After more than two dozen presidential candidates, nearly two years of campaigning and close to $14 billion, America exits the long election much as it entered: a fiercely divided nation deeply worried about the future.
With many votes left to be counted in Democratic-leaning cities, President-elect Joe Biden has won almost 4.5 million more votes than President Trump, rebuilding his party’s “blue wall” in the industrial North and making inroads into the Sun Belt. But Mr. Trump also expanded his margin of support, collecting over eight million more votes from a somewhat more diverse coalition of voters than he did in 2016.
This election was not the national renunciation of Trumpism that progressives dreamed it would be. Nor was the outcome a clear sign that voters believed “far-left” protests had plunged America into lawlessness and decline, as conservatives had argued.
Instead, we remain a house divided. Often, even inside the same house.
Sure, some of our politics shifted since 2016. Suburban counties tilted away from Mr. Trump by nearly a five-point margin. And Mr. Trump won a larger portion of Latino and Black voters. (Who saw that coming? Oh wait, we did.)
But so much seemed to be decided on the margins. Democrats did not sweep down-ballot races, as most expected, leaving control of Congress possibly unchanged. While Mr. Biden won the most votes in history, Mr. Trump won the second-most votes.
Four years ago, Mr. Trump flipped Wisconsin from the Democrats by 22,748 votes. This year, Mr. Biden won it back, but his margin is on track to be just as close.
Much has changed since April 2019, when Mr. Biden announced his presidential bid. Yesterday, the country crossed the grim milestone of 10 million reported coronavirus cases, with new cases up nearly 60 percent from two weeks earlier. Millions more Americans are unemployed, struggling to pay their bills and slipping into poverty.
Through it all, Mr. Biden made national unity a central part of his campaign message. From his earliest days as the Democratic nominee to his victory speech on Saturday night, he vowed to be “a president for all Americans,” even those who didn’t vote for him.
Fostering unity in Washington won’t be easy. The Senate is no longer the collegial place where Mr. Biden worked for decades. Like the country, it has become more ideological and more polarized.
Dual victories in Georgia’s runoff elections early next year would give Democrats the tiebreaking vote in the Senate. But split control, with Senator Mitch McConnell remaining as majority leader, seems the more likely outcome.
Some goals may be easier for the new administration to achieve. Both parties have expressed a desire to pass another round of coronavirus relief, though they have sharply disagreed on the size of a stimulus. Other parts of Mr. Biden’s agenda, like passing a public health insurance option, combating climate change, raising the minimum wage and tackling racial justice, will be impossible to fully achieve without some bipartisan cooperation.
Even in defeat, Mr. Trump still holds a tight grasp on the Republican Party. In the Senate, only three Republicans have acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory, fearing alienating a party base that still stands by a president who refuses to concede.
Speaking on the Senate floor today, Mr. McConnell declined to recognize Mr. Biden as the president-elect — even as he acknowledged his party’s down-ballot victories by meeting with Republicans who were newly elected to the Senate.
“President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” Mr. McConnell said.
So, after all these years of fighting, just how politically divided is America? We can’t even seem to agree that we have a president-elect.
Tell us how you’re feeling, post-election
It has been a long road, but we made it. The election is over, and many of you are having … all the feelings. We want to hear about them!
What are you most looking forward to, now that the election is over? I know everyone will miss those constant news alerts. And what makes you hopeful or worried when you think about the future of the country?
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There’s print. There’s online. And then there’s buttercream. I can’t think of a better — or more delicious! — way to memorialize a historic front page.
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