President-elect Joe Biden defeats President Donald Trump after four days of uncertainty
When the early returns came in on election night, it looked like history was about to repeat itself. President Donald Trump was once again outperforming the polls, which had shown him clearly trailing his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump easily won Florida, romped to victory in Ohio and Iowa by margins that were almost identical to 2016, and was leading in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the “Blue Wall” states he flipped in 2016 to win the presidency. Democrats were on track to lose seats in the House of Representatives, and control of the Senate had seemingly slipped out of reach once again. A second term for Donald Trump was about to go from hypothetical to reality.
By midnight, however, no major networks had called enough states for either candidate to reach the 270 vote threshold necessary to win the Electoral College. Because of this, Americans went to bed on election night not knowing whom the next president would be. The uncertainty caused enormous misery for Americans of every political persuasion. Stress and anxiety skyrocketed as people monitored any and all new results, resulting in news websites like the Washington Post and Fivethirtyeight seeing record traffic. For four long, agonizing days, Americans watched with bated breath as pivotal battleground states slowly counted their mail-in ballots. They watched as Biden began to overtake Trump in the Blue Wall states as well as Georgia, expanding his leads past the point where it was mathematically possible for Trump to overtake him. The specter of recounts and court fights over the results raised the possibility that the outcome of the election would not be known for weeks or even months.
Then, on Saturday, Nov. 7, the floodgates opened. Every major network called Pennsylvania, and the presidency, for Biden within twenty minutes of each other. Biden, who had been left for dead earlier in the year after his disastrous showings in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, had a new title: President-Elect. Across the country, millions of Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief; a long national nightmare was over.
Except not really.
As news of Trump’s defeat broke and people crowded into the streets to celebrate, it was easy to get lost in the moment. To think that by ousting Trump, Americans, particularly Democrats, had rid themselves of Trumpism. But that is not the case. Right now, President Trump and his allies are waging a campaign to delegitimize the election results in a desperate, incoherent bid to cling to power. His undemocratic actions are being openly supported by prominent Republicans. While Biden’s victory is a huge deal, the battle for the soul of the nation that he frequently spoke of during his campaign trail is just beginning.
To understand why this is the case, one needs to look no further than the results of the election itself. The reason why it took an agonizingly long time to know the result of the election is because Republican controlled legislatures in the Blue Wall states and Georgia refused to change their state’s elections laws to accommodate the massive, coronavirus-induced spike in absentee votes. These legislatures could have followed Florida’s lead and allowed election officials to count mail-in ballots before Election Day, greatly expediting the process, but they refused. Had they done so, we would likely have known who won the election on Election Night.
Even more troubling, Trump has refused to concede the election, and it seems unlikely he will. While a concession is not needed for a transfer of power to occur, Trump’s refusal, coupled with his baseless attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the results, is going to have a damaging effect on our democracy. As if this wasn’t bad enough, many prominent Republicans, including several likely 2024 presidential contenders, have followed Trump’s lead by casting doubt on the results. While many foreign heads of state have acknowledged Biden’s victory, just four Republican senators have done so. While all of this will do little to keep President-Elect Biden out of office, it is clear that the polarization and division that defined Trump’s political career will remain even after he leaves office.
While the road ahead will not be easy, that doesn’t detract from the fact that, for the moment, the forces seeking to divide this country and undermine our democracy have been defeated. The excitement of victory will fade away soon, but while it’s here there is plenty to celebrate. While irresponsible Republican lawmakers forced the country to endure a protracted count, they could not stop the American people from making their voices heard.
On Jan. 20, 2021, America will have a new, fundamentally decent president who is expected to treat the ongoing pandemic with the urgency it warrants and work to unify the nation. For the first time in our history, the vice president will not be a white man. The government agencies that profoundly affect people’s lives will no longer be staffed by incompetent sycophants, and America’s place in the world will be restored with its alliances renewed. As for what this means for Rollins, the new administration will model the values and diversity of our school in a way that no administration before it has. The future looks brighter than it ever did during the last four years.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.