Making history

November 15, 2020

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prepare to face numerous challenges during their term at the White House

Hundreds of dancing men and women came out on the streets of Washington, Miami, Seattle, Delaware, Philadelphia and other cities to celebrate a long-awaited political transition in the US.

Their jubilation, rarely seen in American elections, was warranted. They had been waiting for polling results for the whole week. At one point, they were not even sure Joe Biden would be the winner.

This year‘s election in the United States has been full of record-setting and record-breaking developments. From a record turnout of voters nationwide to the election day chaos, it appears that the politically charged reality show in the most powerful democracy of the world is not over yet.

First, more Americans voted this year than in any other election in a century. According to an early estimate, two-thirds of registered voters, or nearly 160 million, came out to vote in a country where turnout is typically low.

As the Republicans lick their wounds after giving a tough fight to the rival Democrats but losing the presidency, it seems they are not ready to face the reality that President Trump has lost the race. He is still refusing to concede.

His party is filing lawsuits, challenging the election results in several states, alleging election fraud, and calling the ballot-counting illegal. They are trying to halt counting in Pennsylvania and Michigan, demanding a recount in Wisconsin, and challenging ballots in Georgia.

Joe Biden, who finally declared his victory in the presidential race, succeeded in getting 4.5 million more votes than his rival Donald Trump. He has thus won both the popular and the electoral college votes.

According to CNN, by Wednesday last week, Joe Biden had won 279 electoral college votes compared to Trump’s 214. Biden also won 51.8 percent of popular votes but only after winning the swing states of Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Trump was behind with 47.4 percent votes.

Joe Biden‘s victory was not an upset. The surprise, however, was Trump’s tough fight in several swing states, despite a lackluster economy, the pandemic crisis, and four years of administrative turmoil. Even now, Trump is refusing to go down without a fight. He is making claims on his social media accounts about the election process and results. Trump’s spokeswoman has claimed that the legal battle to contest Biden’s victory was only just beginning. “This election is not over,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Trump‘s popularity in the rural and suburban white communities is a blessing for Republicans. That explains why most of the top Republican leadership stands rock-solid behind claims of election irregularities.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in Congress, endorsed Trump on the Senate floor. He declared that Trump was “100 percent within his rights” to turn to the legal system to challenge the outcome and hammered Democrats for expecting the president to concede. “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” said McConnell. “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

As the Republicans lick their wounds after giving a tough fight to the rival Democrats but losing the presidency, it seems they are not ready to face the reality that President Trump has lost the race. He is still refusing to concede.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo too fully supported Trump’s stance. “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said.

On the administrative front, too, Trump is not behaving like a lame-duck. He has just fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper. Afterwards, three other senior Pentagon officials were fired or resigned. They include the department’s top policy official, James Anderson, who resigned and is being replaced by (retired) Brigadier General Anthony Tata, whose nomination for the post earlier this summer failed after media highlighted his past Islamophobic remarks.

On the legal front, Trump and his lawyers seem to be a long way from overturning the election results. Trump is seeking an emergency injunction in Pennsylvania to prevent Biden’s victory being certified in the state. The Trump campaign has also filed a new lawsuit in Michigan, which Biden won by nearly 150,000 votes. Prosecutors in Republican-controlled states are also supporting Trump’s challenge to the election results. Ten state attorneys general have filed an amicus brief at the US Supreme Court backing the Trump campaign’s case in Pennsylvania. US States must resolve recounts and court contests over the results by December 8. The outcome will be finalised when members of the US Electoral College meet on December 14.

Earlier, US Attorney General William Barr had allowed federal prosecutors to probe alleged irregularities in the presidential election. This, however, prompted a top Justice Department official to quit. Richard Pilger would have overseen such investigations. Any such cases would normally be the responsibility of states. However, Barr said it was not a hard and fast rule.

This election will also be remembered for reaching a historic milestone. America has elected Kamala Harris as the first women vice president in American history. She is also a descendant of an immigrant family. Her father was a Jamaican and her mother an Indian.

It is a symbolic victory therefore for women, immigrants, and minorities at this historical juncture when racial and ethnic tensions are so high, thanks to the four years of Trump‘s divisive politics.

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prepare for the next four years in the White House, they should also get ready to face enormous challenges, including the pandemic, economy, immigration, affordable health, social justice and an intensely divided nation.

Some say the deadly pandemic that claimed over two million Americans’ lives also shook the American presidency taking down a mighty president who mocked its capacities and downplayed its daunting impacts on the American society and economy.

Biden has already announced the creation of a Covid-19 advisory board and appealed to Americans to wear face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He has talked to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada as well.

The author is an academic scholar and a freelance journalist based in the US.

US election: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris prepare to face numerous challenges