US election: Why the President-elect will need to hit the ground running

Millions of Americans yesterday exhaled a collective breath of relief after the election tension and partied in the streets.

The celebrations by people who supported the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were a mixture of relief, release, joy and hope.

As much as removing President Donald Trump was a motivator, the people on the streets of United States cities on Sunday were wanting a change of fortune after a year of disease, upheaval and economic disaster.

And among the throngs in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Chicago and Atlanta were many mostly young and diverse voters who will be part of a huge voting bloc over the next four years.

It was a rare sighting of the hidden power of the heavily Democratic-voting cities that has mostly been drowned out by the loud, attention-soaking White House over the past four years.

President-elect Biden made mention of his key priorities on Saturday before the election had been called in his favour. “What is becoming clearer each hour is that record numbers of Americans… have given us a mandate for action on Covid and the economy and climate change and systemic racism,” he tweeted. In his speech on Sunday he repeated them, with the addition of healthcare.

He clearly knows what those supporters want and that he will be judged on results. He’s not ducking the list. Visible progress will have to be made quickly after January’s inauguration.

The Democrats are currently united and excited but the progressive wing of the party will be ready to push its leadership, even as Republicans argue against the size of Biden’s mandate and are favoured to hold the Senate. As it is, Biden’s own coalition includes a lot of moderates and previously Republican-leaning white suburban voters.

Republicans will have their own issues next year, as they will still be tied to Trumpism without Trump in the White House. Other politicians will try to copy his blueprint but that might be easier in theory than practice given Trump’s singular and divisive persona. Many white suburban voters were turned off by him.

Nevertheless, the President was able to draw support from 70 million mainly white, rural Americans, but he also made progress with some minority voters.

The key for the President-elect will be convincing people that changes in approach will work for everybody – a hugely challenging task. Biden has for months been presenting his priorities through the lens of job creation – to accomplish different goals at once and get that buy-in from the public.

Work is under way on the transition. On Tuesday a coronavirus transition task force will meet to prepare a plan for when Biden takes office. Government appointments will also have to be made.

Trump’s refusal to concede cannot block Biden’s win, but the President will likely be unco-operative during the transition and he will have a voice and an audience of millions once he leaves office.

In mid-December the Electoral College will meet and vote. On January 5 Georgia will hold two runoff races which will decide control of the Senate and a day later Congress will meet to certify the electoral votes, and the election. The inauguration takes place on January 20.

The current and future events can all be viewed through glasses either half-full or half-empty depending on people’s points of view.

One thing Biden has in his favour is he knows this process having been Barack Obama’s deputy in 2008 during an economic meltdown.

He has plenty of recently-experienced officials and new talent to bring on board. He knows what’s involved in tackling major issues and dealing with domestic and foreign leaders. He knows he will have to achieve what he can through executive orders and other means if a Republican-controlled Senate thwarts him.

And he knows he will have to hit the ground running to push his agenda forward.

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