Wake Up To Politics - November 8, 2020
It’s Sunday, November 8, 2020. Inauguration Day is 73 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Welcome to a special Sunday afternoon edition of Wake Up To Politics, as the 2020 presidential election comes to a close and the presidential transition begins. Below: Photos and interviews from the celebrations at the White House this weekend.
Biden calls for unity as he defeats Trump and wins the presidency
Joe Biden was declared the President-elect of the United States on Saturday, becoming the first person in more than a quarter-century to claim the White House by ousting a sitting president.
The outgoing president, Donald Trump, has yet to acknowledge his loss in the election, but Biden addressed the nation on Saturday night after major media organizations determined that he had crossed the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the presidency.
“I ran as a proud Democrat,” Biden said, striking the tone of unity that was a major theme of his third presidential campaign. “I will now be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did.”
“Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he continued, referencing the divisive nature of his soon-to-be predecessor’s term in office without mentioning Trump by name.
Biden did, however, speak directly to Trump’s legions of supporters: “Let’s give each other a chance,” he said. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to each other again.”
“This is the time to heal in America,” he added later.
Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of Calfornia, introduced him at their victory event in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris will be the first woman to serve as president or vice president, as well as the first Black woman to serve in either role.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” Harris said in her remarks, a nod to her historic election as vice president.
As of this writing, Biden and Harris have been declared by most news outlets as the winning ticket in states totaling at least 279 electoral votes, including victories in the battleground states of Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Fox News and the Associated Press have also called Arizona for Biden, although Trump is gaining in late vote-counting there.
The states of Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina have yet to be called; Georgia is expected to go to a recount. Trump currently stands at 214 electoral votes. If Biden wins Arizona and Georgia — he currently leads in both — he will end with precisely 306 electoral votes, the same number Trump won in his upset victory four years ago.
In the popular vote, more than 74 million ballots have already been counted for Biden, about 4 million more than Trump received and more than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history.
For Biden, it is the high point of a half-century in public life, as his three-decade quest for the White House comes to a successful close. Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before serving as vice president under Barack Obama for eight more, previously sought the presidency in 1988 and 2008. At 77, he is now the oldest man to have been elected to the office.
As the election was called, Trump — who is the 11th sitting president to lose a re-election campaign — was on his golf course in Sterling, Virginia. Throughout the campaign, he had dithered on the question of whether he would accept the results if he was defeated; Trump continued to tweet baseless claims of voter fraud this morning. “I won this election, by a lot,” he tweeted on Saturday in all-caps, just before the race was called.
Some of his top loyalists, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, held a press conference at a Philadelphia landscaping store on Saturday promising to contest the results in Pennsylvania and other states. “Networks don’t get to decide elections,” Giuliani said.
Numerous world leaders, however, hastened to congratulate Biden and Harris on Saturday even before Trump had acknowledged the results. Messages poured in from most of America’s top allies around the globe, including Trump friends such as Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
Here in the United States, some Republican officeholders also offered congratulations to the Democratic ticket, including Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah and Governors Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Phil Scott of Vermont. However, none of those politicians had endorsed Trump; most GOP leaders have remained silent in the 24 hours since the election was called for Biden.
The refusal of the president and his party allies to acknowledge Biden’s ascendancy suggested that the Trump era would end as it began: breeding chaos and busting past precedents. Trump’s tenure is already regarded by historians as four of the most tumulous years in presidential history; the 2020 campaign, and the three days between votes being cast and a winner being decided, have also been historically turbulent.
Trump took office by decrying “American carnage”; he would go on to introduce a ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries and a policy that separated migrant children from their parents. Trump also became the third president to be impeached — ironically, for early attempts to discredit Biden, the man who would eventually wrest the White House from him.
But no issue will be linked closer to Trump’s legacy than the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected nearly 10 million individuals in the United States and led to the deaths of more than 237,000 Americans. On Saturday, the day Trump’s defeat was sealed, the U.S. recorded 134,377 new cases of the virus, the nation’s fourth consecutive single-day record.
Even as the election came to a close, the White House was facing a new outbreak of coronavirus cases in its midst, as Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows was diagnosed with the virus along with five other aides. The president himself was hospitalized after testing positive for the virus in October.
Biden placed coronavirus at the forefront of his campaign, making face masks and drive-in rallies symbols of his effort to oust Trump. He said in his victory remarks that one of his first acts as president-elect will be to name a task force of coronavirus advisers on Monday. According to his transition website, Biden also plans once in office to expand testing, increase production of protective gear for health workers, develop guidelines for reopening schools and businesses, and prepare for the distribution of an eventual vaccine.
Biden is reportedly mapping out the other executive actions he will take in the early days of his presidency, including rejoining the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization, repealing the so-called “travel ban,” and reinstating a program protecting “dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
It is possible that much of Biden’s agenda will have to be enacted through executive orders, as it is widely expected he will face a Republican-controlled Senate come January. Each party is currently assured 48 seats in the next Senate; control of the chamber will come down to two January runoffs in Georgia.
The prospect of a divided government will also loom over the selection of his Cabinet, as jockeying to join the Biden administration kicks off in earnest.
But for one of Washington’s most seasoned dealmakers, whose life of tragedy has now lifted him to America’s highest office, it merely represents a new challenge in a long career of politicking and legislating.
In his remarks on Saturday night, Biden called his election an “inflection point” in American history, making a comparison to the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt John F. Kennedy, and his onetime partner Barack Obama.
“And now, together — on eagle’s wings,” he continued, citing a Catholic hymn, “we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do.”
Celebrations broke out across the country on Saturday as it was reported that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election, defeating Donald Trump.
Washington, D.C., was no exception, as thousands of Biden supporters flooded the streets outside the White House to express jubilation that the famed residence would soon have a new occupant.
The impromptu celebration featured song and dance, with a symbolic playlist including “Run the World (Girls)” and “We Are The Champions.” Chants of “Trump’s gotta go” and “hey, hey, hey, goodbye” were also frequent; numerous Washingtonians also popped champagne bottles to mark the occasion. Signs and flags — American, LGBT, Biden-Harris, and others — stretched blocks and blocks in every direction.
“I just felt like I had to be out here,” Lentie Ward, an engineer, said. “It’s a big moment, so it didn’t feel right to be home... It’s been a long four years, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s nice to have a moment to celebrate.”
(Photos by Gabe Fleisher)
Most of the attendees interviewed by Wake Up To Politics attributed their presence more to Trump’s removal than Biden’s election. “Donald Trump is done. He’s out. It feels f---ing amazing,” said McCall James, who works at a local nonprofit.
Others, however, said they were excited to see Biden in the Oval Office, extolling his message of unity. A Biden precinct captain, who declined to be named but said he had believed in the former VP’s campaign since signing up to volunteer on its first day — even though notable early losses, such as in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
“I never doubted Biden for a second,” the precinct captain said. “He always had a message I knew would appeal to the American people uniquely and in a way that could win the White House come November, and here we have the result of that.”
The site of the jubilation was the same spot where fractious protests took place earlier in the summer, when demonstrators were teargassed so Trump could hold a Bible at the nearby St. John’s Church. The street has since been renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Kellie Carter, an accountant who was at the protests in the summer and returned to the plaza on Saturday, said it was “surreal” to see the two separate events play out in the same space. “It’s the same overwhelming feeling, an emotional feeling. We cried then, we’re cyring today,” she said.
But then, Carter added, “it was just fear... We feel we so much more hopeful now.”
(Photos by Gabe Fleisher)
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have no public events scheduled. Trump arrived at his Sterling, Virginia, golf club at 9:57 a.m., his second consecutive day at the course.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have no public events scheduled. Biden arrived at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, a church in Wilimgton, Delaware, at 10:36 a.m.
The Senate, House, and Supreme Court are not in session.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.