The final contours of the 2020 election are still in sight – a victory for Joe Biden with a total of around 300 votes, but Republican strength elsewhere. At the end of the election week, here are some snapshots of verdicts:
First of all, let’s give a round of applause for America’s election workers and volunteers. They navigated through a pandemic, recorded early voting and unfounded and hysterical accusations of impropriety by the president. The system enabled 100 million early ballots and a record turnout overall without any significant disruption or controversy. America is the oldest democracy, and not without reason. We continue to lead the world in free, honest and fair elections.
Second, Biden will win the referendum by a slightly larger margin than Hillary Clinton in 2016. Initial estimates suggest that this election will set a record for the highest turnout of voters of voting age since the early 20th century, a tribute to Americans’ continued interest in voting and democratic participation.
To date, several states have switched from 2016, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia (perhaps) and Arizona. Biden won the three Great Lakes states with a similar lead to Trump 2016, and Cindy McCain’s support for Biden clearly had an impact in Arizona. As the votes were counted, it became clear that Trump’s denigration of the Post in the voting process plunged his Republican Party into a hole that it could not overcome despite the incredibly strong GOTV efforts on election day.
Third, Joe Biden’s tacitly effective strategy of marrying his progressive supporters to moderate and independent voters created an anti-trump coalition that agreed on little else but antipathy for the president. In the end, the public preferred a return to normality and cooperation to confrontation. Of all the Democratic candidates only Biden could have formed such a coalition.
Fourth, the efforts of the GOP GOTV prevented the demographic change of the United States in many states that were thought to be eligible. In Florida, North Carolina (probably) and Texas, the trump cards prevailed despite a voter turnout that was far greater and less white than four years ago. Biden’s victories in Arizona and possibly Georgia represent a democratic breakthrough in two Sunbelt states where demographic change is making them more competitive. While there is anecdotal evidence that Trump made only modest progress with black and Hispanic voters, for Joe Biden this was a major breakthrough and is the first reason why the former red states may turn purple.
Fifth, the good news for the GOP was that voter turnout has dropped. The Republicans may be on track to hold the Senate, a potential bulwark against a flood of progressive legislation. Georgia will be at the center of one or two senatorial elections for the runoff election in early January. The GOP is also prepared to win a few seats in the House of Representatives, which nobody predicted. Most importantly, however, Republicans have retained strong control in state legislatures, particularly in the major Midwestern states as well as Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. This will put the Republicans in a strong position when the states begin redistricting their districts in next year’s legislative periods.
These elections underscore the strategies of both parties to increase their share of the vote vertically rather than horizontally, a worrying factor that contributes to the polarization of our politics.
As for the way a Biden government could govern, they would clearly be limited by a Republican majority in the Senate. Progressive legislation such as the Green New Deal, major tax and spending increases and, of course, all efforts to grab the Supreme Court would be off the table. It would be unlikely that Elizabeth Warren would become Secretary of the Treasury. Regardless of which party ultimately wins the Senate, a group of more moderate Republican senators (Susan Collins, Mitt Romney) along with Republican senators who will be re-elected in 2022, such as Rob Portman in Ohio, might be interested in working with the new administration on selected initiatives.
Biden hopes that in dealing with a deeply divided population, the Senate will seek to create more bipartisan legislation rather than relying solely on the Democratic Committee, including progres