Why Biden Won?: A Preliminary Analysis

Prof. Mohammed Badrul Alam
November 17th, 2020


With Joe Biden having amassed 306 electoral college votes (more than the required 270 votes needed for an outright victory) and deservingly the President-elect, he is getting ready to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2021. Although the incumbent President Donald Trump has not yet officially conceded, it is considered merely a customary one and not constitutionally mandated to do so. What is important, however, is for the smooth transition through a peaceful transfer of power to the new incoming Biden-Harris administration. 

There are several factors that are responsible for the victory of Biden in the see-saw battle for acquiring the necessary number of electoral college votes. 

The first reason for Biden victory seems to be the Covid-19 pandemic and its handling or the lack of it by the Trump administration.  While President Trump himself did not follow the guidelines during the campaign and even after that, Joe Biden cautioned the American voters about the need to use medically prescribed steps, such as using of masks and maintaining social distancing. That message did have a very receptive audience among the vast number of the electorate whose casualty, as of now, has surpassed 250,000 fatalities and with over 11 million active Covid cases across 50 states.

Second, the consolidation of minority votes including Blacks, Latinos, Hispanics, and Asians were a big contributing factor to the defeat of Trump. Blacks, in particular, were incensed with the racial strife of the past few months that started with the police killing of George Flloyd in Minneapolis that led to the emergence of Blacks Lives Matter Movement. The movement against racial discrimination found resonance in a vast swath of Blacks-populated states, cities and counties. One of the reasons Biden carried the states of Georgia and Michigan was the record registration of Black voters and their active participation in the voting process. 

Third, the nomination of Senator Kamala Harris as the Vice Presidential nominee solidified the support of not only the Blacks but also among the Indian American diaspora who touted Kamala’s candidacy as a historic moment to put one of their own into the second highest elected office of the land. In the process, Kamala Harris broke the glass ceiling in a big bang manner by being the first woman, the first person of colour and the first Indian American- all rolled into one in US history, as the person, to be the Vice President-elect, one who is ‘heartbeat away from the Presidency’.

Fourth, the strong grass root Democratic Party organisations, backed by local activists, mayors, council members, state senators and representatives as well as prominent members of the Democratic Party, such as the former President Barack Obama, primary race contenders, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Governors, Senators and House members, are also responsible to a considerable extent in galvanising the Democratic party base and in urging the voters to vote for Biden.

Fifth, the fear of Covid pandemic propelled a record 100 million-plus voters to opt for early and mail-in-voting, majority of whom were Democratic Party registered voters. That, in itself, resulted in Biden squeezing past some closely contested states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona and Georgia, that ultimately put Biden over the top in the race to attain more than 270 electoral college votes.

Women voters, too, contributed to Biden’s victory as many of them were afraid that the second term Trump administration might abrogate and repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and substantially reduce Medicare and Medicaid benefits and those with pre-existing conditions, including those of the Senior Citizens. A good chunk of female voters was also worried that the Conservative-leaning Supreme Court might overturn Roe versus Wade judgment and its pro-choice thrust.

The fact that Joe Biden received over 80 million votes nationally, some 5.5 million popular votes more than Donald Trump also attests to the widespread detachment and disinclination of the American electorate to warm up to a possible Trump second term.

It is significant to note here that Donald Trump did win a sizable 232 electoral college votes and nearly 75 million votes nationally which showed that Trumpism is alive and well in both the Red states that are Republican leaned as well as in the rest of the mainland.  It will be naive and illusory to think that Americans have opted for a dominant liberal international order in the highly surcharged, polarised American society. The less educated whites, evangelical Christians, small businessmen, Cuban Americans and a wide segment of the white suburban male voters did provide muscle, money and electoral support to the Trump power base which might make Trump or any other Republican challenger a head start in the 2024 Presidential race. 

All said and done, Joe Biden ultimately prevailed the slug-fest of 2020 race and now it is up to Biden and his team to set the policy agenda and present the blueprint for governance which will put the United States in the front gear in the coming years.


** The author is the Professor ( Retd.), Dept. of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. **