Biden Won: What’s next?

The moment many awaited with bated breath finally arrived, Vice President Joe Biden has been declared as the new elect 46th President of United States of America. Since November 3, the close margin of votes for the Democratic Party candidate and President Donald Trump in key swing states created an anxious atmosphere across the nation. With the final vote count emerging from Pennsylvania and confirming the state turning blue, it thwarted the Republican Party’s dream of four more years in the White House.

As Trump trailed behind in many states, he voiced his concerns and promised taking the issue to the Supreme Court. According to President Trump, there has been voter fraud and media conspiracy in many states that led to losing critical electoral votes. Consequently, his legal team has filed for lawsuits in states like Michigan, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona. But this is an uphill battle for his campaign staff. For starters, unlike the electoral crisis of 2000 when the recount issue was raised solely in the state of Florida, this election year’s recount matter involves multiple states. Trump’s legal team would not only have to fight these cases in various states individually, but also present concrete proof of voter fraud which the President claims. Even as some courts have accepted these strings of litigation from the Trump campaign, most legal experts are viewing these cases with skepticism. In Michigan and Georgia, Trump’s case was given a short hearing due to lack of evidence, even though the latter is heading for vote recount. The Trump campaign staff would not only have to envisage a multi-state legal battle plan, but also reserve funds from their donors to proceed. For President Trump to successfully win these various litigations, the election result has to be extremely close. But Joe Biden has electorally surpassed the President in almost all the critical swing states, therefore weakening his case and debatable chances for a second term. 

For Biden, the immediate task at hand is twofold: carefully selecting a qualified, diverse cabinet and preparing policy agendas that will be prioritized the moment he is sworn in as the President. The Biden administration is expected to be an eclectic mix of moderates, progressives and possibly even Republicans to present a united front. Building the cabinet would be Biden’s first challenge. The left side of the Democratic Party would expect one of the most progressive cabinet in the history of United States, whereas the corporate backers who invested money in the campaign would have a completely different economic agenda. Apart from people who have worked with Biden for years, one can expect to see new faces, especially of those people who have worked hard for this win in their respective states. According to reports, the President elect would rigorously assess the potential candidates in the coming months, sliming the possibility of such announcements any time soon.

In terms of policy, Covid 19 and social healthcare measures would be Biden administration’s immediate concern. Biden has promised to launch a Covid 19 task force comprising of scientists and medical experts to get grips with the pandemic escalating coast to coast. A wave of investments in protective gear & equipments, loans to various types of businesses, stern federal public health guidelines and consistent dialogue with state governments can be expected from the Biden government in the first few days of his presidency. The administration would also take steps to assist the medical, nursing and essential workers at the frontlines on various levels. Apart from Covid 19, the administration’s urgent attention would be on rebuilding the economy. Moving ahead his campaign’s economic vision of “Made in all of America”, the elect President would focus on revitalizing the domestic manufacturing while bringing public and private entities together. Fulfilling his campaign promise of increasing minimum wage to 15 dollars, creating 5 million new jobs, investing billions of dollars in renewing American manufacturing hubs, strengthening R&D for science & technology, supporting overtime pay for workers and so on would be addressed within the first few months.

Apart from Covid 19 and economy, focusing on systematic racial inequality in the society and climate change would be in President elect’s top concern list. For racial inequality the campaign promise of providing loans of hundred billion dollars at low interest rate to people of color, providing capital for startups by people of color from economically disadvantaged parts of the country and investing in black and minority colleges/universities would be pushed ahead. Similarly, the long term goal of producing zero carbon emissions by 2050 would be laid into action step by step by the administration. Apart from these plans, the Biden campaign has also expressed their plans for taxes, student loans, housing and healthcare infrastructure.

All these campaign promises are not only ambitious in nature but would also require highest form of political skill for pitching them in the Congress. Even though the President elect would try to push these ahead through multitude of Executive Orders, many promises involving finances would require Senate’s support. Due to Republican Party leading the Senate race, Sen. Mitch McConnell would likely to continue being the Senate Majority leader. It is highly plausible that the White House and the Congress would be at loggerheads due to this development, but there is still hope for the Democrats. Biden’s years of experience at Capitol Hill would be of great leverage for sealing deals with the Senate. During the Obama years, he played a critical role in bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals. Despite differing politically, Biden and McConnell have not only known each other for years but have also formed a respectable personal relationship. This relationship can prove to be a real asset for President Biden and his administration’s plans in heralding the country in a new post-Covid 19 era.

In terms of foreign policy, the Biden administration would attempt at “normalizing” American relations abroad. Firstly, the President will focus towards mending broken bridges in the multilateral settings like admitting America back in WHO, the Paris Agreement, UNHCR etc. He would be utilizing traditional diplomatic channels and his years of foreign policy experience/contacts in sending across a reaffirming message to these organizations. Biden administration’s second task at hand would be reassuring American allies especially in Europe and Asia. As the faith in American leadership has dwindled during the Trump years, Biden administration would upscale America’s charm offensive. Thirdly, on all matters associated to China, the Biden administration would most probably continue Trump’s policies, but with heightened diplomatic maneuvering. Trump’s lasting legacy is his China policy and hence, tensed Sino-America relationship would continue to prevail for the two countries in the coming years. Fourthly, Biden would be critical in shaping the future of America’s Indo-Pacific policy, especially the Quad arrangement. The decisions during his term would solidify Quad’s characteristics as a grouping and eventually America’s role in the Indo Pacific as China expands its influence in the region. And lastly, Biden’s biggest foreign policy challenge would be Iran Nuclear deal. Finding ways to reconnect with the Iranian policymakers, winning their faith, finding means to strike a deal with Tehran and European allies while keeping the concerns raised by JCPOA critics at home would be a job of herculean propotion.

It is important to note that even though President Trump has lost the election, he has electorally surpassed expectations. Irrespective of a global pandemic that claimed thousands of American lives, social unrest due to deepening racial tensions, eroding faith in law & order, wildfires at an unprecedented scale, frequent shootouts and escalation in hate crimes, President Trump was able to garner vast support. This year his voting base not only included traditional white voters, but also saw an increase of voters from Hispanic communities, especially in the state of Texas and Florida. Traditionally, the Hispanic communities from the 1990s began shifting towards the Democratic Party, but this election the President was able to make headway in winning their crucial votes. Ultimately, the election map signals that the “Trump Ideology” would continue to attract millions of people in America even though the president has lost his second bid. In the books of political history, he will always be remembered as a political maverick who revolutionized the Republican Party, for better or worse. Trump’s post presidency years could see him legally defending against slew of lawsuits and attempting to be politically relevant. With time, the conservative force in the American politics would search for a leader who espouses similar ideas and gives voice to the other half of the population. But until then, Joe Biden will be the President of a divided country that is on the quest of soul search.

Aakriti Sethi
Aakriti Sethi
Aakriti Sethi is a doctoral candidate at US Studies Program (USSP), Center for Canadian, US & Latin American Studies (CCUS&LAS), School of International Studies (SIS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She has an Mphil degree in US Studies from the same and a postgraduate degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Karnataka. Previously, she worked at the US division of Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (MP-IDSA), New Delhi. Her area of interest includes US foreign policy, American domestic politics, Northeast Asia (primarily Japan, China and North Korea), Indo Pacific and India's foreign policy. Her work has been featured in various websites, journals and newsletters.