TORONTO — Joe Biden has won the presidency in a record turnout election, thanks in large part to Midwestern and suburban voters who helped him deny Donald Trump four more years in the White House.
Biden reached 290 electoral votes on Saturday after The Associated Press called Pennsylvania and Nevada in his favour. Biden won both the electoral college and the popular vote, and is the first presidential candidate in history to surpass 70 million votes.
AP’s electoral college vote count includes Biden winning Arizona, which other major news networks had yet to declare as they await the results from about 450,000 outstanding ballots.
Trump’s loss adds his name to a short list of one-term presidents. The last incumbent president to lose his re-election bid was Republican George H. W. Bush in 1992.
The win also marks a milestone in American politics as California Senator Kamala Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, is set to become the first female U.S. vice-president.
The declaration of a winner comes after five tense days of ballot counting that saw an early Trump lead give way to Biden in a number of key swing states once mail-in ballots began to be tallied.
As electoral maps started shifting from red to blue, a distrustful Trump made repeated, baseless claims the election was being “stolen” through widespread voter fraud.
The president offered no evidence to support his fabricated accusations as he tried to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the ballot-counting process and launched multiple lawsuits in several states, including Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He also vowed to push for a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden was declared the winner on Wednesday.
The race was a nail-biter in large part due to an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, many of which have taken days to count. In Pennsylvania, for example, mail-in ballots could not legally be opened and counted until election day.
The surge in mail-in ballots was driven, in large part, by the COVID-19 pandemic, which persuaded many voters to cast their votes from afar to avoid large crowds on election day. These mailed ballots largely favoured Biden after Trump had spent the months leading up to the election urging his supporters against voting by mail.
In addition to its impact on mail-in ballots, the pandemic coloured other aspects of the campaign. Biden consistently attacked Trump’s record on the crisis, accusing Trump of a failure of leadership that cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Meanwhile, Trump accused Biden of not having a plan to handle the crisis and of wanting to shut down the entire economy to control the spread, a claim Biden repeatedly denied.
Even after Trump, his wife Melania, and numerous other members of his inner circle contracted the virus in early October, the president continued to downplay the severity of the global pandemic.
The federal government’s response to the health emergency as well as Trump’s insistence on holding large rallies for his supporters throughout the campaign drew sharp criticism from the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who became more outspoken in his opposition to the president’s handling of the pandemic in the latter days of the election.
Biden, conversely, shunned in-person rallies and held online and drive-in events for his supporters. He also expressed support for Fauci throughout the campaign and promised to listen to the nation’s top health experts for advice on curbing the spread of COVID-19 should he be elected.
Along with promising to “shut down the virus,” and not the the economy as Trump accused throughout the campaign, Biden campaigned on a message to “build back better.” He promised to restore decency to the White House while also prioritizing issues such as climate change and racial justice.
On the racial justice front, Biden depended on a strong turnout among Black voters in cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee, to bolster his support in key states.
While Trump has been accused of racist remarks and inflaming racial divides across the U.S., Biden has faced his own share of criticism for his past record on Black rights, including his treatment of Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1991 and his support for a crime bill in 1994 that has been blamed for putting a generation of Black men in prison.
During the campaign, however, Biden prioritized racial justice issues, expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement and acknowledging that systemic racism exists and should be addressed.
On climate change and environmental issues, Biden and Trump offered wildly different plans for the future. Trump has described climate change as a “hoax,” and removed the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Agreement – a global pact aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb Earth’s rising temperatures.
Biden, on the other hand, has promised to have the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement in addition to reinstating Obama-era emissions rules. He has also vowed to invest in clean energy and environmental research to address what he has described as a “climate emergency.”
In addition to an expected reversal on climate policies, the shift in power will undoubtedly shake up the United States’ relationship with its closest trading partner: Canada. Trump repeatedly targeted Canada with tariffs on steel and aluminum amid negotiations on the new NAFTA.
Trump also personally attacked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him two-faced in the wake of a video of Trudeau speaking candidly to other world leaders about the president.
With files from The Associated Press
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