A Divided America: Can We Actually “Build Back Better”?
By Craig Papajohn-Shaw
Volume 1 Issue 2
November 24, 2020
Image provided by POSO
It’s over. At approximately 11:30 AM on Saturday, November 7th, the state of Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, was declared to 77-year-old, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., putting him over the 270 threshold of electoral votes needed to win the presidency. He would be announced as the future 46th President of the United States with his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, being declared the future 49th Vice President of the United States. Former Vice President Biden would only be the second practicing Catholic elected as President, and Senator Harris would be the first woman in the position of Vice President. This is not to mention Harris is of Black Caribbean and South Asian descent, which makes another first for an American VP. While this is a monumental win for Democrats, the results of the Senate and House races have made Americans, especially Democrats, question whether the country can actually “Build Back Better,” as well as whether the varying political visions of the Democrats caused the party to lose seats in the House.
The infighting of the Democratic Party has been an issue over the last decade, recently exemplified when 29 Democrats, across the large spectrum of the party’s beliefs, ran to become the Presidential nominee for the party. The large spectrum of democrats includes the progressive, liberal, and centrist (or moderate) wings. In this election, the Republicans flipped 11 seats in the house for a net gain of eight, with 8 races yet to be called (As of 11/19/20). Polling suggested Democrats were supposed to gain 10-15 seats, but rather, they lost seats, putting Nancy Pelosi’s position as Speaker of the House in peril.
The weakened majority in the House came as a shock to Democrats and Republicans alike. The progressive wing of the party was blamed for these losses based on polling, proving that the Democratic party is not shifting as much left as polls suggested. Many centrist Democrats pointed fingers at Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying that her self-described democratic socialist agenda caused voters to turn away from the Democratic ticket in the down-ballot races. Even some members of the progressive caucus such as California Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2) concurred, stating, “I think Republicans did get some traction trying to scare people on this ‘socialist narrative.’”
The results of the House races gave implications that Americans do not agree on policies such as Medicare for All (abolishing privatized healthcare), defunding the police, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a federal job guarantee. Representative Connor Lamb (PA-17), a centrist Democrat, claimed the progressive policies are “unrealistic” and that the false promises being made, cost Democrats in key races. He further went on to say that the Biden administration should keep the progressives at arm’s length. Additionally, moderate Republican and former Ohio Governor, John Kasich, who supported the Biden-Harris ticket, bluntly stated, “The Democrats have to make it clear to the far-left that they almost cost him this election.” The multiple accusations generated a defensive response from Representative Ocasio-Cortez stating to theTimes, “I don't even know if I want to be in politics.” The deflection from the Congresswoman reflected the division within the Democratic party and displayed how the many sides of the party cannot seem to be, let alone act unified.
Former Vice President Biden has pledged that he will be a president for all Americans, not just those who voted for him. However, the divide within his own party might make it difficult for him to reunite the heavily divided nation. This becomes especially challenging with a divided Congress. The Democrats have a slim majority in the House, while the Republicans have a 50-48 majority in the Senate (as of 11/19/20), with two runoff races in Georgia taking place in January that will determine which party has the majority in the Senate. With President Trump refusing to concede, a smooth transition of power is unlikely to happen based on Tweets that he has sent. The lame-duck President has retweeted multiple times, “WE WILL WIN,” even though all major media outlets made the call that the former Vice President would be the projected 46th President.
The former Vice-President will have adversities to overcome, no matter the circumstances in Congress. In order to “Build Back Better”, Joe Biden will need to reach across the aisle to work with both parties to amend the great divide in our country. The Biden-Harris Administration will be responsible for establishing new precedents for future generations. The former Vice President is known for his ability for working with the Republican Party, which is reassuring in our currently divided nation.