It has been a long year for everyone who wondered who the next president of the United States would be. It seems as though the election cycle began all the way back in 2017. As soon as outgoing President Donald Trump was inaugurated, opponents were discussing who they’d run against him in 2020. All year, amidst turmoil, uncertainty, loss, and fear, the election ads unceasingly barraged Americans. On Election Day, a weary country hoped for an end – one way or another. But it was not to be. Because of the massive increase in mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, vote tabulating dragged out another agonizing week.
Finally, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared the winners – by a significant amount. This did not deter Trump, however, and the last month has been a series of legal challenges and braggadocio claims that the election had actually been won by the incumbent, and that Americans would see the truth when the electors met to cast their votes. But with a clear majority in state wins and popular votes, Biden was also slated to receive the most electoral votes, which would cement his victory and put to rest any hopes the outgoing president had of swaying faithless electors or seizing an 11th-hour victory. On Monday, December 14th, the election was finally over.
Biden’s Path to 270
On Monday, the electoral college met to cast their votes. Biden was awarded 306, which is the exact same number Trump won in 2016. Trump, by comparison, was awarded Hillary Clinton’s 232. The threshold needed to be declared the victor is 270, which Biden handily surpassed when California cast their electors’ votes second to last, just after 5:30PM. This brought Biden’s total to 302. Hawaii was the final state to cast their votes, adding 4 more to Biden’s victory.
But Biden’s path to 270 was the rockiest in modern memory, and the likelihood of winning waxed and waned on various days when the counting was ongoing. As Election Night came to a close, it looked as though Trump had won, but many votes were still being counted. As midnight turned, Biden began making gains as some of those mail-in votes were opened and added to the total. In battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Nevada – the vote counts continued well through the week. But as the mail-in votes were counted meticulously one by one, something extraordinary happened. States like Arizona and Georgia – thought to be solidly Republican states that would be added to Trump’s total – slowly turned blue.
At the end of the long week of counting, Biden had won nearly every outstanding battleground state, conceding only South Carolina to the incumbent. And shockingly, the democratic challenger clinched victory in Georgia and Arizona. After a long hesitation by the media to insure that every vote was counted and victory was clear – Biden was eventually declared the winner. The former Vice President won both the popular vote and was expected to claim victory in the electoral college, slated to meet December 14th.
Even the meeting of the electors was not without drama, however, in the most 2020 twist possible. In some states, Republican challengers refused to accept the results and formed their own body of faithless electors who cast their votes. It was their hope that when Congress meets in January to certify the results, they’d be able to convince them to accept their elector votes and not those cast by the duly appointed state electors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put that hope to rest today as he spoke on the Senate floor, extending a congratulations to Biden on his win and assuring the country that the duly cast electors votes would be certified in January. It was a breath of blessed normalcy after over a month of Republican leadership bucking political norms to appeal to a furious Trump.
In some states, electors were snuck into buildings under cover of darkness to protect them from threats of violence by people enraged over their state’s voting results.
Biden Accepts Victory, Admonishes Trump
After Biden was officially named President-elect in the wake of the electoral votes concluding, he spoke to the American people. The former VP spoke about unity, healing, and a hope that they could restore faith in a democracy that worked just as it should – by amplifying the voices of the voters.
Per the New York Times, “‘We the people voted,’ [Biden] said. ‘Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal.’
‘…If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now. What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: democracy,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves. In America, politicians don’t take power — people grant power to them.'”
The president-elect continued, “’We need to stand in solidarity, as fellow Americans, to see each other, our pain, our struggles, our hopes and our dreams,’ he said. ‘We’re a great nation. We’re good people.’
‘…The flame of democracy was lit in this nation, a long time ago…And we now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.’”
A Biden Administration
Even as Trump refuses to concede and hints that he may hold a competing event in Florida on the day of Biden’s inauguration, it’s all over but the certifying. Although that’s no small step and is vital in the process, McConnell has already signaled that they will not seek to overturn the electoral votes. That means that Biden and Harris will be sworn into office in late January, and Trump will have no recourse left with which to challenge the election. Some Trump surrogates have playfully suggested that the outgoing president will run again in 2024, which is a welcome sound to the ears of his devoted supporters. However, it remains to be seen if Trump will be so eager to return after four years of freedom.
For now, America preps for a transition to a Biden administration and what is sure to be a different next four years.