Despite over 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and a crumbling economy, the 2020 election was far from a blue wave. Why was this, and how do Democrats fix it?
NBC News reported the day before election day that “nearly 9.3 million cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic, and more than 232,000 people have died.”
Despite the sky-high COVID-19 cases and deaths, President Donald Trump barely lost to Joe Biden. According to the Associated Press, as of Nov. 22, Biden won 306 electoral votes, the same number Trump won in 2016.
In the key swing states, Biden was expected to win in a landslide, but he barely scraped by. For example, in the former vice president’s birth state of Pennsylvania, he won by 1.2% and in Wisconsin by only 0.7%.
Before the election, Biden led in Wisconsin state polls by a 6.7% lead, 6 points higher than the actual results. Furthermore, Biden lost in many key states that he was expected to win comfortably. In Florida, Biden lost by 3.3% and in Ohio a whopping eight points, despite President Obama winning the Buckeye State by almost 2 points eight years ago.
The 2020 election cost much more than the presidency.
Democrats were expected to win about 53 seats in the Senate, but the fate of the upper chamber is down to two run-off elections in Georgia. Even if the Democrats win both of these seats, which I doubt without a central unpopular figure to run against, the Democrats will need a complete consensus in the Senate.
On top of this, the filibuster remains a central obstacle to meaningful reform. Even in the House of Representatives, where Democrats were predicted to pick up many seats in their already healthy majority, Democrats are “on track to begin next year with the slimmest majority in decades.”
The 2020 election was not the huge win Democrats expected and needed. Why not? For one, the entire Democratic platform was built on the central opposition to Trump and not much more.
Biden ran on Building America Back Better and Restoring the Soul of this nation without much concrete policy. The last time there was an economic crisis and the Democrats ran a charismatic hopeful candidate that could stand on his own, they won 472 electoral votes.
Trump broke the establishment hold in 2016 by running on actual policy, like ending foreign wars and ending outsourcing, winning over the working class who the Democrats relied on for decades.
Instead of focusing on the growing portion of Democrats who are sick and tired of platitudes and no fundamental change, the Biden campaign focused on the few Republicans he could win over. Trump and the Republicans even expanded their base, winning over more women, Latinos, and African Americans than in 2016.
This election could be a short-term victory for Democrats, yet, with the changing base of the party and the prospects of a Biden administration held up by the Senate, this could be a significant shift in favor of the Republicans long term.
Let’s make one thing clear: third party voters and progressives did not lose the Democrats anything in this election. In 2016 the Green Party got over 1.4 million votes, while in 2020 they got less than 400,000. Also, every Democrat that ran on Medicare For All won their election, where many centrist Democrats running on nothing except opposition to Trump and neoliberal policy lost nationwide.
The 2020 Election was not the landslide victory Democrats expected, especially when you look at losses statewide before the key redistricting next year. Not all hope is lost for the Democrats, however. The emerging wing of the party, the progressives, stand for policies that are very popular nationwide. For example, the Fox News 2020 Election Exit Polls found that 72% of Americans favor a government-run health care system.
Democrats need to focus less on what they stand against and stand up and fight for issues that fundamentally improve our country for working people.
If and only if the Democratic leadership makes drastic changes to their party to adapt to their changing base and the globalized economy will they stand a chance against the increasingly diverse, enthusiastic, and authoritarian Republican Party.
Featured image: Woman holding a Biden Harris sign. Unmodified image by Ron Matibag. (https://bit.ly/3m4Vv61).
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