Joe Biden has won the US election. Although the incumbent President has mounted a series of legal challenges across several states, almost all of these have already been thrown out of court for making claims without providing any substantial evidence.
The state of Georgia has triggered a mandatory recount as the vote tally came down to a few thousand votes in favour of Biden. Even if Georgia returns a majority for Trump, the votes here still won’t be enough for him to overturn Biden’s Electoral College majority across the country.
Tellingly, many staunch Republicans and even traditionally die-hard news networks are backing away from the President and his claims of voter fraud. Trump himself has made just a single public appearance since the election and has made no public statements. Instead, the President has taken to his favourite outlet, Twitter, to write messages all in caps about a stolen election and retweet news clips seeming to agree with him.
Though this might drag on for some time, the dust is settling. Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the US between now and when Joe Biden is officially inaugurated as 46th President of the United States on January 20th next year.
Between now and the inauguration there are a number of key dates that could – but probably won’t – change the outcome of the election. Americans don’t actually vote for an individual or a party but for an elector who then votes on their behalf which is a bit of a throwback to slavery and elitist post-federation politics, hence the “electoral college”. Here’s what’s ahead.
December 8th, 2020
Last day to resolve any outstanding issues with the election. Recounts and court contests over the results need to be wrapped up by this date.
December 14th, 2020
The electoral college electors vote with paper ballots for their respective candidates in Washington DC and in their home state. There are 538 of them and they are chosen based on the popular vote. The majority vote in that state gives the winning party power to select the number of electoral college electors they are granted.
Electors almost always vote with their party, though most states have laws that prevent them from doing otherwise. Electors then sign six “certificates of the vote” which are sent to officials around the country including the president of the Senate.
December 23rd, 2020
Deadline for the certificates to be delivered to the designated officials.
January 6th, 2021
The House and the Senate hold a joint session to count the electoral votes and the president of the Senate, currently Mike Pence, announces the results of the vote.
January 20th, 2021
President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office on inauguration day while the outgoing president traditionally welcomes the newcomer in. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as Trump has a habit of swerving big state functions. Keep your eyes on the size of the crowd too as this will no doubt be a point of contention.
Looking beyond the next few months and to the next Presidential term, it seems the Republican party is at something of a crossroads. The party has effectively been taken over by Trump and his brand of brash populism. The election was not a severe repudiation of this style of governance as so many Democrats, Never Trumpers, Lincoln Project Members and anyone else who hated Trump had hoped for. What the tight results showed us is that Trumpism is here to stay.
That leaves the Republicans in a bit of a tricky spot. If they decide to turn on Trump, criticising him and trying to steer the party in another direction, they risk losing the voters and supporters that he clearly brought to them.
Trump actually increased the Republican vote this election. More people voted for him this time than they did in 2016, but more people also voted overall, which is why he lost the election. Trump was able to increase Republican vote share amongst Latinx Americans, particularly Cubans, Venezuelans, and Colombians which proves that Republicans are able to win minority voters — something the Democrats have relied upon for years.
However, if they embrace Trumpism, giving his family, friends, and allies key party positions and following his political line, they risk alienating themselves further from centrist Republicans, women, and college-educated voters, all of whom drifted away from the party over the past four years.
Plus, the isolationist strategy Trump employed in his foreign policy was not one well-liked by many Republicans and goes against much of the historic ‘America as leader of the free world’ positioning that they support.
Leaning into a Trump-style opposition over the next four years would mean doing everything in their power to block Democrat-inspired change and attacking them wherever possible. This might play well to their hardcore base, but if they are to increase their appeal beyond this, that strategy paints them as the party of obstruction.
It also depicts the government more broadly as ineffective, something many Trump supporters voted for him to change. It’s going to be four long years of reflection for the Republican party in how they deal with the legacy of Trump.
Democrats may have won the Presidential election but that does not mean they can sit back and take it easy for the next few years. Far from it. What the party and its supporters did was unite behind a common enemy to act on a shared goal. Now that that goal has been achieved, the factions within that massive group of individuals and demographics are already beginning to reemerge.
Joe Biden has portrayed himself as a unifier of not only the Democratic party but also of the country, indicating he will work with anyone to get the work of government done. That doesn’t sit too well with the progressive left, people who back AOC-style change and would have been much happier with Bernie in office. They will be pushing Biden hard to enforce Green New Deal-style policies, something Biden has already said he will move cautiously on.
This could quite easily lead to a splintering of support for him and more chaos and upset on the streets of the US, which would easily play into the hands of the Republicans.
Plus, although the Democrats won the White House, they failed to gain the Senate and they lost seats in the House of Representatives. This means they will largely be unable to pass legislation or get anything done outside of executive order decrees.
This is something Obama came to rely on by the end of his term which made him deeply unpopular with the Republicans — not that he was losing much love there. It also means they will be beholden to the will of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, a man not known for his compromise.
The Senate, a chamber of 100 seats, is split almost down the middle at 52/48 to the Republicans. In February, Georgia is unusually hosting two run-off Senate elections. That’s because no one achieved the required 50% in the recent election while another senator retired earlier in the year who will be replaced.
Democrats would have to win both of those to hold a majority in the Senate, as, even though it would be a 50/50 split, the decider, in that case, is the VP, Kamala Harris. Democrats have only ever won a single senate seat in Georgia since 1992 so it’s an uphill battle for them. However, given they likely managed to flip the state this time, and Trump has been attacking the validity of the election which could result in fewer Republicans bothering to show up, there is a chance they could do it.
Either way, without the house or the senate, or possibly only a razor-thin margin to govern on, along with a fracturing support base, it’s going to be an enormous task for the Democrats to prove themselves and steady the ship over the next four years.