What this record-breaking election can tell us

Ava Liponis, Columnist

The 2020 election is finally over and broke quite a few records. Voters set a new record for early votes, casting 101 million pre-election ballots. This figure is roughly twice as high as the number of early votes cast in 2016. As the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have raised questions around voter’s ability to exercise their right to vote without sacrificing their health and safety, community organizers have focused more than ever before on making voting more accessible. 

We broke a 120-year record on voter turnout, with more votes cast than any other election in U.S. history. Yet, that massive turnout did not clearly establish one party as the dominant force in American politics. Joe Biden won with less than 51% of the popular vote against an impeached, openly racist, misogynist and xenophobic president accused by at least 25 women of sexual misconduct. 

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small quantities of illegal drugs, and many other states passed drug decriminalizing policies as well. Madison Cawthorn became the youngest person in modern history to be elected to Congress at 25 years old. Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist, became Missouri’s first Black congresswoman, winning against an incumbent seeking his 11th term. 

Similarly to almost every Democratic candidate since the 1960s, Joe Biden won about 42% of the white vote. While Trump increased his performance among Black voters since 2016, Biden held 87% of the Black vote. States like Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona held some of the closest races in the nation, and their electoral college votes carried the outcome of the election. 

Once votes from Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta were done being counted, Trump’s lead in their respective states disappeared. Biden (who would never have been the Democratic nominee without Black voters in South Carolina) collected over 270 electoral votes largely because of Black voters in these cities. Native American voters in Arizona may have been solely responsible for flipping the key swing state, even after months of COVID-19 devastating Indigenous communities across the nation. 

One thing that this election has made clear is the lengths to which many white Americans are willing to go in order to protect and centralize their Whiteness. The election’s perceived tightness speaks to the Republican Party’s success at clinging to power through disenfranchisement, gerrymandering and voter suppression, which disproportionately silences voters of color. One can only hope that after four years of the Trump administration, many Americans have woken up to the violent injustices of the status quo — one can only hope that they stay awake. 

Biden and his squad of liberal Democrats represent the pre-2016 status quo, which is exactly what enabled the rise of Donald Trump in the first place. Joe Biden, who has a problematic political history to reckon with, did not save America from Donald Trump.

Native American voters in Arizona, Black voters in Detroit and Atlanta, Latinx voters in Arizona and Nevada, organizers getting out the vote in Pennsylvania and in Georgia, Black womxn leading the country in mobilizing against voter suppression; these are the people who saved America from itself.