Can Biden Govern Like He Campaigned? | Opinion

The final contours of Election 2020 are still coming into view—a win for Joe Biden with an Electoral Vote total around 300, but Republican strength elsewhere. As of the end of election week, here are a few snap judgments:

First, a shout-out to America's election officials and volunteers. They navigated a pandemic, record early voting totals and unfounded and hysterical presidential charges of impropriety. The system accommodated 100 million early votes and a record turnout overall without substantial disruption or controversy. America isn't the oldest democracy for no reason. We continue to lead the world in free, honest and fair elections.

Second, Biden will win the popular vote by a slightly larger margin than Hillary Clinton in 2016. Early estimates are that this election set a record for the highest participation percentage of voting age population since the beginning of the 20th century, a tribute to Americans' continuing interest in voting and democratic participation.

As of now, several states have flipped from 2016, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia (maybe) and Arizona. Biden won the three Great Lakes States by margins similar to Trump's wins in 2016. Cindy McCain's Biden endorsement clearly had an impact in Arizona. As the vote count wore on, it became clear that Trump's disparagement of mail in voting put his Republican Party in a hole that they were not able to overcome, despite an incredibly strong GOTV effort on election day.

Third, Joe Biden's quietly effective strategy of marrying his progressive supporters with moderate and independent voters created an anti-Trump coalition that agreed on little else beside antipathy for the president. In the end, the public preferred a return to normalcy and cooperation over confrontation. Of all the Democratic candidates, only Biden could have assembled such a coalition.

Fourth, that GOP GOTV effort staved off American demographic changes in many states that were thought to be up for grabs. Trump prevailed in Florida, North Carolina (probably), and Texas despite a turnout that was far larger and less white than four years ago. Biden's wins in Arizona and possibly Georgia represent Democratic breakthroughs in two Sunbelt states where changing demographics are making them more competitive. While there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that Trump made modest inroads among black and Hispanic voters, they still broke heavily for Joe Biden and is first among the reasons that former red states may be turning purple.

Fifth, the good news for the GOP was down ballot. Republicans may be on track to hold the Senate, a potential bulwark against a flood of progressive legislation. Georgia will take center stage for one or two Senate runoff elections in early January. The GOP is also poised to gain a few House seats, something no one predicted. Most importantly, Republicans retained strong control in state legislatures, especially in the large states in the Midwest plus Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. This will put Republicans in a strong position when the states begin their redistricting efforts in next year's legislative sessions.
These elections underline the strategies of both parties to increase their vote shares vertically, not horizontally, a troubling factor contributing to the polarization of our politics.

Regarding how a Biden Administration might govern, they would clearly be constrained by a Republican majority in the Senate. Progressive legislation such as the Green New Deal, major tax and spending increases and of course any efforts to pack the Supreme Court would be off the table. Elizabeth Warren would be unlikely to become Treasury Secretary. Whichever party ultimately wins the Senate, a band of more moderate Republican senators (Susan Collins, Mitt Romney) along with Republican senators facing reelection in 2022 such as Rob Portman in Ohio, might be interested in working with the new Administration on selected initiatives.

Biden, in dealing with a deeply divided, Senate will hopefully seek to fashion more bipartisan legislation rather than relying exclusively on the Democratic caucus, including far left progressives. As noted, Biden was nominated and won the general election precisely because he was able to convince moderate voters that he was different from the progressives. A Biden agenda focus on issues such as confronting and defeating COVID-19, inducing a sense of calm in America's cities, healing racial unrest, preserving and reforming Obamacare and private health insurance, and implementing moderately progressive tax changes might find a welcome ear with centrist voters.

One other potential benefit to the end of the election season: In the past few days, the stock market was up sharply. Wall Street loves divided government and hates uncertainty.

Biden can also score points with the tone of his administration. Progressives will be demanding revenge. He should resist this and continue to advocate a collaborative approach to solving problems. His stated goal of lowering the rhetorical temperature and being president of all Americans should serve him well as he enters the presidency at a time of enormous challenges. His statement post-election was a good start here.

Some state totals need to be finalized and a rocky transition is in the future. As of now, however, our system has weathered a major challenge, underlining again the genius of our Constitution and the heroic efforts of our election officials, Democrat and Republican, to insure that the will of the American people is respected.

Frank Donatelli served as assistant for political affairs to President Ronald Reagan and as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​