Unity and decency prevail for Biden in divided America: ANALYSIS

RICK KLEIN
·4 min read

This most tumultuous of years -- the 2020 that brought a pandemic, an economic collapse, a searing racial reckoning and wild leadership out of the Oval Office -- had a major steadying force who has now been elected president of the United States.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, now president-elect, launched his campaign as a battle for the "soul of America." Winning, though, doesn't come close to ending that battle -- and will test both Biden and his fellow Americans through what promises to be a tense period in the nation and beyond.

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Consistently this year, America has proven its soul to be a troubled one. It will soon have a president who is a decent man -- older than any of his predecessors and offering ideas that may seem quaint in the context of the times – leading through a period of anger, mistrust and continued sickness.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 6, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 6, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden's first statement as president-elect sought to strike a note of unity.

"Democracy beats deep in the heart of America," he said in the statement released by his campaign. "With the campaign over, it's time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It's time for America to unite. And to heal."

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But it's not clear that all of America wants to unite or that it's ready to heal. That goes for Democrats as well as Republicans -- those inspired by President Donald Trump as well as those disgusted by him, those exulting in Biden's victory and those merely relieved by it.

PHOTO: Trump supporters demonstrating during the election results, at right, pray with a counter protester after the presidential election was called for Joe Biden outside the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Nov. 7, 2020. (David Goldman/AP)
PHOTO: Trump supporters demonstrating during the election results, at right, pray with a counter protester after the presidential election was called for Joe Biden outside the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Nov. 7, 2020. (David Goldman/AP)

If and when the Trump campaign's legal challenges fade away, Biden will have to forge through what promises to be unpredictable transition period. This unstable and perhaps dangerous period for America that will not end with the Trump presidency.

Biden earned the presidency on his own merits, with a blue-collar appeal honed over three-plus decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president. Then came a grueling primary campaign that nearly shattered his prospects before an unlikely late revival brought him back, in a changing Democratic Party and a younger and more diverse nation.

In the general election, Biden won by rebuilding the Democrats' Midwestern "blue wall" and making new inroads in the South and West, with a map that could potentially deliver him as many electoral votes -- 306 -- as Trump won in 2016.

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Flipping traditionally red Arizona and Georgia would mark a statement about the changing face of America, though neither state had been projected by ABC News Saturday morning, when Biden became president-elect with an apparent victory in Pennsylvania.

Biden's history-making choice of a former rival, Sen. Kamala Harris, as his running mate proved the right call for the moment. Harris is the first woman to win either the presidency or vice presidency, and will become the first woman of color to achieve victory on a national ticket -- a statement with extended resonance for so many in a changing country.

PHOTO: Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff take the stage during a drive-in get out the vote rally, Nov. 2, 2020, in Philadelphia. (Michael Perez/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff take the stage during a drive-in get out the vote rally, Nov. 2, 2020, in Philadelphia. (Michael Perez/AP, FILE)

It might look like a perfect political moment for Biden and Harris to govern. Their more centrist impulses will be forced to adjust to the reality of what's likely to be a Republican-controlled Senate and a narrower Democratic majority in the House, to say nothing of slash-and-burn Trumpism that will linger in politics.

The Biden coalition is of necessity defined by Trump and the fierce reactions to him. Biden won by capitalizing on repulsion from or revulsion of Trump.

He forged an unusual and perhaps impossible to replicate political alliance of older and younger Americans, people of color, political independents and suburban women. The Biden-Harris ticket added in just enough onetime Trump supporters and Republicans who simply had enough with the president, with judgments perhaps finalized during the wrenching months of COVID-19.

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History will record Biden as the president who received the most number of votes ever, with a vote count approaching 75 million as of Saturday. But Trump got the second most -- 70 million Americans and counting who put their faith in the current president yet again, through all the scandals, mismanagement and, frankly, erratic behavior the world witnessed over four years.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump is reflected as he departs after speaking about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Nov. 5, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump is reflected as he departs after speaking about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Nov. 5, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

That, too, is the America Biden is set to lead starting Jan. 20. This is a divided nation and also an exhausted and stressed one, beset by a pandemic and coarsened by the tumult of the Trump presidency.

Much is made of questions of presidential mandates and visions. No one election, and surely not this one, changes the governing structures sufficiently to change the fundamentals of a divided country. And it's not clear whether this election canceled the Trump show or what might replace it.

If Biden has a mandate, it's for calm, decency and stability. It will be up to the broader nation whether that will or should be enough to bring the nation out of this searing moment.

Unity and decency prevail for Biden in divided America: ANALYSIS originally appeared on abcnews.go.com