Aside From Biden Winning, the 2020 Election Is a Warning That the Democratic Party Needs Reform

Published on November 16, 2020

The Presidential election has been called in favor of former Vice President Joseph Biden, making President Donald Trump just the fifth incumbent president in the last 100 years to lose reelection. However, beneath the surface of Biden’s win there are increasingly obvious warning signs that the Democratic Party needs reform.

People took to the streets to celebrate victory after a four-year resistance campaign against President Trump, utilizing numerous baseless narratives along the way. The working class is still suffering immense economic pressures, coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise, millions are losing employer-based healthcare, and millions more confront a housing crisis. The tasks facing the incoming Biden Administration are not easy, and our work as voters has only begun. The Biden Administration might feel comfortable placing members of the “blob in Cabinet posts and senior positions when they take office January 20, but business cannot continue as usual.

The 77 million Americans who have put their futures in the hands of the Biden/Harris Administration are looking for more than a return to normalcy. They are demanding a better future. Reflecting on this tumultuous election and the campaign leading up to it unveils several important takeaways. 

Democratic Campaign Shortfalls

With analyses conducted, and narratives spun following this election, three facts are apparent. The Democratic Party didn’t generate a blue wave. Biden won the presidency but Democrats failed to expand the House majority or flip the Senate. What’s the message conveyed by these realities? The platform of “anti-Trump” and return to normalcy isn’t what voters wanted to hear. The Democratic strategy of turning their backs on the progressive base to focus on Never Trump Republicans was unsuccessful. The $67 million spent on the Lincoln Project made Democrats feel smug but swayed few Republican voters.

Once again, instead of engaging in self-reflection, the Democratic Party elite laid the blame on progressives. However, every single swing-seat House Democrat who endorsed Medicare For All won re-election. Voters overwhelming approved several state referendums to enact the $15-dollar minimum wage and marijuana legalization, both of which are progressive policies. Just getting these policies on the ballot helped drive voter turnout. Realities like these proved voters’ genuine concern with the issues, and how candidates propose to solve them. Democrats will narrowly maintain control over the House for now. But they will need to adapt their strategy if they are to keep their margin in 2022, let alone expand it. 

Flipping the Senate

Georgia’s two run-off Senate races will determine the balance of the most powerful legislative body in the Union. Democrats must win both these key races on January 5th to secure 50 seats in the Senate, which would allow the incoming Vice President, Kamala Harris, to cast tie-breaking votes. It is far from ideal that Democratic hopes rely on winning both Senate seats in a state that they have just flipped blue for the first time in 28 years by a tiny margin. Initially, Democrats spent $15 million in the Senate primaries to quash progressive challengers to more corporate-friendly candidates. They spent hundreds of millions to flip the Senate in the general election, sometimes outspending Republicans 2-to-1, but the strategy of spending a cash bonanza to flood the airwaves to support moderate Democrats failed.

A Biden Presidency

Nonetheless, the Presidential campaign was a success and Biden will take office on January 20th, but the results of the election should not be deemed as a sweeping mandate of victory for the Democratic party. The electorate is almost evenly divided. Biden’s victory hung in the balance for days. Given the criminality and arrogance of the Trump presidency, one would have expected a complete Democrat blowout. This was not the case, and no amount of finger-pointing will change that.

Democrats consolidated around suburban voters instead of focusing on the newly awakened Democratic working-class base and the progressive wing of the party, both spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders. The Biden campaign, convinced they could win by seeking disaffected Republican voters, extended a seemingly cold hand to the Leftist element of the party. This strategy has many flaws. First, if in four years a devout Republican takes up the mantle and attempts to restore the GOP, whose to stop the ‘Biden Republicans’ from switching sides again? Second, they are fueling the flames of a party-split by turning their backs on the working-class element of their own party.

Is the Center the New Black?

Leftists, thankfully, voted for Biden because they understood the harm that would’ve come from a second Trump term. However, this hasn’t stopped waning politicians like former Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich, from falsely castigating the Progressive base and their leaders for how close the election was. Keep in mind that despite Kasich’s pro-Biden stance, Trump won Ohio. Biden, hoping to heal the division in the country, has put most, if not all, of the Democratic eggs in a New Trump Republican basket. To many, this is just more of the same neoliberalism of the past 40 years. Only now it appears the Democratic and Republican elites are consolidating their power to block both the progressive Left and the MAGA Right.

The Change We Need

It is clear that the tides of American politics are rapidly shifting. Approaches used 12 years ago will not work today. Joe Biden’s campaign has denied Trump a second term (although I’m sure he won’t leave our lives just yet). The celebration must be short. The focus now is on holding Biden’s feet to the fire on his Cabinet appointees and enacting meaningful progressive legislation. There are dozens of executive actions Biden can take if he truly wants to, even if Democrats remain the Senate minority. I hope this is a new dawn, but we must not become complacent if we are to reach new peaks in American potential.

Artin is a Champlain College graduate with a degree in Management and Innovation. He is focused on examining and writing on smart cities, sociocultural, political, and economic topics.

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