6 November 2020

Biden Edges Closer to Victory After an Uncertain U.S. Election

As of 12:00 GMT on Friday 6th November, the winner of the United States presidential election has not yet been declared. However, Democratic nominee Joe Biden looks to be on the cusp of victory. Although votes are still being counted in many key swing states, with late wins in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, Biden now has 264 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. 

Early results on Tuesday morning indicated that forecasts of a landslide for Mr Biden were way off the mark, with Mr Trump comfortably winning the predicted battleground states of  Florida, Texas and Ohio. As in 2016, pollsters again came under fire for their failure in predicting the level of support for Mr Trump. In a dramatic and widely condemned move, the president falsely claimed on Tuesday night that the counting of mail-in ballots constituted voter fraud in favour of Mr Biden. He also demanded that the Supreme Court stop the counting of absentee votes, and declared an early victory.    

However, as vote counting continued into Wednesday, the count predominantly of mail-ballots helped the Democrats to flip the states of Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin. As Mr Trump’s path to victory narrowed, Democrats took the lead in Nevada, whilst continuing to close the gap on the president in Pennsylvania. On Friday morning, Mr Biden overtook Mr Trump by 917 votes in Georgia. In a speech on Wednesday night, Mr Biden all but claimed victory, saying that “after a long night of counting, it’s clear… when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.” 

Mr Biden’s speech stood in stark contrast to the White House address made by the president the following evening. Mr Trump repeated a string of unfounded conspiracies, alleging election fraud and continuing to declare victory, contrary to the results. Many television networks cut away from the speech to fact-check Mr Trump’s claims, whilst several leading Republican officials have distanced themselves from his comments. 

The Trump campaign is also facing difficulties in finding prominent Republican lawyers to lead the president’s legal battle, and a series of legal challenges aimed at stopping the vote count in the key wing states have so far made little progress. However, they have provoked suspicion amongst Mr Trump’s base, over the outcome and the legitimacy of the result. A period of prolonged uncertainty now looms, with protests in support of Mr Trump breaking out in Arizona, whilst in New York and Washington D.C., shops were boarded up due to fears of unrest.  

The election was also marked by a record turnout, with Mr Biden breaking the record for the most votes for a presidential candidate in U.S. history. However, this will do little to conceal a feeling of disappointment for Democrats, who were predicted a landslide win which never materialised. The failure to win back a majority in the Senate and a reduced majority in the House of Representatives means that Mr Biden will struggle to push his domestic agenda through a gridlocked Congress. 

However, a Biden presidency will likely see the reversal of many of Mr Trump’s policies on the international stage. On Wednesday, Mr Biden promised that the United States would rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, and a Biden administration will likely reverse the decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization, and end the policy of pressuring international institutions such as NATO and the UN. 

The close nature of the result and the likelihood of a lengthy litigation process is a far cry from the complete repudiation of Mr Trump and Trumpism that many pollsters and political commentators predicted. What is clear, is that millions of mostly white working-class Americans continue to support Mr Trump’s populist agenda. The fissures in American society, between urban and rural voters, and those with a college education and those without, is more prominent than ever. If, as expected, Mr Biden is to win the presidency, mending America’s divisions may be his greatest challenge.

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