With Election Day behind us, ousting President Donald Trump is a major win for many, but we can’t get complacent. We still need to learn from the past. Joe Biden underperformed in many states, similar to how Hillary Clinton underperformed. Only this time, Biden’s lead still kept him ahead. But next time we may not be so lucky.
Joe Biden is currently projected to win the Presidency with 306 electoral votes. But let’s humble ourselves — he was projected to win many states which ended up going to Trump. Florida, North Carolina and many others were toss-ups but ended up not being so close, such as Texas, Iowa and Ohio. Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and it will be an uphill battle even if they are to take the Senate. After the 2016 electoral debacle, many of us hoped the Democratic Party would learn even just a little from its failure to win an election that was impossible to lose. The closeness of this election clearly shows that introspection never took place.
The Biden coalition differs from that of Clinton in the past. Biden garnered less support from the Latinx community in particular — for example, in Texas, Biden lost significantly with Latinx voters. In 2016, Starr County, a working-class county with over 96 percent Latinx population, went to Clinton by 60 points. In 2020, Biden eked by with just five points over Trump. Hidalgo County and Cameron County both shifted around 20 points toward Trump in similar dramatic fashion. This same trend in Florida led Trump to expand on his 2016 lead in the state after swinging Miami-Dade County over 20 points. Further, Biden only made gains with white voters, while Trump made gains with virtually all racial minorities. The gains Biden did make were in suburban areas, but the costs can not be overstated.
Biden and the Democrats are playing a dangerous game. This time, the suburban strategy succeeded on a wave of backlash against the current president. However, let’s not forget back before the disaster of the 2016 election when Senator Chuck Schumer said, “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia.”
The fact that the election was not a clear landslide is an indictment on the Democratic Party and the Biden campaign. On Election Day, the same day Florida handedly went to Trump, voters passed a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage by over 20 points. This apparent contradiction is a microcosm of the problem with the Democratic Party — neglected and desperate voters hoping for more progressive ideas are cast aside in favor of the elusive “moderate Republican” voter. Democrats need to shift to a populist economic message if they are to ever create a broad-based, working-class coalition. This means ceasing to run on platitudes and clichés like saving the “soul of the nation” and instead, perhaps, running on expanding health care during a global pandemic or economic recovery when millions are out of work. A majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage and investment in infrastructure or green technology.
Another reason why Democrats need to shift their messaging is that if they don’t, fascists will. Late-stage capitalism breeds discontent and fascist demagogues can jump on that to push their own heinous agenda — they can redirect the genuine pain and suffering of people toward their fellow human beings. They will continue to use multiculturalism, immigrants, activists, intellectuals, religious minorities, queer folk and socialists as scapegoats. However, the reality is that people are angry, and many have good reason to be. If Democrats don’t actually explain and change the conditions that cause this discontent, someone else will.
Biden and the Democrats may have successfully beaten Trump, but the underlying problems that led to Trump’s rise will remain. Next time, the fascist may not be so incompetent or ineffective. We must all be wary because everyone’s luck runs out at some point.
Seth Gully is a junior triple-majoring in philosophy, politics and law, economics and French.