and winning the White House, they need to take time to analyse why the President managed to make gains among those groups and also make the effort not to take those groups for granted. Community outreach and listening to the needs of those groups should be a top priority.
Finally, regardless of Trump’s victory, his key group of supporters will not be going away. It is important to remember that the President won an extra eight million votes this election compared with 2016 and some of those supporters are convinced that Trump won and that the election is being stolen from him. His attacks on election legitimacy and American democracy could perhaps be his lasting legacy; he has planted seeds of doubt in American institutions and the press which will not be easy to uproot for any future president, regardless of party affiliation. Given Trump’s success in breaking democratic norms, one has to ask themselves what is to stop the Republicans from playing the same successful game at the next election, with another Trump-esque candidate?
Democrats should take solace in having succeeded in making Trump a one-term president. However, it will take some time to determine whether the views he espoused will leave the political stage with him.