Biden trumps Trump

Veteran Democrat elected 46th president; Harris will be first woman VP  

AFTER FOUR TUMULTUOUS years under Donald Trump that upended countless norms of the US presidency and four days of vote-counting that kept the country — and world — on edge, Joe Biden was elected the country’s 46th president.

Victory came on the 77-year-old former Democratic vice president’s third run for the White House, and also swept into office California Sen. Kamala Harris, who will become the first woman to serve as vice president, and the first woman of color to win national office. Harris’s father is Jamaican-American and her late mother immigrated to the US from India.

News organizations on Saturday projected Biden to be the winner in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born, with its 20 electoral votes putting him over the 270 mark needed to win the presidency.

Biden was first elected to the Senate from Delaware 48 years ago today, becoming one of the youngest people to ever serve there, and he will now become the oldest person to ever take office as president when inaugurated, at age 78, in January. 

America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country,” Biden said in a tweet just before 12 noon on Saturday. “The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.”

Sen. Kamala Harris at her introduction as Joe Biden’s running mate in August 2020. (Photo by Biden for President campaign)

Biden said Trump’s comment in August of 2017 that there were “very fine people on both sides” in reacting to demonstrators and counter-protesters at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led by white supremacists motivated him to make yet another run for president. Biden declared the race a battle to restore the “soul of the nation.”

His win ends one of the more improbable reigns in the White House and makes Trump, a divisive figure who played more on fears than hopes, only the fifth incumbent president defeated for reelection in the last 100 years. The last incumbent to lose reelection was George H.W. Bush, who was defeated 28 years ago by Bill Clinton. 

In a world of “alternative facts” — the not-ironically-uttered framing provided four years ago by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway — the Republican former reality TV star sought to recast reality to his liking, starting with the effort to resize his inaugural crowd and ending with a flurry of campaign rallies where he downplayed the persistence of a deadly global pandemic, the mishandling of which dented his standing in the race. 

Trump was not conceding the race on Saturday and has vowed to pursue legal challenges to the results in several battleground states. His dangerous pushback against facts was in full gear in recent days as Trump launched a string of unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud, beginning before Tuesday’s election and continuing through the counting of mailed ballots in the days since. 

Four years ago Trump galvanized the support of white working-class voters as he tore the Republican Party away from its free-market bearings, railing against international trade deals he said hurt American workers. His election was part of a trend of right-leaning world leaders who have fashioned winning campaigns out of populist messages appealing to nationalist sentiments, often employing racist tropes or appealing to ethnic grievances. Biden vowed to win back white working-class voters while also energizing voters of color, and he was able to flip back three crucial states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — that Trump won in 2016.

In terms of ripple effects in Massachusetts, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has reportedly been lobbying for appointment as treasury secretary in a Biden administration. It’s unclear whether a man whose career has been defined by moderate Democratic politics — and coziness with the financial industry that has lots of credit card companies headquartered in Delaware — would tap a Wall Street antagonist for such a key post.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has been mentioned as a possible labor secretary, but he’s given no indication he’d be interested in heading to Washington. Biden has signaled that he would look for bipartisan representation in his cabinet were he elected. That could even land Gov. Charlie Baker on a list of potential Republican appointees. Baker didn’t support Biden, but he never backed Trump, either, declaring that he blanked his presidential ballot this year.

Massachusetts will no longer claim the only Roman Catholic ever elected president, as Biden now follows John F. Kennedy, 60 years after his election, in becoming the second Catholic to win the White House.

Biden emerged as the come-from-behind winner in a wide-open Democratic primary field. He had finished well back in the pack in several early primaries and his campaign seemed close to finished when he scored his first win in the South Carolina primary. Biden’s campaign was resurrected with the backing of the state’s leading Democratic black official, Rep. Jim Clyburn, and huge margins from the state’s large African-American voting bloc. Three days later he racked up more wins on Super Tuesday and was on his way to the nomination.

Former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served under for eight years, issued a statement saying he “could not be prouder” to congratulate the country’s next president and vice president.

“In this election, under circumstances never experienced, Americans turned out in numbers never seen,” said Obama. “And once every vote is counted, President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will have won a historic and decisive victory.” 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

“I know he’ll do the job with the best interests of every American at heart, whether or not he had their vote. So I encourage every American to give him a chance and lend him your support,” Obama wrote.

Biden and Harris are scheduled to speak Saturday night from a stage outside the convention center in downtown Wilmington.