Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States on January 20. This has been clear since November 7, four days after the election. Biden won the popular vote by more than 6 million, out of a total vote of over 150 million, and has won the Electoral College vote by 306 to 232, a very comfortable majority. There is no chance that Trump can prevent Biden from becoming the next president. All of Trump’s legal efforts and speeches about voter fraud have not been serious efforts to remain president. They are about Trump hating to lose and feeling sorry for himself.
In fact, this election worked well. In spite of the pandemic, which made voting in person difficult and even dangerous, more Americans voted than in any previous election. The percentage of eligible voters who voted was the highest in 120 years. Both Republican and Democratic election officials around the country did their jobs in a neutral and efficient way. In several close states, state and federal courts rejected Trump’s law suits to stop the counting of votes or the certification of the winner. Judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans have upheld the law and dismissed Trump’s legal claims about voter fraud.
Since November 7 when it became clear that Biden won, there have been demonstrations of celebration by Democrats and demonstrations of protest against voter fraud by Republicans. All these demonstrations have been peaceful. There may be future demonstrations about Biden winning the election, but very little possibility of rioting or serious violence. At most there may be occasional fist fights between demonstrators on different sides.
Although Democrats won the election for president, Republicans will probably keep control of the Senate. In the state of Georgia, no candidate for the Senate won more than half the vote. As a result, there will be two run-off elections in Georgia on January 5. Democrats will have to win both elections to have a majority in the Senate. This is possible but unlikely.
If Republicans keep control of the Senate, Biden will have great difficulty passing controversial laws or getting approval of controversial treaties. Senate Republicans are likely to oppose almost everything he proposes. There are still many domestic policies that Biden can change without approval by the Senate, for instance environmental regulations on pollution and climate change. But Biden will have difficulty in other areas of domestic policy, including taxes and government spending on health care, education, and infrastructure.
American presidents have much more power to set foreign policy without support from Congress. Biden can authorize a return to JCPOA without approval by the Senate and is certain to want negotiations with Iran over how to do this. He may also want to include discussions of Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.
Biden will also have the US rejoin the Paris accord on climate change and he will make serious efforts to rebuild the US relationship with Europe that eroded while Trump was president. Biden’s support for Israel will remain strong but he will be less friendly to Netanyahu than Trump has been. Biden will keep the US embassy in Jerusalem and not move it back to Tel Aviv, and he will encourage the growing relationship between Israel and the UAE and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf (including Saudi Arabia?), begun under Trump. But Biden is also likely to pressure Netanyahu not to build more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and not to annex any West Bank land. And Netanyahu is sure to criticize Biden’s likely decision to return to some form of the JCPOA. US presidents can change many US foreign policies without support from the opposition party, but strong opposition from Republicans for Biden’s foreign policy will still put some limits on what he can do. Republicans are likely to oppose Biden in many areas, including a return to the JCPOA and to the Paris climate accord. Their opposition will not stop him from taking these steps, but may affect some of the details about how he makes these changes. Biden won the election but 47 percent of Americans still voted for Trump and Republicans will have half the seats in the US Senate in 2021. The US is still very divided politically, and this will probably have consequences for US foreign policy.