It’s still subject to recounts and legal confirmation, but Joe Biden is near-certain to become the next President of the United States. His defeat of Donald Trump is the major story from this election cycle, and will receive tons of coverage throughout the news. But the election was also a broader referendum on issues and the direction of America, and there are many more winners and losers to pick apart – here are a few of them.
They may have lost at the top of the ticket, but this was otherwise a very good night for Republicans. There was talk of a ‘blue wave’, of Democrats sweeping the House and the Senate, but that was far from what happened – the Republicans held the Senate and added seats to the House, setting them up for sweeping gains in 2022. They also gained a state legislative chamber while holding their others, and picked up a gubernatorial seat.
For the Left, it was hoped that 2020 would be a massive repudiation of Trump – in fact, it was a narrow victory for Biden and an endorsement of his policies. Trump’s strong showing also points a way forward for the party. He has generated a workable template for appealing to black and Hispanic Americans, and demonstrated that cutting regulation and fighting cultural battles is appetising for large chunks of the American public. Stripped of a controversial figure like Trump, they’re on a good footing going forward.
They may have lost at the top of the ticket, but this was otherwise a very good night for Republicans
This time last year, Kamala Harris was in a bad place – suffering from a lack of Democratic voter support and funds, she was forced to withdraw her candidacy for President. After a brief surge that came after attacking Biden’s opposition to busing, Harris’ record and lack of principles were highlighted by Tulsi Gabbard, ending her run. According to the polls, Harris was likely to come fifth in her own state, and that would have been a crushing embarrassment. The big question was what would come next, and it was former rival Joe Biden who answered that question, appointing her his VP pick.
Now the election is over, Harris has made history. She is the first female and the first black VP in America’s history, and that has excited generations of young people excited to see a diverse White House. As Biden is a frail figure, it’s likely that Harris will be a proactive VP, eager to push her own policy priorities. And, given the odds that Biden isn’t going to last fur years in office, it’s entirely possible she’ll make history as the first female president.
As distaste with established media grows, people are turning to new sources for news, and the election demonstrated an impressive future. Podcast host Steven Crowder’s election livestream on YouTube amassed 8.1 million views, beaten only by Fox and (very narrowly) CNN, while the Daily Wire picked up 4 million. Trust in the media has plummeted over the past few years, and that leaves a huge gap for independent media to fill. This election has demonstrated that they may be stepping into that role, and this will be very important as the mainstream is expected to go soft on Biden.
Trust in the media has plummeted over the past few years, and that leaves a huge gap for independent media to fill
The inverse of the Republican situation – despite taking the top job, Democrats have really underperformed. If Trump truly was such a uniquely evil and incompetent leader, the Democrats should have resoundingly defeated him, and yet they couldn’t. In a 5 November caucus call, the Democrats attempted to diagnose some of the problems with their platform. It was unclear to many voters what the Party stood for outside of not being Donald Trump, and the policies that were clear – things like defunding the police, packing the Supreme Court, restructuring the economy and pushing for socialism – were not attractive to the wider population. Joe Biden will have to reconcile the moderate and progressive wings of his party to achieve broad electoral support and that’s looking like it will be a very difficult battle.
The polling industry
This was going to be an easy win, and the polls knew it. After being humiliated by missing the Trump vote in 2016, pollsters rewrote their practices and this time… came out worse. Every poll had Biden up, with an average lead of 7.2%, and CNN forecasted a 12% win. Some of the polls were ludicrous – an ABC News/Washington Post polls put Biden up in Wisconsin by 17%, for example – and they helped contribute to a feeling that the game was rigged against Trump. After two election cycles, it appears the pollsters still have no idea how half of America thinks, and that’s a major issue when gauging opinion in a democracy.
After two election cycles, it appears the pollsters still have no idea how half of America thinks, and that’s a major issue when gauging opinion in a democracy
The conservative news network drew the highest-ratings of the election period, but an unusual decision attracted a lot of backlash. On Election Night, Fox called Arizona – a key swing state – for Joe Biden, despite just over half of the votes being counted. As it transpires, Biden won Arizona by a small margin, the first time a Democrat has won that state since 1996. There was a sense that making such a projection helped shift momentum to Biden, with numerous networks and officials saying the call should be retracted and it has proven hugely controversial among Fox’s base.
Trust and unity
We all knew, going into this election, that the losing side would accuse the winners of cheating. In the end, it was Trump talking of a rigged election, but Democrats have done it for four years after Clinton’s defeat and would have done it again had they lost. The unprecedented number of mail-in ballots and the delays in vote counts have fuelled conspiracy theories about fraud, and illustrated a dangerous issue at the heart of America – belief that the system is only working if my guy comes out on top. That’s not a good place to be, and President Biden will have to address that.
There’s also the matter of unity – Biden talked of unifying the country in his victory speech, but that’ll be easier said than done. If you looked at the news coverage, you’d think all of the US was celebrating this win, but more than 70 million people didn’t get the result they wanted. There’s a lot of anger and distrust in the air in America, with two sides seeing the other as an enemy, and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. This was an election framed about reducing divisiveness, and Trump’s departure will help lower the temperature, but America is still a country split down the middle.