Biden becomes 46th president of the United States, fate of Senate may lie with Georgia

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Image: Mary Helene Hall

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. speaks at his campaign event in North Liberty, Iowa, on Feb. 1, 2020. “They don’t want me to be the nominee because they know I’ll beat him like a drum,” he said. The Biden campaign emerged from the presidential race victorious Nov. 7, according to the Associated Press.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, are headed to the White House after a nail-biting result count that kept the nation in limbo for several days.

Biden and Harris defeated incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence Saturday morning. Biden currently holds 279 electoral votes while Trump holds just 214. Only 270 are needed to win the Electoral College and thus the presidency.

Biden also won the popular vote by a margin of more than four million votes. This is the fourth presidential election in a row, and the seventh of the past eight, in which a Democrat won the popular vote, according to the New York Times.

2020 election goes down in history

The news of his election comes 48 years to the day after Biden’s first win in the United States Senate, where he represented the state of Delaware. At 78, he will be the oldest person to occupy the White House and the first president from Delaware, CBS reports.

The Biden/Harris ticket garnered the highest number of votes of any candidates ever recorded in the United States, with more than 74 million as of Nov. 7, breaking the record previously set by Democratic President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as Vice President. The Trump/Pence team received the second-highest number of votes of any ticket, as this election saw the highest voter turnout the country has ever seen.

Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection in more than 25 years and the third since World War II, according to the New York Times. Although the president is attempting to take battleground states like Pennsylvania and Georgia to court over allegations of voter fraud denying him a second term, no evidence of wrongdoing has surfaced, and courts have rejected nearly all of his lawsuits. His actions are not likely to change the outcome of the election.

Biden and Harris ran on a relatively mainstream Democratic platform, pledging to uphold civil rights, take action to address climate change and improve the economy. But what more likely won them the election was their vow to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic — which many blame Trump for allowing to ravage the country — and their promise to govern for all Americans during an era where political divisions run deep. Biden preached unity and healing throughout the campaign, reaffirming his stance time and time again that “there will be no blue states and red states … just the United States.”

Many voters found Biden’s message refreshing after four years of a president who often refused to disavow white supremacy and who has been accused of racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.

In a sharp contrast from Trump’s controversial track record with marginalized groups, this election has proved historic for representation. Vice President-elect Harris will be the first female Vice President, the first Asian American Vice President, the first Black Vice President and the first Vice President to graduate from a historically Black university

Her win means that a woman of color has become the highest-ranking woman in the history of American politics. The Biden/Harris administration also committed to selecting a racially diverse cabinet with LGBTQIA+ and female representation.

Many Americans focus on change

In what many news outlets have considered a symbol of national repudiation of Trump, several states flipped from Republican to Democratic compared to the 2016 presidential election. Two states that rarely side with Democrats especially surprised the nation as their races remain too close to call: Arizona and Georgia. 

Biden has a narrow — yet steady — lead in Arizona. If he wins the state’s 11 electoral votes, he will become the first Democrat to do so since 1992. While the Associated Press has called Arizona for President-elect Biden, not all media outlets agree, and votes continue to be counted.

Similarly, the state of Georgia, which has 16 electoral votes, threatens to flip Democratic in what would also be the first time since 1992. Experts attribute Georgia’s possible flip to the efforts of Black community organizers, activists and prominent figures such as Stacey Abrams, who after narrowly losing her bid for governor in 2018 dedicated herself to addressing voter suppression.

Although Biden does not need the electoral votes from either Arizona or Georgia, winning those states would suggest that much of the country is undergoing major political shifts towards the left, either in spite of or in response to the Trump presidency.

Further suggesting that Americans are looking for change, progressive policies prevailed in many states — even some that Biden won narrowly or not at all.

New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana voted to legalize recreational cannabis, South Dakota and Mississippi legalized the drug for medical purposes, Oregon legalized psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) for therapeutic use and decriminalized small amounts of harder drugs like heroin and cocaine, Florida voted to up its minimum wage to $15 by 2026, and Colorado voters rejected a bid to ban abortion after 22 weeks.

Future of the Senate remains uncertain

Additionally, the GOP-controlled Senate has a chance to flip Democratic, and the decision could ultimately come down to Georgia.

Democrats have already flipped two seats in the Senate. Republicans flipped another, bringing Democrats’ net gain to just one. That means the Senate is hanging at 48-48 with four more seats left to fill. 

North Carolina and Alaska have yet to announce winners, although both appear to be leaning towards Republicans as votes continue to be tallied. The two remaining Senate seats will come from Georgia, where the races were so tight in the general election that no candidate received 50% of the vote, triggering automatic runoff elections

Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to fill Sen. Johnny Isakson’s vacancy after he retired due to health reasons in 2019, will attempt to defend her seat against Democratic challenger the Rev. Raphael Warnock in the special election runoff.

Meanwhile, the general election runoff pits incumbent Sen. David Perdue, a 70-year-old Trump ally with support from top Republicans nationwide, against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old investigative journalist who has lost two elections in the state since 2017.

If three or more Democrats win Senate seats in the remaining four states, the Senate will flip Democratic. There will then be a trifecta of Democratic control in the White House, the House and the Senate. If three or more Republicans win, the GOP will retain control of the Senate, probably jeopardizing some of Biden’s more liberal plans.

If Georgia elects both Democratic candidates and Alaska and North Carolina elect one Republican each, the Senate will be tied at 50-50, and Vice President-elect Harris will serve as a tiebreaker on the Senate floor. 

The Georgia Senate runoff elections will take place Jan. 5. To vote in the runoff, eligible Georgians must register by Dec. 7. Registered voters will be able to request absentee ballots starting Nov. 18. 

Results from Georgia and other uncalled states will continue to roll in over the coming days and weeks.

Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president Jan. 20, 2021.