After days of tortuous tallying, the 2020 Election is over, and Joe Biden has been deemed the 46th President of the United States. When considering the votes at the presidential level, as well as those for the Senate and the House, it is abundantly clear that neither party has a hands-down mandate. There was no “Blue Wave” in congressional races, but voters wanted a different type of governing from the White House.
Some surface-level analysis of this election has shown two glaring facts for the Democratic Party. The first is that this election was more of a rejection of Trump than enthusiasm for Joe Biden himself.* The second is that despite the growing popularity of more progressive politicians, the American public remains more in the middle. Many centrists, left-of-center Democrats, and Independents were put off by the language from the party’s far-left flank. In the Democratic Primary, many early democratic contenders – such as Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders – advocated for sweeping structural changes that many Americans simply could not get behind. Think issues like defunding the police instead of reforming it, Medicare For All without private healthcare options, free college tuition, and abolishing ICE, to name a few.
Even if a Biden administration (after consulting the left-wing of the Democratic Party) wanted to pass some of these far-reaching reforms, they would come into significant resistance from a GOP-controlled Senate. Not only did the Dems fail to recapture the Senate, but they also lost a lot of moderate congressional seats in the House – several of which were flipped in 2018. And yes, Trump still got over 70 million votes, which translates to approximately 48% of the popular vote. Trumpism is not going to go away. His base is a passionate, determined force that will remain after his departure from the Oval Office. Furthermore, predictions of Florida and Texas turning Blue fell flat on its face. And most strikingly, the Democrats lost more of the Latino vote than in 2016. These realities must be incredibly alarming for party leadership.
The best bet for the Democrats is to govern more from the center policy-wise while working to restore a sense of decency in politics. But none of that will be attainable without first resurrecting the publics’ overall faith in government institutions. This first starts with the medical community by competently handling the COVID-19 pandemic without a president that openly defies them. Once the country is no longer under quarantine, Biden can restore public confidence in the intelligence community, which took a nosedive in approval since the 2016 election cycle. However, once these problems are addressed in the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency, he must focus the brunt of his attention on the economy. The economy was the pride of the Trump administration until the pandemic practically wiped all market gains. He must oversee economic growth that will work for everyone without entertaining a far-left, pseudo-socialist economic agenda.
Republicans should also not be confident of their future. While the GOP saw better minority turnout this election, the demographics are still woefully against them. The party should have seen the writing on the wall following the extensive report (or autopsy) GOP leadership commissioned following the 2012 election. But they simply didn’t do enough. Yes, most white voters – making up 65% of the electorate – did instead vote Republican. That being said, the bulk of every other racial demographic went Blue by a sizable margin. Minority citizens will gain a larger slice of the electoral pie in the coming years.
Separately, the only age bracket that Trump received most of its votes were citizens over 65, according to the exit polls, and even that was slim. He only received 51% of the senior vote.* A significant number of seniors pass away every four years, and the vast majority of young, first-time voters go for the Democrats down the ballot. Plenty of academic studies conclude that lifelong voting patterns are cemented early on in a person’s political life. It’s also worth noting that climate change is one of the most important issue for young voters, and the GOP’s continued failure to listen to the scientific data on the issue could become political suicide. If they do not become more appealing to younger voters a landslide defeat will inevitably come no matter how they redistrict states or change voting laws.
Some problems for the GOP have come about as a direct result of a Trump presidency. Arguably, these problems are much more existential – subverting the overall values of the party at-large. This mainly has to do with the party’s proximity to conspiracy theories and racial fringe groups. Q-Anon, for example, is a perversion of reality riddled with untruths and demonstrably false conspiracy theories. The Proud Boys, a far-right street-fighting group that relishes opportunities to inflame social tensions, have outwardly expressed their support for President Trump. Yet, despite that fact, Trump and the GOP have not demonstrably denounced these groups. In fact, some incoming members of Congress ran on platforms that embraced these groups.
Another pressing issue for Trump and the GOP concerns their handling of healthcare – or lack thereof. The party is generally on the wrong side of this debate, especially regarding health insurance and prescription drug costs. With his abnormal obsession to eradicate the legacy of Barack Obama, Trump has done everything in his power to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, arguably the crown jewel of his predecessor’s administration. While Trump and the GOP have chipped away at the ACA, it still stands. This is because it has a broad appeal; 52% of the American public likes it. Even so, “repeal and replace” has become the rallying cry for Trump and his subordinates. What that replacement looks like remains a mystery. The party has never proposed a substantive plan.
Despite each party’s faults and challenges individually, the government at-large is facing an unparalleled lack of public faith. According to Pew Research, only 20% of the public say that they trust the government to work in their best interest as of September 2020. As such, the best way for each party to help themselves is to help each other. Americans would appreciate politicians of both parties agreeing on a set of verifiable facts and then working together to solve the challenges facing ordinary Americans. Issues like COVID, the economy, health care, immigration reform, and climate change will only be attainable with bipartisanship and a willingness for compromise.