Joe Biden is now president-elect, after he passed the 270 electoral vote threshold from winning Pennsylvania on November 7th. The race had been close the first few days following election day, with Biden gradually expanding his lead later in the week. A record number of Americans cast their vote this year, with an increase in turnout across party lines. Coupled with the devastating handling of the COVID-19 crisis by the Trump administration, one would think Biden and other Democrats would have won in a landslide. But they did not.
There were many amazing wins in Democratic seats across the country, both at federal and state level. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Presley all won re-election in their house seats. New progressive members of Congress Cori Bush and Jamal Bowman both won seats, after both ousting Democrat incumbents that had held power for decades in their respective districts. Gary Peters kept his senate seat in Michigan in a race against John James. The Democratic party was not without victory.
Yet the Senate is a tossup and there was relatively no shift in the House. Georgia vote runoffs taking place in January will determine whether the Senate flips blue or stays red. Democrats added one seat in the Senate, and lost 4 seats in the House of Representatives (though they still hold the majority). And then there were the races where a Democrat was running against a Republican incumbent, and lost. The results of the 2020 election have really left the legislature with a mixed bag.
At the same time, many progressive proposals were passed across the country. In Florida, people voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin for mental health treatment, as well as decriminalizing the possession of hard drugs in an effort to use more recovery-based methods. New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana voted to legalize marijuana recreationally, and North Dakota and Mississippi voted to legalize it medically. Colorado voted against a measure that would have banned abortion after 22 weeks into the pregnancy. The people have voted for more progressive policies, ones that actually help working people.
Yet status quo Democrats lost races they should have been able to win, especially given the amount of money poured into those races. Florida, a state that went majorly to Trump, voted for a $15 minimum wage that Joe Biden, not Trump, is running on. How is there such a disconnect between what the people want and what the parties provide?
In 2016, the Democrats tried running a centrist against Donald Trump, and it didn’t work. They ran the same play again in 2020, winning a presidential race that should not have been as close as it was. Considering the over 236,000 Americans that have died from COVID-19 alone, the 2020 presidential election should’ve been a blowout for Biden and for other Democratic races.
Biden’s campaign focused on an anti-Trump message, which itself is not a bad strategy. But when you don’t campaign on actual policy points, support can be muddled. Even before 2020, folks felt that their politicians were not listening to them. When you are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, and your elected officials keep talking about change but never have a plan for it, distrust begins to brew.
D.C. often feels so out of touch with everyday working people. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and the president-elect is a Democrat that didn’t run on universal healthcare. When the choice is between a candidate trying to take your healthcare versus one that will allow you to keep it, it is an obvious choice for many people. But there are also folks who would be without health insurance under either administration. And many able to keep their insurance are underinsured or cannot afford care even with insurance.
If the Democrats want to be the party of the people, they need to actually listen to the people they serve. Grassroots organizing outside of the Biden campaign was what secured Biden the presidency. Without the tireless work of folks on the ground, knocking on doors, making phone calls, getting people registered to vote, the 2020 election could've gone much different.