The outcome of the 2020 U.S. election remained in the air for several days following the closure of the polls on November 3. Finally, on November 7, Democratic candidate Joe Biden secured the minimum 270 electoral college votes, clinching a victory over President Donald Trump. Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris also made history, as the first Black, Indian, and female vice president-elect.
To those living across the border in Canada, the outcome of this election is a matter of great significance.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election as the next President and Vice President of the United States of America,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a November 7 statement. “Canada and the United States enjoy an extraordinary relationship – one that is unique on the world stage. Our shared geography, common interests, deep personal connections, and strong economic ties make us close friends, partners, and allies.”
For many Canadians, the results come with a sigh of relief. Polls conducted in the week leading up to the election showed that 80 per cent of Canadians believed a Biden victory would be the best outcome for Canada as a whole.
Jagmeet Singh, federal leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP), expressed the desire that Trump be voted out of office in firm words on the day of the election.
“In normal times, while people would be interested, I don’t think people would be weighing in on the outcome. But we’re not in normal times,” he said. “What President Trump has done is so far beyond what is normal that it is a moral imperative that we have to speak out and make it really clear that what he has done is wrong.”
Singh cited Trump’s “abysmal” handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and emboldening of racism and division as the reasoning behind his statement.
“This was supposed to be a referendum on Trump and everything he stood for, but he still ended up getting 71 million votes.”
“It would be better for the world if Trump loses, and I hope he loses today,” he concluded.
While Biden’s election win has been recognized by American media and international figures, Trump does not appear to have come to terms with the results. As of now, he has refused to concede, spearheading several lawsuits based on unfounded allegations of voter fraud.
Meanwhile, a Biden-Harris win does not necessarily mean the solution to the concerns of Canadians. For some Canadian university students, the outcome is at best bittersweet.
“I know that people are happy that Trump is out of the White House, as they should be, but this election still feels like a loss to me,” says Abdullah Muhammad, a second-year civil engineering student at the University of Toronto. “This was supposed to be a referendum on Trump and everything he stood for, but he still ended up getting 71 million votes.”
For Muhammad, the amount of votes Trump still garnered exhibits a concerning public support of Trump’s “slightly fascist tendencies.”
“If anything, it shows that Trump’s style of politics can garner support and bring a huge turnout. There are unfortunately going to be more “Trumps in the future, and some of them will win,” he continues. “Trump’s tools of manipulation have definitely proven effective, and could definitely be used again to serve more nefarious purposes.”
Hassan Shehata, a fourth-year Schulich BBA student, also expresses concern for the level of support Trump received. “I see that he lost, but the population vote by proportion is basically the same as the last election. He made so many polarizing moves during his term, you would think that this would sway the vote against him more.”
“I think it goes to show that voters can’t think independently and rely more so on party preferences than on the candidate’s platforms and policies when they decide who to vote for,” Shehata adds.
“Joe Biden does not necessarily represent what the American people wanted, but rather what they were forced to choose from.”
As for the winning candidates themselves, some Canadian students have mixed emotions.
“Joe Biden does not necessarily represent what the American people wanted, but rather what they were forced to choose from,” says Marhamah Sohail, a second-year biochemistry and public policy student at the University of Toronto.
“Biden has his own slurry of problematic policies, and many young people have continually criticized that he will not make the situation any better in the Middle East, probably sending hundreds, if not thousands of drones every day — like his predecessors, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.”
According to Sohail, who is a member of the South Asian community, Harris’s historic win is still divisive for members of the communities she represents:
“There seem to be two polarizations, one where people are applauding the first Woman of Colour as Vice President, and those like myself, who understand the record-breaker that she is with regards to her identity, but are still critical of her numerous incarcerations of Black and Brown men for marijuana charges, for life.”
For Marhamah, it can be viewed as “hypocritical” if community members “celebrate someone who merely shares some geographic background with us, not political, and arguably not moral.”
While the outcome of the election has brought a variety of controversies and heightened emotions, students believe it also comes with important lessons.
“It’s important that people remember they hold power, even just as individuals,” says Shehata. “If an individual wants to make change or impact policy, they can. I think we live in a society where individuals don’t have to bend to the will of a majority or rely just on the elected president for direction. If people want change, they can try achieving it themselves.”
Furthermore, students with criticisms of Biden’s and Harris’ policy say their criticisms do not necessarily mean the future must be bleak.
“It is not to say, then, that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will not bring any change with them into the new administration,” says Sohail. “We need to get rid of what we call ‘stan culture,’ and actually hold our politicians accountable, remembering that they are working for us, that we elected them, and that we will continually hold them accountable,” according to Sohail.