It seems as if last week’s elections included something for everybody. Most prominently, the nation’s executive branch political pendulum swung to the left, but the overall results are sending several warning signals for both Democrats and Republicans:
• Yes, Joe Biden got elected, but it may be more accurate to say that enough voters declined to renew President Trump’s contract.
On Jan. 1 of this year, it was difficult to see how Trump could lose. The economy was doing well, and for probably the majority of voters, that made up for all his bombast and bluster. It took the coronavirus, its accompanying economic crash and Trump’s refusal to take the pandemic seriously enough to unseat him.
In short, Trump lost the election as much as Biden won it. That is not exactly a stirring mandate.
• Another problem for Democrats is that the anticipated “blue wave,” in which the party would take control of the Senate and Biden would sweep to victory in an Electoral College landslide, did not come close to happening. That’s one reason it took four days to declare Biden the winner.
Obviously the polls, several of which predicted a fairly easy Biden win, were wrong. Now Democrats must wrestle with choosing whether to follow Biden’s winning path of moderate progressivism, or to give a fair hearing to more aggressive government intervention.
Biden will set the tone at the start, and the question Democrats should ask is how much better they’ll do in the future if they move the party’s focus rapidly to the left. The guess here is not too well. If more people were eager for such changes such as the Green New Deal or Medicare-for-all, Biden’s margin of victory would have been larger.
• Democrats also underperformed in congressional elections. They are likely to lose a handful of seats in the House and are unlikely to take control of the Senate. All this despite Biden unseating an incumbent Republican president. With election turnout surpassing all records, the voters gave no sign that Democrats are on the verge of dominating Washington. Rather, divided government appears to be the public’s preferred choice.
• For Republicans, the short-term concern is that the party has lost some of its power in D.C. But over the longer term, it must figure out how to regain the edge Trump seized in 2016 in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Even more concerning is Trump’s potential loss of Georgia and Arizona this year. As of Monday, both states remain uncalled, but Biden was leading. Are they turning Democratic permanently, as Virginia and Colorado appear to have done? Or were this year’s results a one-time event that can be chalked up to Trump?
• Republicans also have to figure out how to deal with a population that will be less white in the coming years. Projections are that America will no longer have a majority-white population between 2040 and 2050. Declining white birth rates mean that no single race will account for a majority of the population. Despite Trump making racially insensitive or divisive remarks at times, he may have actually made some inroads for the GOP with minorities. An estimated 12% of Black voters supported him, and Hispanic support in Florida is credited for Trump winning that battleground state.