LIVE: Americans Celebrate as Joe Biden Defeats Donald Trump to Win 2020 Election

Date: 2020-11-07 23:27:11

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(Nov. 7) Joe Biden campaigned on the premise that his calm competency could lead the country out of the tumultuous years of Donald Trump. In the end, it was just enough.

After nail-biting days of vote counting across battleground states, Biden managed to pull together a winning electoral coalition to end Trump’s presidency.

But Democrats were unable to muster a “blue wave” repudiation of Republicans and the incumbent president, despite a coronavirus pandemic that decimated the economy and left almost a quarter million Americans dead. Biden will be challenged to mend the nation’s deep partisan divides even as the outgoing president alleges, with no evidence, a broad conspiracy to rig the election against him that somehow crossed both state and party lines.

Biden has proven a survivor. His campaign was not derailed by an amateurish and implausible effort by Trump’s associates to smear him as corrupt. And despite under-performing in states like Florida, where he devoted considerable resources, the former vice president was able to fall back on voters in the Rust Belt he has courted for decades.

He won more than the 270 Electoral College votes required to secure the White House by winning the state of Pennsylvania on Saturday.

Ultimately, Biden’s victory might be attributed to the fact that enough Americans simply liked him better than Trump. Despite the president’s efforts to attack him as corrupt and senile, a CNN poll found 55% of Americans viewed the former vice president favorably a week before the election — including a quarter of people who describe themselves as conservative. For an exhausted electorate, faced once again with a surge in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, the Democrat represented a known quantity.

Biden’s campaign, tailored to highlight his decades of experience and his human touch, offered a searing contrast with Trump, dogged since April by public disapproval of his stumbling effort to curb the pandemic. While only a third of Americans said Trump would unite the country, six in 10 said the same of his Democratic challenger, who served two terms as Barack Obama’s vice president.

Sill, Biden faces immense challenges as he attempts to govern. His victory provided little lift to down-ballot Democrats, and the GOP could hold on to its Senate majority pending two runoff elections in Georgia — likely foiling liberal dreams of sweeping new climate legislation or overhauling the nation’s health care system.

“Biden has his work cut out for him,” said presidential scholar Joe Ellis, the recipient of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for History. “There’s a big agenda out there, and you can expect him to take on the issues, but to do so in a way that is centrist and Democratic and calm us down. But how much the rhetoric of politics will cool off and how much he’s going to be able to actually achieve is not clear.”

A son of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who became a fixture in Washington, Biden believed the Democratic Party had erred in conceding working-class White voters to Republicans. He ignored a steady drumbeat of critics who worried he was too moderate, too old, too cautious, focusing instead in his primary and then in the general election on winning over voters he could count on to show up: seniors, African-Americans, women, and Rust Belt Whites who defected to Trump in 2016.

Biden’s reward is an office he has sought since the 1980s. But the job now comes with harrowing responsibility.

There is no historical analogue for a president assuming power at the height of a pandemic, facing both persistent widespread unemployment and the threat that hundreds of thousands of his citizens may yet perish. Biden has also promised to restore “the soul of the nation” amid political and racial strife that only deepened during Trump’s term in office.

He will be 78 when inaugurated in January and Biden is sure to face regular questions about his stamina and capacity to govern the world’s largest economy.

He’ll also need to build a political mandate after a closer-than-expected victory in an election that was always going to be a referendum on Trump, the most polarizing president in modern American history and only the third in American history to be impeached.

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