My last post started with the FiveThirtyEight projection of a big win for Joe Biden, with 53% of the popular vote and 342 electoral votes. His actual totals were 50.9% of the popular vote and 306 electoral votes. This was still better than the win that Trump declared a “landslide” in 2016, since Biden not only matched Trump’s electoral vote total, but also won the popular vote that Trump has now lost twice. Biden won it by 5.6 million votes, twice as many as Hillary Clinton’s margin of 2.8 million.
Neither of the possible outcomes I previously described actually came to pass. Although Biden won five of the eight swing states I listed, he did not score a knockout blow on election night by winning one that Trump needed. The delay in counting mail-in ballots kept the race fairly close for a couple more days. The other scenario—that Trump could eke out a victory by means of some form of voter suppression—was, thankfully, averted. Biden won too many states by solid margins to be denied the victory. Considering the difficulties of voting during a pandemic, the continued threat of foreign interference, the divisions within the country, and the threats from one candidate to reject the results if he lost, the election itself went remarkably smoothly.
President-elect Biden’s victory, although solid, was not overwhelming enough to give him very much of a mandate to govern. The composition of the Senate is not entirely determined, but it has a good chance of remaining in Republican hands. I continue to be amazed that almost half the electorate voted for an incumbent who so thoroughly demonstrated his unfitness for the office. But as the Washington Post reported, Biden won the cities that have been thriving in the new economy, while Trump won the places that have been falling behind. Trump has tapped into the frustrations of many less-educated voters, but unfortunately, he’s done it less by advancing their interests as a class than by promoting traditional privileges of white supremacy, patriarchy and evangelical Christianity. Meanwhile, he has continued the standard Republican economic policies of tax cuts mainly for corporations and the wealthy and benefit cuts for the less well off.
That would seem to offer an opening for a president who actually cares about the working class. Biden should propose some measures that could unite working families across the board, like aid for early childhood education or vocational training opportunities, and then vigorously defend them. Senate Republicans can stonewall him, as they did President Obama, but hopefully not without political cost. Republicanism under Trump has become something of a con—see former Republican consultant Stuart Stevens’ book It Was All a Lie—but maybe the public is starting to want something more authentic.