Bidenian Futures: challenges for America’s 46th President
Print Sports Editor, Nick Powell, looks to Joe Biden’s presidential future as ongoing disputes over the election result stoke division in America.
Though many will be relieved at Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, his inauguration is far less likely to be as iconic or celebrated as that of his Democratic predecessor when he was elected for his first term. That is in spite of Biden winning 10 million more votes than Barack Obama, and 15 million more than the first African American President’s re-election.
Part of the reason is that Donald Trump, who becomes the first sitting President since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to be dismissed from office by the voting public, received more votes than Obama on both of those occasions as well. To many, Biden does not have the oratory ability or statesmanlike class that made Obama so popular. Rather he is the (significantly) lesser of two evils.
But this victory marks an important moment for the United States. It is undoubtedly a turning point in both their domestic and foreign policy approaches, with the restoration to the Office of President a person who will embrace the customs and traditions that have been ignored so violently in the last four years and of course, the ground-breaking appointment of the first female and first person of colour as his Vice-President.
Trump’s Fraud Claims Loom Large
Trump is not going to leave without a fight, but his path is narrowing with every passing day. Though this election still does not feel settled – the first election of this kind since George W. Bush and Al Gore’s extraordinary election battle of 2000 – the circumstances are completely different.
Georgia’s Secretary of State conceded that “the numbers don’t lie”
Last week Biden secured victory in the recount in Georgia, whose Secretary of State conceded that “the numbers don’t lie”, despite being a self-professed “proud Trump supporter”. A few days later, Republican state legislators in Michigan pledged to approve the state’s confirmed results, and Trump’s high stakes lawsuit was struck down in Pennsylvania, where the judge labelled the case “without merit”.
The trend suggests that Biden will be in the Oval Office from late January, but for those that believe this election was stolen (a number exceeding the entire voting population of the United Kingdom), the various rulings and confirmations we have seen are unlikely to make them feel any more content with the result.
By continuing to dispute the election result, Trump has not just ended hopes of Biden winning over any of his unconditionally committed supporters – thought to be 38% of the US public – in the next four years, but they will now be likely to hold Biden in great suspicion throughout his tenure.
So while the fraud claims pose no legal threat to Biden’s presidency, they will be an immediate handicap on his attempts to unite the nation.
Can the US ever re-unite?
The USA has been bitterly divided before, having emerged from the Civil War, civil rights movements 100 years later, and the aforementioned election between Bush and Gore. But Biden will have a stern test to try and bring the country back together from here.
Republican voters who consider Trump to be a messianic figure will face the prospect of an administration that is totally the opposite of what they had hoped for
Republicans opposed to the Civil Rights Act were somewhat appeased by a string of Republican victories up to the election of Barack Obama, but that aforementioned 38%, Republican voters who consider Trump to be a messianic figure, will face the prospect of an administration that is totally the opposite of what they had hoped for.
Hatred of your political opponent has become endemic in American political discourse in large part due to social media advertising, and while ending the Covid-19 Pandemic will undoubtedly boost Biden’s approval ratings, he will need to overcome the tide of fake news and social media fury that has rendered rational debate so difficult.
It should be Biden’s number one priority, and no doubt he will do what he can to bring the nation together in the next 12 months. If he does work with sincerity he could have support from Republicans in that endeavour, particularly to regulate social media, but that might be the only thing for which he receives support from that side of the wing.
Senate defeat damages agenda
Ahead of two crucial run-off elections in Georgia, the Democrats have 46 Senate seats to the Republicans’ 50, with two independents likely to vote with the Democrats. Though the Democrats are expected to win one of these races they are unlikely to win the other, leaving them a seat short of a Senate majority.
Even as some of the Senators re-elected for the Republicans, such as Susan Collins of Maine, are seen as moderates so are unlikely to contribute to overturning the Affordable Care Act in the legislature, much of Biden’s Climate Agenda and Tax Increases for those earning over $400,000 will be difficult to pass.
Further to the issues with the Senate, the frankly disastrous Democratic result in the elections for the House of Representatives has left Biden with the smallest majority for a sitting President since 2000. It will not be wholly straightforward to pass legislation through the lower chamber.
Biden will need to show steel, determination and persuasion that many believe he is not capable of given his age if he is to push through his bold and wide ranging agenda before 2024.