The prospects for unrest in the United States, particularly widespread unrest, are very low. The election itself was carried out with very few disruptions despite record turnout in the midst of a pandemic. To me, this is a very good sign.
More concerning is that the Trump administration has not yet recognized the result of the election. While it is fully within the administration’s legal right to challenge the election results prior to the votes being certified by the states, there is simply no evidence of widespread (or even limited) fraud. Some ballots will be thrown out due to ‘irregularities’, but this happens in almost any election and is commonly not substantial enough to alter the outcome (Florida during the 2000 Presidential election being a notable exception). In short, I expect these legal challenges to go nowhere.
Key will be what happens next. If the legal challenges fizzle out, does Trump, members of his administration, and remaining members of his party then recognize the results and concede that Biden won? I hope (and expect) that they will do so. Indeed, based on what I’ve read and heard, it seems that Trump may actually use the occasion of a concession speech to announce that he will run again in 2024 (which he is constitutionally allowed to do). If successful (which is very unlikely, given that I don’t believe key members of the Republican party will want him to run again), he would be the second US President to serve two non-consecutive terms (the other being Grover Cleveland).
Overall, this election was a referendum on the idea of “America First”. With Trump receiving 70million votes, it’s impossible to say that “America First” was refuted. However, the victory by Joe Biden is still impressive. He received over 5 million more votes. His Electoral College margin of victory will end up being the same as Trump’s in 2016. Most importantly, he will have secured his Electoral College victory by securing states by convincing margins (unlike Trump’s wins in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in 2016). So while the election didn’t fully refute “America First” as an idea, it also should be taken by Biden as a solid mandate for him going forward.
What will be critical for Biden is to recognize that Trump represents something that also brought Barack Obama to power: dissatisfaction with the overall trend of US foreign policy the US pursued following the Cold War. The US pursued a policy predicated on global primacy: military dominance coupled with pursuit of `Washington Consensus’ economic policies (i.e. open trade and capital flows). Many Americans perceive the pursuit of these policies as leading us into the “endless wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributing to the “Global Financial Crisis” of 2007-08. Dissatisfaction with both outcomes is what led American’s to vote for the “hope and change” offered by Obama or the “America First” offered by Trump (it should be noted that both Obama and Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, whose husband was President during the time that the US first began to pursue this primacy policy).