So, it wasn’t a landslide, but it will be a decisive victory after all. With an estimated 308 Electoral College votes, Biden will even be two votes above Trump’s “biggest electoral college victory since Reagan” in 2016.
But seriously, it will be weird to have a president again who will live in our reality rather than his own. I wonder how long we will enjoy it. People forget fast, and media and pundits even faster. How long before we will all complain about how “boring” and “predictable” Biden is, two of the characteristics that helped him win the election.
I am not going to speculate about what could still go wrong. About court cases and possible violence, let alone a coup d’état or the return of Trump or a “smarter” and “more polished” Trumpian candidate in 2024. I know it is hard to break the habit of doomsday punditry, which has dominated liberal media for the last four years, but it has not helped us much before and it won’t do much good right now.
Let’s just focus on what did happen. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the popular vote with a record number of votes, rebuilt the “blue wall”, and flipped two major “red” states: Arizona and Georgia. Moreover, the Senate is still in play, and will be decided in my home state of Georgia, the surprise of this election. And while it is true that run-offs have always favored Republicans, so did presidential elections, until now.
We also know that the big swing among “moderate Republicans”, the white suburban housewives, did not happen. We will have to wait for reliable survey material to draw the right conclusions, and for now resist the temptation to draw upon the highly problematic National Exit Poll to find “evidence” for our prejudices. Still, irrespective of the exact percentages, and the small swings in this election, the Republican party remains the party of white people and the Democratic party remains the party of non-white people. At the same time, the only group to have supported one party nearly unanimously, is African Americans, and particularly African American women, the saviors of the Democratic party in both 2018 and 2020.
It is therefore fitting that for the first time in US history there will be a woman in the White House, and a woman of color at that, Kamala Harris. As we know from the Obama presidency, having a person of color in the White House doesn’t guarantee a progressive presidency. But it does do justice to the crucial role of women of color in the modern Democratic party, which is still, too much, dominated by white men, at the federal and many state levels.
Whatever the Biden presidency will bring, we should not forget that his most important task has already been achieved: to end the Trump presidency
Whatever the Biden presidency will bring in terms of progressive policies, we should not forget that his most important task has already been achieved: to end the Trump presidency. Although it looks like the apocalyptic scenarios that have dominated liberal media in the past months did, and will, not play out, this does not mean that another Trump term could, and almost certainly would, not have done serious damage to the institutions, norms, and values of US democracy. For now, the very real process of democratic erosion has been stopped, and that is a major victory for all Democrats and other democrats.
Similarly, the Biden victory is a big victory for democracy around the world. Sure, the US has always been an imperfect and opportunistic defender of human rights, and Biden will be no different, but four years of Trump has shown that this is still much better than the alternative. From Hungary to North Korea, and from Brazil to India, the ramifications of the US election will be felt instantly – note Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarkably enthusiastic congratulatory tweet to Biden today . The liberal world order will have its leader back, from Nato to WTO, even though trust in US leadership has been shaken fundamentally – remember that Trump was not the first Republican president to disappoint and disregard the US’s traditional allies, George W Bush did the same.
All of this may be of little concern to many American progressives, who are deservedly skeptical about traditional US foreign policy. But know that it will be felt as an incredible victory for progressives in countries like Brazil, Hungary, India, Israel, and Ukraine to have a US president again who cares about the human rights of at least some people around the world. A US president who will not send ambassadors to their country who will actively support far right parties, like Pete Hoekstra in the Netherlands, and protect far right prime ministers, like David Cornstein in Hungary.
So, please do celebrate the victory of Biden and Harris, as a major victory for democracy in the US and abroad. But also realize that the election is not over yet. Biden will be the president, but whether he will be a powerful or weak president will be decided next January, in the run-off elections for the decisive two Senate seats. A second victory in Georgia will propel Biden into a strong presidency two weeks later, with the Democrats holding the presidency and both houses of Congress. So, now that y’all finally know where Georgia is, and understand that we are not all neo-Confederate racists, keep Georgia on your mind in the coming months!