Joe Biden has defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. CNN called the race on Saturday morning, and NBC, ABC, and Fox News promptly followed suit. After three days of ballot counting in pivotal states, Biden overtook Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia on Friday while retaining his leads in Arizona and Nevada. Biden is now projected to finish with 306 votes in the Electoral College—two more than Trump amassed against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden also improved upon Clinton’s victory in the popular vote, receiving the most votes ever cast for a candidate in a United States presidential election. Congressional Republicans withstood Trump’s electoral collapse, as they’re on track to retain their advantage in the Senate and expand their ranks, though still as a minority party, in the House.
The ballots have taken a few days to count in several states, and while the process may have been prolonged and disorienting, the presidential results are less bewildering than the map might suggest at first glance. Texas and North Carolina tend to favor Republicans in presidential elections. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada tend to favor Democrats. Florida and Ohio have psyched out Democrats before, so Trump’s triumph in those states shouldn’t come as some great shock. Biden is projected to upset Trump in two key states, Arizona and Georgia, home to Trump’s late critics, John McCain and John Lewis. Given the president’s poor standing in polls for the past several months, however, Democrats thought that Election Day might amount to a broad repudiation of Trump, sweeping enough seats to partner Biden with a foolproof Democratic majority in the Senate. Instead, Democrats lost six seats in the House, and Republicans seem destined to retain control of the Senate until at least January 5, 2021, when a runoff election in Georgia will offer Democrats the chance to flip the state’s two seats blue.
Meanwhile, Trump has turned to trutherism in an attempt to rationalize his defeat. He cherished his illusory leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Georgia—in all five states, they have since vanished. “STOP THE COUNT!” Trump tweeted on Thursday a few hours before giving a press conference in which he claimed without evidence that he’s being cheated in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada. His electoral backslide has been immense. Election Day opened with Trump winning Florida by a four-point margin, bolstered by his stronger-than-expected performance among Latino voters in Miami-Dade County. This, coupled with a similar surge in Trump support among Latinos in Texas, portended poorly for Biden until the following morning. In Pennsylvania and Georgia, Trump led the early vote counts only for Biden to surpass him two days later. Trump has lost momentum in every battleground state except Arizona, where voters have mailed in ballots without partisan hyperventilation for the past 13 years.
The states, some controlled by Republicans, set the procedures and pace for counting mail ballots. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Republican-led legislature blocked a bill that would have allowed officials to process mail ballots before Election Day. Nonetheless, Trump cites discrepancies between mail and in-person voting results as proof of the last great conspiracy against him as president. He is of course free to exhaust his legal and political options, because why not, before the Electoral College certifies Biden’s victory in December. But Trump, as always, seems more determined to cultivate skepticism about the process and selfish doubts about the outcome.
In fairness, there are MSNBC obsessives who insist that Vladimir Putin installed Trump as president in 2016 through fifth-dimension cyberwarfare and good old-fashioned kompromat. At this point, it is hard to imagine an undisputed outcome in any presidential election moving forward. Even under a Biden administration, U.S. politics could unravel further into trutherism, about anything and everything. But trutherism is the sum total of Trump’s political proposition, from birtherism to the bitter end. He has spent the past several months dissuading his supporters from voting by mail. Now he’s scandalized seeing his supporters underrepresented in the mail ballot counts.
The notes of this paradoxalist do not end here, however. New York Times reporter Peter Baker made that clear in summarizing the president’s Thursday remarks about the ballot counts: “Trump says he is being cheated because Biden is picking up votes in some states as the counting proceeds while boasting that he is picking up votes in Arizona as the counting proceeds.” Some Republicans are sucking up to Trump in this moment, and others are telling him to shut up. You can tell that the latter group has, for once, gained the upper hand. Still, Trump’s willingness to be a loud, relentless crank about everything is, for Republicans, his lasting and indispensable strength. So of course his presidency ends on these notes.
Trump lost the presidency, and yet some Republicans seem happy about the secondary implications of this election: Trump’s overperformance with nonwhite voters, GOP control in the Senate, and, frankly, relief in reaching the end of a wild and sickening ride. Meanwhile, Biden won the presidency, and yet some Democrats are disappointed with the margins in several key states, distressed about the down-ballot results, and dreading the left-liberal infighting and partisan gridlock that will inevitably complicate Biden’s first term. Biden in the White House, Nancy Pelosi leading the House, Mitch McConnell leading the Senate—we’ve all watched this stalemate before.
Biden has often said he’s a “transitional” figure, conscious of his age and his distance from his party’s activist wing. The Democrats were determined to evict Trump from the White House and worry about Congress, long-term coalition building, and the rest later. That time is now. At long last, the Trump presidency is done. The political process will only get more arduous from here.