It only took a few days after the Nov. 3 presidential election, but former Vice President Joe Biden became the projected winner of the 2020 election to become the 46th President of the United States after an electoral vote of 306-232 beating out incumbent President Donald Trump, but not without some pushback in the following weeks.
Christopher Williams, an Assistant Professor of Political Science here at UA Little Rock who specializes in elections, public opinion and democratic governance, says that Biden’s win was “absolutely” historic.
“It represents a clear break from the often radical-right and anti-system policies of Trump,” he said. “The election of Joe Biden likely means a return to the existing global order. At the domestic level, we can expect to see major differences in immigration policy, education policy, tax policy, environmental policy, trade policy, etc.”
Drew Martin, the chair of the UA Little Rock College Republicans Chapter, says that the Presidential race is not quite over yet, and points locally to why there should be some concern with the projected results.
“Fraud and incompetence in elections are always a concern,” he said. “Locally we know that 327 ballots were counted in Pulaski County that should not have been. The director of elections (Bryan Poe) admits that, and two house races have margins well within these bounds.”
Martin is referring to 327 absentee ballots in Pulaski County that had been disqualified accidentally being included with absentee ballots when being added to unofficial totals.
“The problem with proving these cases in court is the necessity of a paper trail, and we have not clearly seen that in many of the states where Joe Biden maintains slim leads,” Martin said. “There is a constitutional question at play in Pennsylvania as it relates to segregated ballots. I do believe though that President Trump’s case will and should have its time in court so the Judicial Branch can make its decision.”
Williams disagrees with Martin, Trump and many Republicans claiming fraud, saying that there is a slim chance this election was fraudulent.
Fraud or not, Martin says that Biden’s win isn’t as victorious as many might think.
“There is still the decision to be held in the judicial branch; but make no mistake about the results of the election: this was not a Biden mandate,” he said. “We were told across the country that Joe Biden would win in a landslide with coattails electing many more Democrats to the Senate and House, and that simply is not the case.”
Currently, President Trump still has not conceded the election, which Williams says will have both short term and long term effects.
“The short term regards the outcome of this specific election,” he said. “In reality, Trump refusing to concede will likely have little effect on the outcome of this election. On Dec. 14, the electors will meet and elect Joe Biden, this will be certified by Congress and on Jan. 20, 2021, Joe Biden will become President. If Trump refuses to leave, he will likely be escorted out of the White House by the Secret Service.”
Williams says that the long term effects of President Trump not conceding may have large effects on the health of American democracy.
“Democracy only survives when elites (e.g. candidates, parties, media, etc.) agree to the rules of the game,” he said. “They drive the public in accepting the outcome of elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which are imperative for democracy. Trump and others in the Republican Party undermining this election leads to many in the public believing the election was not legitimate, which makes them more likely to believe that future elections are not legitimate. It also increases the likelihood of violence.”
Williams and Martin both agree that this election has caused the country to become even more divided than before.
“I think what you see is a country that is divided ideologically,” Martin said. “There is so much more that unites us, but you would not know that from looking at the election results. For now, I think we (the Republican Party) need to focus on the two senate runoffs in Georgia, so that we preserve the Republican Senate.”
Martin is referring to the two runoff elections in Georgia, between current Republican Senator David Perdue against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and current Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler against Democrat challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock, which both Martin and Williams agree will have a major impact on the outcome of the election as Democrats need to win both these races in order to gain control of the Senate.
“Changes under the Biden administration will, in part, be determined by the outcome of the two Senate races in Georgia,” Williams said. “If the Democrats lose at least one of those seats, the Republicans will control the Senate, and that significantly restricts what Biden can get done as he won’t have unified government.”
Even if Republicans don’t have a substantial victory in the federal elections, Martin points out that they did have some here in the state of Arkansas.
“We here in Arkansas had a fantastic night for Republicans,” he said. “We re-elected Congressman French Hill by double digits and we expanded our majorities in the state house and senate by multiple seats each. This state ‘Democratic’ up and down the ballot a decade ago, but the Democratic Party of Arkansas has essentially given up on the working people in this state, not even contesting many races and sometimes running half-hearted campaigns. I believe the Republican Party of Arkansas is ready for the years ahead, and the Democrats have a lot of soul searching to do.”
In the federal government, Williams says that a lot of changes may come under the Biden administration as opposed to the previous one, even if he doesn’t have a unified government.
“Under all conditions, I expect the U.S to immediately rejoin the Paris [Climate] Accord,” Williams said. “I also expect Biden to reinstitute DACA. If Biden doesn’t enjoy unified government, he will also likely use an Executive Order to cancel substantial student loan debt. If he does enjoy a unified government, I expect student loan debt will be cancelled through legislative means along with a repeal of parts of the Trump tax cut. Further, I would expect some movement on passing a Voting Rights Act and even statehood for Washington, D.C.”
Martin, however, says that there is a real concern about Biden’s lack of vision from a legislative standpoint.
“Biden’s initial moves post-election give the appearance that he will govern much the same as his former boss, President Barack Obama,” he said. “However, he has no clear vision, no clear agenda, no clear first move. I believe that concerned many voters who saw him as a Trojan horse for leftist ideology, which you will see a hard push from the far left of the Democrat party to influence the Biden Administration.”
Martin says that the Biden Administration will be a huge contrast from Trump’s four years in office from an accomplishment perspective.
“The Trump Administration, whether you liked the bluster or not, was filled with accomplishments,” he said. “Record low unemployment for Americans of all backgrounds, an American-centered foreign policy where we kept our word to our allies, criminal justice reform, circuit and Supreme Court judges who embrace the Constitution, and historic funding for HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). I expect the Biden years to be quiet and to honestly pass no major legislation, instead, relying on executive orders to put together whatever they can deem as satisfactory. The Biden years will be quieter, but they also will not deliver results for the American people.”
Whatever the results of the election might be, it was a historic win for all Americans when it comes to engagement and voter turnout as we saw the highest percentage of eligible voters vote since the election of 1900 with both Biden and Trump breaking the record for most votes for an individual candidate (formerly held by Obama in 2008).
“Voter turnout was exceptionally high, but what is interesting is that it was high on both the right and the left,” Williams said. “Republicans turned out in huge numbers, with Democrats showing up in even greater numbers. On the Democratic side, this comes down to anger with Trump’s policies, Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic, and an extensive Democratic organization, led by people like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, encouraging voter turnout. On the Republican side, it appears that a substantial amount of the voter turnout was driven by Trump himself. In 2018, Democrats in statewide races did better in almost every swing state than Joe Biden did. This is because Republican turnout was substantially lower in 2018 than in 2020. This indicates that Trump brought a huge number of Republican voters to the polls.”
Martin on the other hand points to social media as another factor in why voter turnout was so high in this election.
“Politics continues to consume more and more of our lives as we continue to consume more of it,” he said. “Nobody could open Facebook or Instagram without constant reminders about voting. Every celebrity, from Youtube stars to Hollywood A-listers, repeatedly hit voters with the same reminders.”
Martin, like Williams, also points to events of 2020 as major factors as well.
“We also cannot take COVID out of the picture,” Martin said. “We saw during the George Floyd protests during the summer that being socially distanced for long periods of time spurs people to get outside and to become involved in causes they care about, on both sides. Campaigns also continue to reinvent the wheel on get out the vote efforts, making use of increased absentee voting among other items.”
The Forum reached out to the UA Little Rock College Democrats Chapter for comment but did not get a response.