Protesters gathered in Cambridge in September 2019 to demonstrate against Trump's planned state visit to the UKLouis ashworth

Students at the University of Cambridge reacted to the declaration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States (US) last Saturday night (07/11) following a frantic few days of counting ballots.

Biden won a record number of votes, totaling over 75 million surpassing the previous record held by Barack Obama while Trump won over 70 million votes. 

Biden’s victory was secured by flipping key swing states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and, most importantly, Pennsylvania, which provided the 20 votes Biden needed to reach the 270 threshold. 

Isabelle, a POLIS MPhil student at Trinity from Boston, detailed to Varsity the importance of the election: “The stakes of the election are hard to overstate. President Trump’s first term in office was marked by four years in which the president dismantled democratic norms in the United States, tarnished our country’s international image, and fundamentally threatened the rights, lives, and human dignity of people who call the US home.”

She continued to stress that Trump’s views on climate change, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter are “not only flawed, but dangerous. We couldn’t afford another four years of his hateful rhetoric and fundamentally misguided policies—and neither can the rest of the globe.”

Nate, a Politics PhD student at Kings, also recognised that the “global implications [of the election] are important”. 

“The absence of US leadership under Trump has catalyzed these fractures and a return of US normalcy can prove a path forward in building more robust institutions, organizations and norms.” 

Isabelle stressed: “Biden’s win will not resolve all of the problems and injustices in the US, but it will signal a rejection of Trump’s hateful attitudes and a turn toward decency and rationality.”

Similarly on the importance of the election and voting, Ben Schaffer, who has returned to his home near New York after completing a History MA at Emmanuel, emphasised that “this was probably the most important election in recent American history...Many of us thought that 2016 was a done deal for Secretary Clinton and woke up devastated after that election, so there was a real sense of obligation and hard work around voting this year.”

Meanwhile, Nate told Varsity he was relieved Biden won after the “roller coaster [of] waiting for results”. Although Nate feels Biden “represents a return to stability that didn’t exist with Trump”, he still cautioned that “Biden is not necessarily the utopian ideal politician”. 

Nate’s words against any feeling of complacency now that Biden has been elected, rang particularly true considering the tone of Trump’s departure. Many individuals Varsity spoke to indicated their alarm at Trump’s baseless election fraud claims, including saying that “If you count the legal votes I win”. He further falsely referred to legally-cast mail ballots as illegitimate. 

Trump has been widely condemned for these unsubstantiated claims, including a false declaration of his victory while millions of votes were still being counted. 

Hayley, a third year Linguistics student at Homerton, described the election as “ominous”, particularly in regard to “Trump's false claims”. She highlighted that “the potential worst case scenarios of Trump not conceding show a terrifying insight into the state of America's democratic gaps. It goes without saying that the electoral college system has once again demonstrated itself to be deeply problematic and outdated.”

Hayley further detailed her worries about the polarisation and current fragmentations within American politics, identifying that “Biden's lack of a landslide victory reveals the deep political divide in America today, that shows no sign of resolving soon, and which will continue to cause problems beyond the outcome of the election.”

However, Benjamin Studbaker, a PhD student researching economic inequality and democratic theory, told Varsity that while “there has been a lot of worrying about authoritarianism” in reality “the president has alienated his officers, intelligence officials, and civil servants. He does not poll well with ground troops. There is no support in the federal bureaucracy for Trump to become a Caesar figure, and most rank and file Republican voters are still strongly committed to the constitution.”

He continued: “On the whole, this election is less significant than most people think--the winner will be mired in gridlock and will continue to face the institutional roadblocks that have increasingly stymied presidents for many years.”

The presidency was not the only election which took place last Tuesday (03/11), the entirety of the House and a third of the Senate were also up for re-election. Democrats held onto the House, while it appears that the Republicans will narrowly hold onto the Senate. 

Isabelle is “disheartened by the fact that the Democrats will not take control of the Senate, because that means that even if Biden wins, there will still be partisan gridlock that will make it hard for him to push forward his agenda.” 


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Benjamin similarly stressed that “It's clear that the winner [of the presidency] will lack support in congress, no matter which one of them wins. This means that very little is likely to be accomplished during the next presidential term. The winner will take much of the blame for this institutional problem.”

Despite the tension surrounding the election Hayley is hopeful that Biden’s victory will “mark the beginning of the end of 4 years which have been frankly painful to watch, and hopefully the beginning of rights and dignity being restored for millions of Americans.”

“Both parties have reckoning to do in the next two years before the midterms”, Nate told Varsity, with questions on “how the US will deal with race and class” being “importantly” brought into focus.