The outcome Democrats have been working non-stop for since 2016, and the outcome Republicans were desperately trying to avoid, has finally come to pass: After four tumultuous years of Donald Trump’s administration, the former reality television star has lost the election, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take their place as the next president and vice president of the U.S.
Progressive voters across the country are celebrating this victory, excited for major policy changes and the first female vice president. Meanwhile, Trump now sits in the Oval Office as a lame duck, while we count down the days until he no longer has access to the nuclear passcodes or can tweet on the White House Twitter account.
But what will this brave new America look like after a president like Trump, who leaves behind a dumpster fire of a legacy? From Biden, there are promises of climate action, police reform and better COVID-19 regulations.
Maybe we can stop using the word “unprecedented” for at least a little while.
Eugene Weekly asked local politicians and political experts to weigh in on the immediate and long-term changes that we can expect to see.
Oregon State Representative Marty Wilde says he’s looking forward to a government that represents all Americans.
“One of the great things about America is the ability to change our minds. We made a mistake in electing Trump four years ago. A man who speaks to our fears. And now we elect a man who speaks to our hopes and our common humanity,” Wilde says.
As a member of the state Legislature, Wilde says he’s anticipating an amicable partnership with the federal government that will help education, healthcare and housing.
But the future is not all bright right away. University of Oregon Political Science Professor Emerita Priscilla Southwell explains that even as a lame duck, Trump can still make policy changes and other major decisions, reminding that George Bush pardoned people involved in the Iran Contra-Affair on Christmas Eve.
“He is not president for three and a half years or even three and three- fourths years, he is president until January 2021. Even if he is defeated and he is a lame duck, and that does not mean he is powerless,” Southwell says.
Southwell adds that she doubts the president will try to go to war, but could still make drastic policy changes during his remaining time in office. But, Southwell explains, anything that Trump puts forward can be undone once Biden is inaugurated, as any new president would have the power to do. For example, she says, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed or “dramatically gutted,” Biden will just introduce his own BidenCare to Congress.
“All kinds of things can be done to remedy the situation. I don’t mean to be cavalier about it and say it’s not really going to matter, because those three months are important,” Southwell says. Trump will also most likely not make drastic changes to his stance on larger issues like immigration or COVID-19, she says.
When it comes to the pandemic, Wilde says the Biden administration will have a more responsible approach to COVID-19, emphasizing that the Trump administration largely neglected its responsibility in taking care of people during the crisis.
“With the Biden administration, I think you are going to see not an attempt to overrule the states on important issues, but an attempt to empower them to solve the problems,” Wilde says. He adds that when it comes to climate change, he’s looking forward to support from the Biden administration in getting Americans off fossil fuels and tapping into Oregon’s offshore wind energy potential.
Though both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel have alluded to the idea that the election will be unfair or that the Supreme Court could throw out some votes and put the election in Trump’s favor, Southwell says there really isn’t any way the court could step in and take charge of this.
“They cannot be an activist,” Southwell says. “The Supreme Court can only rule if the appellate court brings it to them.” She adds that people can cry foul all they want, but there needs to be evidence.
There is a lot of mess to undo. But in roughly three months President-elect Joe Biden will take his place in the White House, and he will get to work on restoring this divided country. For many Americans tired of the hate and acrimony of the Trump administration, that is the hope they hang on to.