After four days of non-stop counting, it’s official.
Following the projection that Joe Biden has won in the state of Pennsylvania, by a number of sources, including CNN, BBC and AP, Joe Biden is now the President-Elect of the United States of America, formally making Donald Trump a one-term president.
Despite the success, the election overall has been a disaster for the Democratic Party. The pollster FiveThirtyEight forecasted that Biden would win 348 electoral votes, a day before the election, and that the Democratic Party would win 239 seats in the House and 52 seats in the Senate. Instead, Biden is on track to gain 306 electoral votes, a greatly reduced majority in the House and at best a 50/50 Senate. What was meant to be a Democratic Wave, delivering a two-year-long trifecta for the Blues, will most likely have a split Congress and two years of deadlock.
The Democratic Party has a challenge ahead. With a divisive President fumbling the handling of a pandemic, an economic crisis and a four-year precedent of being a pathological liar, all indications pointed to a landslide. If they could not achieve it now, could they ever eventually take full control of the government?
With an unpopular Speaker of the House, Senate Minority Leader and a 78-year-old President who is predicted to lack the support of the Senate, this is a party desperately needing a change in leadership. Nancy Pelosi, now aged 80, has led the House Democrats for almost 18 years and is on her second stint as Speaker of the House. Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate partly to allow for a new generation of Democrats to come to the forefront of the Party – and he now needs to allow them to do so. Removing Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer would perhaps make a good start.
The Democratic membership is significantly more liberal than its leadership: the rise of people like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders has shown a general tendency towards change within its ranks. After Sanders refused to pull out of the Democratic primary process in 2016, leading to the uncertainty of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy up to the Dem convention, many of the liberal Democrat ranks abstained from voting, arguably guaranteeing Trump the election. If the Democratic party is to again become a dominating force in US politics, as it did in 2008, it needs a shift to younger and more liberal leadership to inspire the electorate as Obama did.
In the past two years of controlling the House of Representatives, Democrats have failed to pass major legislation through to the Senate; the statehood bill to Washington D.C., among others, is yet to even see the Senate floor.
The Biden administration needs to give a voice to the 800,000 residents of D.C. and the 3 million Puerto Ricans, who have now total absence of representation in the Senate. Formalising their statehood would also aid the Democrats, almost unilaterally guaranteeing themselves four more blue Senate seats and five more House ones.
Furthermore, the Green New Deal, setting out to make the USA a more environmentally conscious nation, has not yet passed and it is looking unlikely without a Democratic Senate. This is crucial as it could allow the Democrats to show a liberal stance, especially to young people and the progressive electorate, and not the political “swamp” Trump has accused them of being.
Passing the Voting Rights act is another murky issue that has cost the Democrats perhaps more than they could have expected. Following its gutting by the Supreme Court in 2013, Majority Leader McConnel did not approve it to get past the House in 2019; it would assure minorities that the Party values their votes, in turn increasing their support. The Democrats could truly use – seeing as, during this election, Biden lost a significant portion of Clinton’s Latinx vote.
The creation of the Affordable Care Act in 2009 (commonly known as Obamacare) achieved a decades’-long aspiration held by Democrats – a concrete healthcare bill.
This wish, however, might soon reveal itself to be short-lived: when the Act comes before the Supreme Court on November 10th, it is likely to be struck down due to the Court’s conservative leaning.
With Biden considering a wide range of options to balance the Supreme Court, he could aim to have the decision reversed down the line, but is still left with the impending issue of having to rethink healthcare, especially since the liberal wing of his Party is increasingly pushing for a universal, NHS-style system.
Biden now has four years to govern the USA. Whether he governs as a moderate or a liberal remains a question, but this election has certainly exposed the growing issues within the Democratic Party. With an unpopular Congressional leadership and a substantial loss of non-white voters, the party needs a change – which could potentially well start with the stepping down of Nancy Pelosi.
With so many bills having been put forward by Democrats in the House, the next two years are the Dems’ best opportunity to show their identity as the left-leaning party of America; one that can keep afloat in an increasingly diverse and liberal country.