Opinion – The US election was a referendum on Trump not an endorsement of Biden

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Thomas Morgan shares his opinion on the recent electoral college announcement. Biden may be the incoming “healer in chief” but does his incoming administration lack vision past healing division?

The 2020 US election was extraordinary, not only because it took place during an ongoing global pandemic but because it saw a rare defeat for the incumbent, making Donald Trump only the 11th US president to fail to secure a second term in the White House. Even after the electoral college officially certified Biden’s win earlier this week, Trump still refuses to recognise Biden’s victory and not concede. This not only harms American democracy but it also makes it difficult for the incoming president-elect Biden to start a new chapter in American history. 

Joe Biden is projected to win 306 electoral college votes to Trumps 232, ironically the same margin to Trump’s win over Hilary Clinton. This is a clear win for Biden and Biden secured more votes than any other presidential candidate in history at 82 million. However, that record is second to Donald trump who despite losing received a staggering 70 million votes.  Biden and his campaign did not have the same momentum as Obama in 2008 or even Clinton in 2016. The reason why Biden did prevail is that his best campaign message was that he was not Donald Trump. Biden demonstrated that Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was lacklustre and that Trump was a divider, not an uniter. There is almost a bipartisan consensus amongst the American electorate that Joe Biden is a decent patriot that has endured personal loss that resonated with a lot of American families especially in the year of Covid where over 200,000 Americans have died.

Credits: Clay Banks on unsplash

Although Trump may have lost, the circumstances which brought him to the White House and the grievances of the people that voted for him have not gone. Trump’s election in 2016 was an anti-establishment message, the effects of globalisation on America’s middle class had been brewing for years but successive presidents have ignored this both democrat and republican. Manufacturing jobs were indeed moving overseas in fact almost 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000, global competitors such as China can offer manufacturing services for cheaper however this isn’t the full story it plays into Trump’s America first rhetoric for the issue to be jobs are feeling to china and the solution is getting American firms to stay in America. However, the reality is much more complex, automation plays a big part in the loss of these jobs and Washington has failed to meet this issue head-on, and a lot of Americans still associate Biden with the Washington elite. Biden will have to address many Americans’ concerns with the system.

Biden’s victory was undoubtedly owed to the black community, saving his candidacy in the south Carolina primaries and also victories in Georgia have been linked to higher black turnout. The 2020  US election was held on the same year we saw the most significant call for systemic change in regards to race since the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the horrific killing of George Floyd signified that America still has a long way to go on racial injustice, Biden’s election also saw the election of Kamala Harris as the first female, black and Indian vice president in US history, however, Harris’ position mustn’t be a one, off merely tokenism, both Biden and Harris must build on where the Obama administration fell short. 

Many African Americans voted for Biden because the stakes were higher. Trump has repeatedly emboldened white supremacy during his presidency and for them voting in this election, was a matter of great importance to their livelihood. Despite Trump’s sometimes blatant disregard for black issues, Trump increased his vote share amongst African Americans and this may say more about Biden than it did about Trump, Biden’s legacy on the 1994 crime bill was a contentious issue for many African Americans and many associate him directly for ushering in an era of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects African Americans.

Credits: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The analogy of Biden being a headteacher entering a failing school to turn it around may help explain best the position Biden is in; getting America back on its feet in 2021 may be the easy part especially if the senate races in January deliver the democrats a senate majority. 

The next challenge for the president-elect will be his ability to address the systemic issues in America which have been brought to the forefront of the political agenda on both sides of the ideological debate. Biden has appointed swathes of Obama era people to his top teams and cabinet, so if he does not appear radical in his approach to pressing issues of healthcare social security and race relations, he may fall through the cracks and ultimately fail, but only time will tell.