As Blavity previously reported, both Harris and Biden took the stage on Saturday night to thank their supporters and lay out their vision for the country. While the mood was highly celebratory, both speeches fully acknowledged that much work needs to be done to fix a country broken by a pandemic, economic crash, racial injustice and hostile partisan divides.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has not yet shown signs of giving up his blatantly false accusations that he was the real winner of the race, and it's unclear how he and other Republicans will ultimately approach the incoming Biden administration. There’s still a long time between now and Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021.
Here are six things to expect between now and then:
1. Trump’s lawsuits will likely continue, for a little while at least
Trump and other Republicans have been constantly filing lawsuits during and after the election to try to limit votes from being cast or counted in favor of Biden and other Democrats. Even after the major television networks concluded that Biden had an insurmountable lead over Trump, the current president continued to make false claims of massive voter fraud, and some of his Republican allies like Senator Lindsey Graham have backed up these bogus claims.
Trump has pledged to fight out the election in court, having filed nearly a dozen lawsuits in one week according to Time Magazine. As the magazine details, most of these suits are trying to stop vote-counting in key swing states, which has little chance of succeeding given that the Trump team has not provided evidence of fraud and the current counts already put Biden ahead. Trump seemed to be relying on a last-minute save from the court system, which his administration has stacked with hundreds of loyalists and conservatives, including three of the current Supreme Court justices. He has even publicly called on new Justice Amy Coney Barrett to help him out in the past.
It’s unlikely that even a court system stacked by Trump would actually side with his arguments, which are mainly frivolous and baseless, but Trump is not generally one to give up before seeking to exploit every advantage at his disposal. The way that he rushed through Barrett’s confirmation based on completely hypocritical arguments, after opposing Obama’s Supreme Court pick four years ago, shows that fairness or propriety won’t hold him back from going after what he wants.
2. But Trump may end up conceding...eventually
As of Sunday morning, there were anonymous reports that various members of Trump’s inner circle now believe that he has lost and are trying to convince him to bow out gracefully, or at least as gracefully as is likely for a person like Trump. According to CNN, these conversations apparently include Trump’s wife Melania and son-in-law and close advisor Jared Kushner. Trump trusts and respects very few people, but these are among the individuals most likely to convince him that it would be best for his image to not fight a losing court battle. Other reports, however, say that Kushner is urging Trump to fight until the end. Although there’s no requirement or official significance to conceding, Trump doing so would end ongoing uncertainty about the transition and potentially reduce tensions in the country.
If Trump does concede, it will almost certainly be in a way that inflates his own importance or strikes at his opponents. If he loses his court cases, Trump may declare that he believes that the courts are biased against him in the same ways that he’s been arguing against the electoral system. This type of argument would be unfounded, but truth has clearly not been a constraint for him.
Alternatively, he may argue that he is giving up his fight for the good of the nation, as some of his supporters like Fox News host Laura Ingraham recently suggested. He might even declare that he’s accomplished all he intended to do in his first term and thus doesn’t really need to serve again, just as his camp declared the COVID-19 pandemic over last month even as cases soared. Trump’s true believers will likely go along with whatever story he comes up with, while the rest of the country will just be happy if he leaves, regardless of what he tells himself and his followers.
3. The transfer of power will be awkward, uneasy and rushed
Whether or not Trump concedes, eventually Biden will be recognized as the newly-elected president — the Electoral College will make it official when they cast their votes on December 14. Hopefully, the Biden and Trump teams will have started to coordinate a transfer of power by then. But either way, important time has already been lost. Due to Trump holding out on recognizing Biden's victory, the government's General Service Administration has refused to "ascertain" that Biden is the incoming president.
The lack of recognition from the little-known government agency is holding up Biden team's access to office space in government agencies, as well as equipment and millions of dollars set aside for funding the transition. The prolonged recognition process is also preventing Biden from getting intelligence briefings, which are usually provided to the president-elect in order to prepare them for the foreign policy challenges they will face when they take over. This last delay could be dangerous, as former Obama Secretary of Labor Chris Lu reminded his followers on Twitter. Experts say that the delay in preparing incoming President George W. Bush in 2000 — the result of that year's election wasn't decided until mid-December — left the country vulnerable ahead of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Delayed presidential transitions can have serious consequences:
“The [Bush] administration’s sluggish start and lack of qualified personnel in place was cited by the 9/11 Commission report as a critical vulnerability to U.S. national security” https://t.co/39CIkvp4g1
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) November 10, 2020
Biden and his associates have already indicated that he's making preparations and even talking to world leaders about the future, but the lack of support from the White House will limit his ability to put things in place the way they should be.
4. Biden’s agenda and team will take shape
With victory in hand, Biden and Harris have a lot of work ahead of them as they prepare to take office. The two laid out their broad approach to the White House during Saturday night’s victory speeches. On Sunday, CNN reported Biden's team has laid out its immediate agenda on a new website, BuildBackBetter.com, which identifies COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as the four most important areas of focus for the new administration, with specific goals for tackling each.
Biden must also decide who will occupy important positions within his administration. Though the names of prominent Senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were previously floated as possible cabinet secretaries, Biden was already reportedly uneasy about losing spots in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Biden may also be considering appointing one or more Republicans to top positions in a push to promote bipartisan cooperation. Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican who endorsed Biden earlier this year, is one of several potential Republican nominees to a Biden cabinet. Reaching out to too many members of the GOP, however, might alienate progressive Democrats, a real concern for Biden.
5. Progressive and moderate Democrats will fight one another
Speaking of progressives, even though Democrats were united in their efforts to take back the White House and the Senate, the party has also clearly had tensions between its more moderate and progressive wings. Biden’s victory in the Democratic primary race signaled a win for the moderate wing. "I beat the socialist” was a line Biden used to deflect a Trump attack during the campaign, and candidate Biden constantly took a middle ground approach to policies concerning police reform and climate change.
Now that Democrats have won the White House but fallen short of their expectations for Congress, the two wings of the party are already arguing publicly about which direction the party should take going forward. Moderate Democrats have been calling out the progressive wing of their party, arguing that messages and slogans like “democratic socialism” and “defund the police” scared off moderate voters and caused Democrats to lose close races. Progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, have been pushing for the party to move further left, arguing that Democrats such as the Squad members easily won their own races and delivered their states for Biden. It’s moderate Democrats, Ocasio-Cortez has argued, who have the losing message and strategy.
As Biden’s first year agenda and cabinet picks are revealed in the months to come and the party organizes for the two January Senate runoff elections happening in Georgia, we should expect more public fights over whether the party should dial back its more progressive proposals or lean more heavily on making radical changes.
6. The world will prepare for life after Trump
President Trump turned American foreign policy on its head, tolerating and even supporting dictators such as Vladimir Putin, and right-wing elected leaders like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, while alienating long-term allies such as the European countries of NATO. As it became evident that Biden was likely to win, various heads of state began reacting to an upcoming Biden presidency and a post-Trump America.
Many world leaders who have been friendly with Trump, such as Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, have remained silent on Biden’s win. Other Trump allies, however, seem to be jumping ship. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been one of Trump’s biggest allies, declined to co-sign a Trump insult against Biden last month, and the Israeli leader has now congratulated Biden on his win and called him "a great friend of Israel." In neighboring Egypt, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Trump’s “favorite dictator,” was also quick to congratulate Biden. Even Putin refused to endorse a Trump-backed conspiracy theory about Biden’s son, Hunter, during the election.
While some leaders may be happier than others concerning Biden’s win, most of them seem to acknowledge that Biden’s long history of foreign policy experience – he was a key member and sometimes chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee for decades – means that he will bring attention and professionalism to U.S. foreign relations. Among Biden's agenda items for his first days in office will be the reversal of several of President Trump's policies; doing so will include rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, various reports from around the world cite people setting off fireworks in celebration soon after Biden’s victory was announced Saturday. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, tweeted – in English – a congratulatory message to Biden and Harris that began with “Welcome Back America!”
Welcome back America! Congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris for their election! While we are about to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, this victory symbolizes our need to act together more than ever, in view of climate emergency. ????????#Election2020
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) November 7, 2020
2020 has been a strange and tragic year, with an appropriately unusual election cycle to match. It only seems fitting that the time between the election and the inauguration, usually an uneventful period of behind-the-scenes activities, is instead filled with continued fights and uncertainty. But regardless of how chaotic the end of both 2020 and the Trump administration will be, 2021 will bring a new start and a new presidency that will both be greeted with sighs of relief by many people in the U.S. and around the world.