Acela Corridor Perspectives: Election Day 2020

The United States has a time honored tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Though not a requisite, traditionally, once the majority of votes have been counted and the winner is projected, the losing candidate reaches out to his or her opponent to concede. Hillary Clinton did it in 2016. Al Gore did it in 2000. George H.W. Bush did it in 1992. John Adams supposedly privately conceded to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. This tradition has carried through from generation to generation – and it happens at all levels of government – from the school board to city council to Congress to the President of the United States. The period between Election Day and the Inauguration is called the transition period, when the outgoing administration shares important documents and knowledge to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. But then, it’s 2020.

We have made history by electing the first woman to the office of the Vice President, Kamala Harris. She is also the first person of color and the first child of immigrants to hold the office. In all of the madness that has ensued over the past few weeks and years, the historical significance of Kamala Harris’ ascension to the Vice Presidency just four years after the U.S. failed at the chance to send a woman to the White House should not be overlooked. Furthermore, Joseph R. Biden becomes the second Catholic (after John F. Kennedy) and second non-Protestant President in U.S. history.

While many would argue that there is a sense of renewed optimism and hope that’s been palpable these last few weeks, the divisiveness that has plagued the country for the last four years won’t be eradicated so easily. Democrats did not have “the blue wave” – blue being the color broadly identified with Democrats, red with Republicans – many were predicting. In fact, Democrats experienced losses in the House of Representatives, though they still maintain the majority, and they failed to take control of the Senate as many had expected, this now riding on two runoff races in Georgia. And, though President-Elect Biden received more votes than any other candidate in U.S. history (the latest counts show 78.7 million), President Trump still received more than 73 million votes. The Trump “movement” isn’t expected to fade away any time soon

In the U.S., the outcome of the popular vote is not the deciding factor in the election, rather it’s the electoral college. A candidate needs 270 electoral college votes to win. As the days went on it became clear that nearly all paths led to a decisive Biden victory, whereas Trump had few potential paths to 270. Republican stronghold Arizona voted Democratic for the first time in 24 years. Traditionally conservative Georgia experienced record voter turnout and went blue for the first time in nearly three decades. Biden was triumphant across several of the “rustbelt” Democratic strongholds of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan that Hillary Clinton lost narrowly in 2016. The final electoral tally: Biden 306; Trump 232 – ironically the same number by which Trump won election in 2016.

On January 20, 2021, at 12pm EST, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th U.S. President. The Biden administration in waiting has already been hard at work on a number of domestic and international policy issues. First and foremost, the focus will be on a nationally coordinated plan to combat the coronavirus. Until now, the pandemic response has been left up to individual states, which has resulted in an inability to control the spread of the virus as it moves from one area of the country to another, with disparate state policies on mask mandates, social gatherings, and shutdowns.

Last week, President-Elect Biden announced his coronavirus panel of experts as well as the creation of a national supply chain to direct pandemic resources, such as PPE and ventilators. You can expect Dr. Anthony Fauci to continue to play a critical role in the pandemic response under the Biden administration, though the Trump’s administration’s refusal to begin the official transition process has stalled this for now. On the global stage, Biden has committed to rejoining (and funding) the World Health Organization.

The ripple effects from the pandemic have resulted in a number of urgent domestic priorities, from providing economic relief to small businesses and individuals out of work to providing relief for local governments. In New York, for example, subway ridership is down 60-70%, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is facing a $16.2 billion deficit through 2024. Chairman & CEO Patrick Foye remarked yesterday that the election of “Amtrak Joe” is a positive for the MTA. However, with control of the Senate still up in the air and the likelihood of a Stimulus package being passed in a lame duck session low, it is difficult to predict when and in what form the much-needed relief will arrive.

Climate change is a top priority for the new administration, and President-Elect Biden has signaled he will rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office. He also announced a $2 Trillion Green Infrastructure plan that seeks to revamp America’s outdated infrastructure system, create millions of jobs, and combat climate change.

At the same time, we are experiencing a watershed moment for race relations in the U.S., and President-Elect Biden has included racial justice on his list of four immediate policy priorities (along with COVID-19, economic recovery, and climate change).

While the domestic challenges are significant and urgent, the Biden administration will be working in tandem to rebuild the U.S. as a global power and trusted ally. One o

f Biden’s key distinguishers during his run for the presidency was his foreign policy acumen. He was Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1997-2008 and continued to build on these relationships as Vice President. Biden pledged during the campaign to organize and host a global Summit for Democracy, “to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World.” As of this writing, more foreign leaders have called President-Elect Biden to offer congratulations than have Republican U.S. Senators.

While there will be stark differences between the incoming and current administrations, there are many factors that will determine when and how these changes will be implemented, most notably the outcome of the Georgia Senate races.

One immediate and most welcome change: we will once again have dogs back in the White House – and, for the first time in history, this will include a rescue dog. In case you missed the memo, President Trump was the first President in modern history to not have a four-legged companion.

While much uncertainty remains, one thing is for sure: on January 20, 2021, Champ and Major will be moving into the White House and Donald Trump will be moving out.

 

Eleis Brennan

Vice President at Lansons Intermarket