Biden is confident in his win. Democrats challenge him to demonstrate it.

Biden is confident in his win. Democrats challenge him to demonstrate it.

For now, democracy is hanging on. Despite Joe Biden’s impressive and necessary win, the 2020 election underscored a critical lesson: our democracy remains intact, at least for today. The political chasm that opened in the 1990s is wide and deep, and for the foreseeable future, it is likely to grow wider and deeper, threatening the idea that we can long continue as one nation.

In the weeks leading up to November 3, Democrats were hopeful, whispering the word “landslide.” Projections from knowledgeable people suggested Biden might top 350 or even 400 electoral votes, which would have meant a significant shift in the Senate and House. Such a result would have forced a reckoning within the Republican Party, potentially leading to compromise and modernization. Instead, the congressional election results were strong for Republicans, affirming their current direction and indicating they just need a less controversial standard-bearer.

The election demonstrated that Americans inhabit two different moral universes. While we may share similar ideas about personal responsibilities, our political realities are starkly different. This divide is largely fueled by right-wing media and disinformation campaigns, which have created an alternate reality for many Americans. This was evident in the Republican discussion of the Covid-19 pandemic, where misinformation about the virus and its impacts was rampant.

Despite these challenges, good things happened on election day. Donald Trump was defeated, and Joe Biden is set to take the oath of office. Biden’s victory was a result of his ability to win over swing voters while appealing to the party’s base and younger, more urban voters. He performed well among independents and young voters, and he won back key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Biden also made significant gains in Arizona and Georgia, expanding the Democratic map.

However, the map contracted in other places. Trump’s victory margins in Ohio and Iowa held steady, and he performed better in Florida than in 2016. The Democrats didn’t make much effort in Ohio or Iowa, and these states can no longer be considered swing states. This leaves Democrats with little margin for error in future elections.

The Senate results were disappointing for Democrats. In several states, there was a significant drop-off from presidential vote totals to Senate vote totals. This suggests that swing voters turned against Trump but were hesitant to endorse a fully Democratic government. The Democrats’ hopes for a Senate majority now depend on the runoff races in Georgia, where a huge African-American turnout will be crucial.

The House results were also shocking, with Republicans picking up a net eight seats. This led to instant recriminations within the Democratic Party. Some, like Representative Abigail Spanberger, blamed the party’s progressive faction and slogans like “defund the police” for the losses. Others, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, argued that many House Democrats lost because they were running outdated campaigns and not responding effectively to attacks.

The Democratic Party must determine why its brand is in trouble in vast stretches of the country. It would also be beneficial for the party to focus on what unites them rather than what divides them. Nancy Pelosi, as the leader, should work to bring the caucus together.

The failure to capture the Senate is particularly tragic for Democrats. If they had won the Senate, they could have passed significant legislation on coronavirus relief, minimum wage, infrastructure, healthcare, voting rights, climate change, rural development, immigration reform, and gun safety. These measures are broadly popular and could have demonstrated effective governance, potentially expanding Democratic majorities in future elections.

Instead, we appear to be headed for two more years of gridlock. McConnell will pass nothing, and the Supreme Court situation will remain challenging. This will likely lead to finger-pointing and inaction, which will hurt Biden and the Democrats more than the Republicans. Dispirited liberals may stay home in 2022, allowing Republicans to recapture the House and position themselves for a strong run in 2024.

Donald Trump has vowed to run again in 2024, and his influence over the Republican Party is likely to continue. Even if Trump himself fades, the changes he has effected within the party will remain. The Republican Party will continue its authoritarian impulses, and the minority repeatedly thwarting the will of the majority is intolerable and untenable. This could lead to future disunion.

Joe Biden will reset our struggling democracy in some important regards, such as shifting away from Vladimir Putin and toward traditional allies, and not interfering in Justice Department investigations. However, what was needed in this election was a broader repudiation of Trumpism than the voters delivered. It’s not quite mourning in America, but neither is it morning.

Source: The Atlantic, Associated Press

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