The United States has escaped four more years of a Donald Trump presidency. In an election that saw the highest voter turnout in the last 120 years, Americans have elected former Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., to be the 46th president.
At 11:25 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, the Associated Press called the race for Biden, who surpassed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in his home state of Pennsylvania. Beyond Pennsylvania, Biden beat Trump by flipping states across the Upper Midwest won by Trump four years ago, as well as by making gains in the Southeast and Southwest. Biden has also won Nevada and currently holds the lead in Georgia and Arizona. If that holds, he’ll have 306 Electoral College votes — a margin of victory that Trump for four years has insisted be considered a landslide.
Biden dominated the popular vote. His 74.5 million votes (and counting) make him the first presidential candidate in American history to win more than 70 million votes and outpace Trump by more than 4 million.
The 77-year-old Biden will be the oldest president ever elected. After two failed attempts to win the Democratic nomination, Biden finally broke through with a campaign pledge to bring decency and restraint back to the Oval Office. The race, he said wherever he went, was “a battle for the soul of the nation.” His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, will become the first woman ever elected to executive office in the United States, the first Asian American, and the second black American.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement. “In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America.”
Biden added a conciliatory note: “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation.”
Despite the Republican Party’s best efforts to limit access to the ballot box and a months-long disinformation campaign by the president attacking mail-in voting, voter turnout in the 2020 presidential race was the highest since 1900, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The estimated 160 million Americans who cast a ballot, putting the turnout rate at a whopping 67 percent, surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic voting experts. In the end, more people will have voted for Biden than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history.
In this pandemic election year that upended the vote counting process, Biden’s victory comes after the first votes counted gave Trump leads in states that would have won him the White House: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Those leads were illusory, the result of a counting process that first tallied in-person ballots. The president, who encouraged his supporters to vote in person, pounced on the lead with an autocratic power grab, declaring victory and announcing his intent to nullify millions of votes that had not yet been counted.
But after much of the country had gone to sleep on Election Night, states began reporting huge batches of heavily Democratic votes, delivering Michigan and Wisconsin to Biden as Trump collapsed in the same states that delivered him the White House four years ago. The slide continued in subsequent days, as Biden grew his popular vote lead and retook enough states for a commanding win in the Electoral College.
Biden’s victory ousts Trump after four years of governing by racial resentment, flagrant corruption, endless lying, and a disregard for the rule of law. Trump will go down as a one-term president who lost the popular vote in 2016, got impeached, and never once saw his approval rating rise above 50 percent. His ability to nonetheless win more than 67 million votes (and counting), suggests his particular brand of #MAGA bigotry will be an enduring theme of American political life for years to come.
The 2020 presidential race has also, again, revealed deep flaws in the American electoral system. Despite once again losing the popular vote by millions, Trump had a real chance at reelection. Had turnout been slightly softer in a few key Midwestern states, and had a year’s worth of organizing by Arizona and Georgia activists not yielded results, America could have once again been left with a bigoted buffoon and aspiring autocrat. That this happened once and nearly happened again suggests that, so long as the archaic Electoral College system remains in place, presidential elections will double as American democracy’s quadrennial game of Russian Roulette.
Nevertheless, starting in January, Trump will no longer be president. This is worth celebrating.
Trump is not conceding. It does not matter. The president has continually lashed out since it became clear Biden was on his way to victory, falsely attributing Biden’s win to “surprise ballot dumps” that Trump painted as illegitimate. In reality, these votes came from legally cast absentee ballots that Republican state legislatures in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin prevented from being counted prior to Election Day. Trump continued to push disinformation about the result after the race was called for Biden. This is who he is and what he does. The question now is how much damage he’ll do in his remaining months as president, and how much he’ll do after as he leads the ethno-nationalist know-nothing MAGA movement. It promises to be considerable.
The Biden-Harris victory is a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing elections for Democrats. With the polls once again vastly overestimating the the party’s strength, they were favored to take over the Senate and expand their majority in the House. They succeeded in neither. They lost seats in the House and have only a very slim chance of retaking the Senate.
Barring an unexpected turnaround, Biden will enter the White House with his legislative agenda subject to approval from a Republican Party that spent the past four years rubber-stamping Trumpism while pushing their own, stale brand of conservative judicial activism and corporate cronyism. But Biden still has the power of the executive branch at his disposal and, if he’s going to repair any of the damage Trump has done, he’ll need to use it aggressively.