There is really only one story to write about this week. This has been a U.S presidential election like no other. From the primaries to the campaign to election week itself, this has been something extraordinary. Even in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the life of over 200,000 Americans, more than 150 million people voted in this election. The two candidates both received record high shares of the popular vote. But finally, after four days of counting, there was a projected winner. Now, I say projected because each state has to sign off the official vote count and the electoral college has to make it official themselves, but the media’s projected winner is usually enough to kickstart the next phase. I also say projected because, just like in 2000, there are set to be legal challenges that will drag the race out into the final months of the year before we can be certain of who will be President come the 20th January 2021.
For now, it seems that Donald Trump’s time as Commander-in-Chief is over. He is the first White House incumbent to lose an election since George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton. However, further down the ticket, many Republican senators kept their seats, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and staunch Trump ally Lindsey Graham. The Democrats also lost some seats in the House of Representatives lessening their majority. Conservative populism, particularly Trump’s brand is here to stay for now. The country will still have a strong conservative presence in its legislature, both federal and state. This became more of a referendum on whether the American people wanted to continue with Donald Trump as President. And they have given their answer. No.
There could be so many reasons for this. Some might have been appalled by Trump’s policies, his confrontational, bombastic style, his endless and unapologetic courting of far-right groups or his single-minded unilateralist actions that saw America retreat from its leading role on the world stage on issues like climate change and the Middle East. His seemingly continuous lying about absolutely anything and everything, especially on Twitter has spent four years dragging the office he was fluked into by the Electoral College through the mud. He has disgraced the office by simply holding the office and America decided it had had enough. Trump’s bungling of any competent response to the coronavirus was also a major focus and the economic impact that it has wrought will undoubtedly be a factor as well. Any recovery that the American economy made (instigated by Barack Obama by the way) has been washed away as Trump decided that this global health crisis at first wasn’t real, then that it was no more than a slight cold, then that there was nothing he could do, live with it. Now, unemployment numbers are at their highest level since the Great Depression and over 220,000 Americans are dead.
This is a record-breaking election for the US. As said earlier, more than 150 million Americans cast their vote and both candidates received record high numbers of votes. But all the indicators are for a Biden victory. And that is something remarkable. Biden’s campaign looked in serious trouble early on. He finished in fourth at the critical New Hampshire and Iowa primaries and looked set to be out of the running very early on. But he and his team have managed to turn what looked like crushing defeat into a momentous victory. Biden has done the job he was nominated to do. Win back the ‘Rust Belt’ states that had turned to Donald Trump in 2016. He has also helped make history in his choice of running mate, helping make Kamala Harris the first woman to hold the office of Vice-President, as well as being the first woman of colour and of mixed race to hold the office. How a Biden-Harris administration will handle many issues is yet to be seen, as Biden is very much of compromise candidate. Not a Democrat In Name Only (DINO) but certainly not what you call a true progressive. He walked a very fine line in the primaries as did Harris. But given that many Republicans are still in office over on Capitol Hill, it would be fair to say that Americans wanted to change their President, not necessarily their politics. That’s its own can of worms, and a slight worry given how polarising Trump and the ideas he’s embraced are.
Speaking of the President, he has not conceded the race. In fact, he has doubled down on his constant claims of mass voter fraud, illegal votes cast and a conspiracy against him. He did exactly the same thing after the 2016 election where he claimed he had won the popular vote (which he hadn’t to the count of 3 million) if you simply discounted 3 million illegal votes cast. And in the run up to Tuesday’s election, he repeatedly claimed mail-in ballots to be substantially fraudulent. In the wake of the announcement of Joe Biden’s projected victory, he made yet more claims about observers not being allowed to do their jobs, ballots not being counted when they should have been, ballots being counted when they shouldn’t have been and more and more. But he hasn’t offered any evidence for any of this.
This protracted end shows Trump as he has always been. Not only has he lost the electoral college, he’s lost the popular vote by a million more than he did four years ago. And he cannot stand that. He has to be universally popular. The fragility of his ego will not allow anything else. That’s why he’s launched all these lawsuits. Trump claims his early lead could not possibly have been wiped out like it was without a huge amount of voter fraud occurring, but not only have nearly all election officials across all 50 states said their system is not susceptible to manipulation, but that is also due to how many states prioritise what ballots are counted first. Many states prioritise counting ballots cast in person, on election day itself, first. Mail-in ballots are counted afterwards. And as Trump discouraged his supporters from voting absentee, and Biden did encourage them to vote absentee, the votes first counted will most likely be heavily in favour of Trump. Now, it is extremely important that any discrepancies are investigated and corrected if necessary, that is true of any free and fair election. But we will see the very worst of Donald Trump as he leaves office. There will be more claims of fraud, that the system is rigged, that the election was stolen from him, that he is really the winner, not a loser. And he will ignore all conventions of handing over power. He won’t give Biden’s transition team the necessary access, he won’t call Biden to concede and congratulate him, he won’t attend Biden’s inauguration. Because that is who he is. And America decided they had had enough and wanted someone who can carry himself with dignity, humility and decency. Not a screaming man-child who is having to contort his ‘hair’ into ever more fantastical contortions to cover his bald spot.