Donald Trump has never tried to unify the country. Ever since he came down the elevator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy, his strategy was to please the base and to double down. Joe Biden, on the other hand. will at least try to bring the country together. He campaigned as a unifier and built a coalition ranging from the left wing of his party up to moderate Republicans. He therefore might very well govern as a unifier. “Let’s give each other a chance“, was the key sentence in that respect from his victory speech.
In the unlikely event that Democrats would win both Georgia Senate seats, they would be at a tie with Republicans in the Upper Chamber. In that event, Vice President Kamala Harris could break the tie and Democrats could technically control the Senate. The chances for it to happen are not big, however. And even if it does happen, we should not forget that the Democratic caucus is far from monolithic. I don’t see Joe Manchin from West Virginia, for example, voting to defund the police anytime soon.
But even if the senate remains controlled by Republicans, divided government does not have to lead to a gridlock. In fact, some of the most impactful legislation happened when control of power was divided in Washington D.C. For example, this was the case for the civil rights legislation, the federal highway system, or social security reform. The responses to the Cold War and to 9/11 were by and large bipartisan. This is, of course, if the country wants to be unified.
Republicans will have to decide whether they want to legislate or to campaign. For campaigning purposes, confrontation is always promising. If they want to get something done, on the other hand, cooperation is the way to go. A very first indication of where Republicans are headed might be the cabinet approval. It used to be that the senate gives the president the cabinet he wants – unless somebody is totally unqualified. But then again, it’s 2020 out there. What is still the way it used to be.