After one of the most polarizing and drawn out presidential elections in U.S. history, the race was called for Democrat Joe Biden on Saturday – despite pending lawsuits from Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
Voters ultimately embraced Biden's promise of a renewed effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, fix the economy and bridge America's political divide after four tumultuous years of Trump’s leadership.
At 77, Biden became the oldest person ever to be elected to the nation’s highest office – and won the most votes ever cast for a president.
Winning the White House would be the pinnacle for any politician, but it’s particularly special for Biden, says Reuters political correspondent James Oliphant.
“This is his 47th year in politics, he’s run for president three times – he never really got out of the starting gate the first two times – so it’s a lot of vindication for a guy who was counted out a zillion times, even during the 2020 campaign.”
Biden's victory was driven by strong support from groups including women, African Americans, white voters with college degrees and city-dwellers, and he was comfortably ahead of Trump in the nationwide popular vote.
Biden – who spent more than 30 years in the U.S. Senate and served as vice president under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama – will now look for ways to bring people together as he inherits a nation in turmoil.
“It sounds simple, but the first thing he will do is not be Donald Trump. And in that - I’m not being fanciful – I mean he’s not going to be tweeting every day, he’s not going to be trying to attract attention, he’s going to be very low-key, when he makes pronouncements they’re going to be measured… he’s just going to try to lower the temperature. That’s going to be his first move – just not being so omnipresent in people’s lives.”
He brings with him running mate Kamala Harris, who is the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to become vice president.
“A lot of people are going to feel a great deal of pride when she’s sworn into office. She’s going to reflect what a lot of America looks like. And so, if you’re looking at the fact that a 77-year-old white guy got elected president and think that the country is maybe moving backwards after we just had Donald Trump, a Vice President Harris does a lot to dispel that notion.”
A U.S. senator from California, Harris has a track record of shattering glass ceilings. She served as San Francisco’s first female district attorney and was California's first woman of color to be elected attorney general.
Biden has said his first priority as president will be developing a plan to contain and recover from the pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 people in the U.S.and cost millions more their jobs. He has promised to improve access to testing and, unlike Trump, to heed the advice of leading public health officials and scientists.
Notwithstanding legal battles ahead, Biden and Harris are due to be sworn in to office on January 20, 2021.