After an Election Day that turned into an Election Week, Joe Biden has won the U.S. Election 2020, becoming the President-elect of the US.
The historic character of the 2020 election has been evident at every turn. The Vice President-elect is a woman of colour. The President-elect will be the oldest President to ever enter office. More votes have been cast in this election than ever in the history of US elections. And, in an affront to democracy, the unsuccessful election bid by the incumbent President has resulted in, not a phone call of congratulations to the President-elect and a pledge to assist in the transfer of power, but a temper tantrum where he refuses to concede and communicates through an erratic series of Twitter rants.
Trump is unwilling to concede to Biden, perpetuating unsubstantiated claims about election illegality and corruption, insisting that the election has been “stolen from him” through illegal votes. Adopting his standard approach of ‘if I say it then it must be true’, Trump’s footing is increasingly unstable. Even First Lady Melania Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner have both advised Trump to accept defeat. With world leaders and Republicans congratulating Biden on his victory, Trump’s self-pity and egocentric warpath are unlikely to become much more than what they are at their core: pathetic.
There was an underlying expectation that Trump’s disregard for the Coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 238,000 Americans, coupled with his divisive racist rhetoric would result in a landslide victory for Democrats. However, as the results continued to roll in across every major news outlet, Democrats did not see the blue wave that many were anticipating. Despite Biden receiving more than 75 million votes, US citizens were split down the middle on their political preferences, with more than 71 million voting for Trump. The closeness of these figures, which endorse polar opposite values, represents “the sizable fissure in the collective American psyche”, shedding light on the astronomical task waiting for Biden when he returns to the White House: uniting the country.
Despite the tensions throughout the US, and the split political nature of citizens, Biden’s ability to flip states won by Trump in 2016 – such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – signifies the growth of democratic values in the US.
Whilst not as large a success as some expected, this comfortable victory should be seen as a sign of hope, as a willingness and desire of the majority of Americans to see the US earn back its international respect and work towards making it a safe place to live, where each individual is protected from racism, sexism, homophobia. All qualities which have been made implicitly acceptable in the US for the past four years by a President who encompasses all of these traits. Biden’s win is a mass protest against the injustice and divisiveness of the Trump administration and a call to restore dignity to the office of President.
The relief of Trump’s upcoming removal from office has been evident across the US through people taking to the streets cheering, dancing, and celebrating with champagne. However, it is the emotional responses to Biden’s win that truly demonstrate that the success of democracy and human rights were at stake in this election.
One of the most poignant reactions was CNN anchor Van Jones’ powerful speech about what Biden’s success means for him, his family, and millions of other Americans. Jones spoke about how the election result made him feel that it was “easier to be a parent this morning. It’s easier to be a dad. It’s easier to tell your kids character matters.” He tearfully continued on through to say that “if you’re Muslim in this country, you don’t have to worry if the president doesn’t want you here. If you’re an immigrant, you don’t have to worry if the president is going to be happy to have babies snatched away”.
Jones’ speech should be heard by every person with an interest in democracy and human decency. It is a reminder of the fact that democracy and equality are not guaranteed anywhere. That citizens have to refuse to accept conditions imposed by leaders when they are unjust and act for change, even if they are not the victims of the hostility being exhibited themselves. Biden recognised this in his acceptance speech noting that “America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be.”
The 2020 election has been, and will continue to be, a defining moment in American history where the people have stood up and said that the current administration and its values are not who they are or who they choose to be. The upcoming transfer of power is a beacon of hope and sanctuary for millions across the US and a chance to “restore the soul of America”. Biden’s inauguration in January will truly mark the dawn of a new era, one focused on equality, compassion, and the interest of all Americans.
Written by Lauren Taylor