Incumbent president Donald Trump has vowed to challenge the result at the Supreme Court after making baseless claims about ballot fraud.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden is forecast to be the next president of the United States after beating incumbent Donald Trump in Tuesday's election.
In a bitter, drawn-out and close fought campaign, Biden benefited from a surge in Democrat votes via mail-in votes in key battleground states to give him a late victory after it seemed like Trump was on his way to staying in the White House in the early counting.
"America, I'm honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country," now President-elect Biden acknowledged on Twitter.
America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 7, 2020
The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not.
I will keep the faith that you have placed in me. pic.twitter.com/moA9qhmjn8
The President-elect's victory also means that California Senator Kamala Harris, his running mate, will make history as the first woman, first Black person and first person of South Asian descent to become vice president.
As of Saturday, the AP forecasts that Biden has picked up 284 electoral college votes, passing the 270 vote barrier needed to guarantee victory.
In what has been a record turnout, Biden has secured over 75 million votes as of this writing, the most in US presidential history, with 70 million voting for Trump, the second-most ever.
Biden’s path to victory was cemented after he flipped the all-important state of Pennsylvania after steadily chipping away at Trump’s early lead. Biden also flipped Georgia by a narrow margin over Trump.
The result is subject to recount bids, which are rarely successful in changing the result, and a legal challenge from Trump, who earlier prematurely claimed victory and later accused his opponents of faking ballots, without presenting evidence.
Trump, who demanded that votes stop being counted in states where he was leading, is expected to turn to the conservative-leaning Supreme Court to dismiss the validity of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of absentee ballots. However, in the absence of any smoking gun evidence of irregularity, it is unlikely he will succeed in the courts.
The incumbent is only the fourth president to be unseated after only one term.
On Twitter, the US president spent much of his time on Twitter sharing accusations of fraud that were summarily labeled as ‘misleading’ by the social media network.
US elections have traditionally been marked by peaceful transitions to power even after hard fought campaigns between bitter rivals.
Many analysts have described a volatile situation and have not ruled out the threat of violence if political tensions spill over.
The uneasy road to victory
In a humiliating election for the nation’s pollsters and political analysts, predictions of a healthy Biden win in several key battlegrounds failed to materialise, fueling fears among Democrats that they were witnessing a repeat of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat to Trump.
Pollsters have predicted leads of six percent in Florida, which ultimately voted for Trump with a three percent lead, and ten percent in Wisconsin, which went to Biden by a fraction of a point.
However, as the count progressed, Democratic losses in Florida, Ohio, and Texas, were compensated for by Biden wins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.
These late gains came from absentee ballots, which overwhelmingly tilted towards the Democrats.
Trump, on the other hand, benefitted from a large on-the-day turnout, particularly in rural territories.
Despite the win, the result will give Biden a lot to ponder over as a progressive surge largely failed to materialise.
During a tenure marked with outbursts against mainly Hispanic immigrants, racial tensions, and mass protests over police brutality, Trump actually increased his voter share among both Hispanic and Black male voters, according to preliminary voter data.
If Biden, the vice president during the Obama administration, can fend off legal challenges and is sworn in as president in January, he will have to battle against a Senate still dominated by Republicans.
In senate races, the Democrats seem set to fall short of a majority.
With the next round of elections in 2022, Republican control of the Senate could prove a nuisance for Biden as he tries to get approval for his picks for positions within his administration.
Looking back at Trump’s presidency
When Trump blindsided conventional wisdom and won in 2016, postmortems focused on how his campaign tapped into xenophobia, economic anxiety and white identity politics – stemming from a “whitelash” after eight years of the Obama administration.
He pitted himself as a populist waging war against the establishment and “fake news” media, which endeared him to a loyal base of supporters, but many were put off by his disruptive style, inflammatory language and yearned for a return to civility.
More than any other president before him, Trump, a former reality TV star, became a news headline on a daily basis - in effect controlling the news agenda.
Despite the Republicans enjoying control over all branches of government from the first day in office, his presidency would be plagued by scandals, investigations, whistleblower complaints, indictments and trials – the most enduring being “Russiagate” that Trump called a “witch hunt” after intelligence services found evidence of Russian interference against Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 election.
In 2019 Trump was accused of pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on 2020 Democratic challenger Joe Biden and his son Hunter, which culminated in his impeachment – only the third US president in history to be – by the Democratic-controlled House before the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him.
While he ran as a political outsider to “Make American Great Again” and put a halt to what he called “American carnage” in his inauguration speech, Trump ultimately ended up governing like a typical Republican.
His pro-business cabinet was the richest in history, albeit a revolving door over the course of his term in office. He delivered on tax cuts, deregulation, and a conservative judiciary (including appointing three Supreme Court justices) that will dominate rulings for decades to come.
The first three years of his presidency delivered good economic news, even if there was a wobble in 2019 when Trump’s escalating trade war with China spooked the markets.
On foreign policy, Trump’s “America First” approach meant shaken transatlantic alliances, undoing the multilateralism of the Obama doctrine and zealously reinforcing ties with Israel. On immigration, it meant building a mythical border wall with Mexico and an unconstitutional “Muslim ban”.
Many believed Trump’s ethno-nationalist discourse served to embolden white supremacism and give license to racialised violence. He infamously pronounced white nationalists as “some very fine people” in the aftermath of a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, legitimised white militia group the Proud Boys at a presidential debate and defended confederate statues.
Trump even found himself the focal point of outlandish conspiracy theories like QAnon, which many of his supporters subscribe to and he was keen to amplify - and one QAnon supporter, Majorie Taylor Greene, will be heading to Congress.
Covid-19 came at a time Trump’s favourables seemed strong as an incumbent, despite being highly unpopular. His subsequent mishandling of the pandemic appeared to hurt his chances of re-election, as his administration’s lackluster response led to a catastrophic near quarter of a million deaths and counting, while the economy spiraled and unemployment mounted – with no substantial relief from government in sight.
Added to the mix was the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement over this summer, sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police, as protests for racial justice raged across the country and around the world.
With the US embroiled in civil unrest and the political landscape intensely polarised, rather than toning it down, Trump’s rhetoric routinely exacerbated social fissures.
Though many would like to point to Trump’s regime as an aberration that can be shaken off through a return to “normalcy” under Joe Biden, that Trump’s platform received eight million more votes this election than in 2016 means his reactionary message resonated with a broader swathe of the public than his detractors assumed.
That has huge implications moving forward: While Trump is a one-and-done president, Trumpism is set to be entrenched within the Republican Party for years to come.
And if one truism remains, it is that Trump was always a symptom of a much deeper malaise afflicting the American republic.