As ballots continue to be counted and a Biden presidency seems ever more likely, one would be well-advised to refrain from celebrating the end of the Trump era, and even better advised to avoid looking towards the future. Because even though the floodlights show us a match where the former Vice President is likely to be victor by the time the final whistle blows, you needn’t look too far ahead into the darkness behind to see what monsters lurk in waiting to greet the president-elect. The monsters mentioned manifest themselves in the form of none other than the US Congress.
An American president bears extraordinary power and responsibility, but even the seat of world leadership has proven to be three legged without the chambers of government behind it. And a three-legged seat is what Biden will have to face should he become president. Polls were once again proven wrong by the Trump phenomenon, and even if it wasn’t quite enough to win him the electoral college vote, it surely was sufficient to flip senate expectations on their back and put even more pressure on House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
What this means is spectacularly simple – Joe Biden might not be able to go through with his agenda, and will in all likelihood be forced to downgrade the base of his administration, from sweeping legislative reform in all facets of US society, to working on improving relations with allies and stabilising the country as it emerges from multiple crises, with everything from societal cohesion, economic stature and health infrastructure, all flailing after a tumultuous couple of years.
Having mentioned allies, even they will be frustrated with this election’s outcome. The reality is that Europe has an ambitious agenda for all areas from the environment, all the way through defence, transport, infrastructure and economic trade – and although that may have been put on the backburner for a while until Trump left, it may have to do so again if Biden lacks the support of the US senate.
Political nerds will feel this scenario to be reminiscent of Barrack Obama’s final years in office, when Democracy stepped in the way of completing years of work on an Iranian nuclear deal, and the president was forced into signing a weak agreement that was then all but thrown away during the Trump presidency. Only yesterday the United States formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement – something Trump would probably not have managed had it not been for the fact that Obama entered without congressional approval.
With wins for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Susan Collins in Maine and Joni Ernst in Iowa, it now seems almost probable that Mitch McConnell will arguably wield even more power than he had under a Trump presidency. Without a majority in senate and assuming the Republican group remains united, Democrats would need McConnell’s blessing to pass any form of proposal coming down from the Biden administration, not to mention supreme court nominees and reforms.
This is, not to mention what’s currently unfolding in House races, as Republicans are set to tighten the gap between the parties by winning several toss-up calls. A tight house might not be the biggest worry for Joe Biden if he is to win, but it might certainly prove a headache for Nancy Pelosi to manage – and it will definitely provide the Republicans with a very strong launchpad for the upcoming mid-term elections.
So, what does all this show? Well, the answer is short and, for most Democrat prospects, bitter. Despite an unprecedented crisis series at home, sour diplomatic relations abroad, terrible poll performances, steep lows in approval ratings and his golden economy ticket in freefall as Covid19 continues to wage war on the Western world, Donald Trump is still in the race two days after election day, the US senate may still be under Republican control and will certainly not give us a blue revolution, and the House of Representatives will tighten its margins.
Donald Trump won, and although Democrats didn’t lose, they may want to give a good long stare at themselves in the mirror, and ask why.