A rocky road to the White House
As a young boy, Joe Biden used to say he wanted to become President of the United States when he grew up. Sure enough, he announced his first presidential bid in 1987, aged just 44 years. He ran again in 2008, in a Democratic Primary that included Barack Obama who later chose him as his running mate.
The 2020 cycle was the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition for Mr Biden, but the weeks following the election in November proved the most treacherous journey in 33 years of campaigning.
The Republican camp pulled out an early upset in Florida, a state many had predicted would go down to the wire. Other battleground states were impossible to call on election night as record turnout across counties and an unprecedented number of mail-in votes placed initial projections within a tight margin of error.
For four agonisingly long days, the US and indeed the world hovered in a state of uncertainty until Pennsylvania was finally called for the Democrats, propelling Biden over the 270 Electoral Votes threshold. President Donald Trump, who had been peddling allegations of possible vote rigging for months, refused to concede and ordered an army of lawyers to challenge vote results up and down the country. State and federal courts threw out all but one of the nearly 60 complaints filed by the Trump team.
The incumbent doubled down on his Twitter account, repeating claims of widespread fraud and declaring himself the true winner of the election. Meanwhile, Biden started assembling his team even if the General Services Administration – the agency tasked with facilitating the transition of power – kept its door closed to him until the last week of November.
The election took its most dramatic turn in Georgia, a traditionally red state that flipped blue by the slimmest of margins. Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger announced that there would be a recount, as per state laws, then another one following a request by President Trump. Georgia finally confirmed Biden’s close win, with an advantage of less than 12,000 in a state of five million voters.
As the Electoral College was preparing to convene, states with GOP leadership that were won by Mr Biden, came under immense pressure by Donald Trump – personally, in some instances – to cast their votes for him. In the end, all states voted according to the election results handing a total 232 Electoral Votes to the Republicans and 306 to the Democrats.
The final step of the process was the certification of these Electoral Votes by Congress in January, a formality presided over by the Vice President himself. But the commander-in-chief, still refusing to concede, attempted a last-ditch effort to overturn the election by publicly urging VP Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes. In the meantime, scores of Republican Senators and Representatives vowed to object to state results in the Capitol.
The strain on the loyal Vice President was perceptible in a three-page statement he issued just before the sitting in which he carefully explained that he had no power to annul the Electoral Votes.
The results were eventually certified, but not before the session was interrupted by a wild attack by pro-trump rioters who violently invaded the Capitol and occupied it for the afternoon. The mayhem left at least five people dead and a country in shock.
The next day, the President denounced the attackers and said he would turn his focus to the transfer of power. He also announced he would not attend the inauguration of his successor.
Presidential Elections normally close the chapter on a partisan divide. But in the 77 days between the election and the inauguration, America seemed to grow even further apart than during the campaign period. As a candidate who promised national healing, President Joe Biden may have created an aspiration far grander than the one he had as a child.