Joe Biden has won, again.
The president-elect, who first earned that peculiarly American interregnal title more than five weeks ago, officially won the majority of votes cast by members of the Electoral College at 5:27 p.m. Eastern, when the 55 electors who form California’s delegation cast their votes for Biden.
Biden’s victory in the Electoral College vote follows the determination by the General Services Administration that designated him as the apparent winner, the certification of his victory in 25 states and the District of Columbia, his actual victory in the majority of actual votes cast by actual voters, and many, many failed lawsuits filed by the president’s lawyers and allies trying to block most of this from happening in-between.
In a normal year, with a normal lame-duck incumbent, these procedural steps on the road to inauguration are barely noticed by everyday Americans. The election results should have been laid to rest when the Associated Press called Pennsylvania for the former vice president four days after the November election. Biden won 306 electoral votes to 232, with the widest popular-vote margin of victory for any presidential challenger since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
But as President Donald Trump has made increasingly desperate bids to subvert the results of the election that made him a one-term president, the symbolism of the gathering of the Electoral College’s 538 members in state capitals across the country was the latest method by which he and his supporters have attempted to thwart the will of America’s voters with baseless claims of a vast and intricate Democratic plot to steal the election.
Speaking on Monday night after the final votes were cast in his favor, Biden noted that Trump called his own identical Electoral College in 2016 “a landslide,” and “respectfully” suggested that the same is true of his own win this year.
“It was honest, it was free, and it was fair,” Biden said, declaring that Americans own “a debt of gratitude” to the public servants and judicial appointees who upheld the rule of law.
“They didn’t seek the spotlight,” Biden said, and “our democracy survived because of them.”
Biden was unsparing in his criticism of Trump’s “unprecedented assault on our democracy,” as well as the 17 state attorneys general and scores of Republican members of Congress who backed a Hail Mary lawsuit seeking to overturn the votes in half a dozen swing states, calling it “an effort by elected officials and one group of states” to “wipe out” the will of the people “and to hand the candidacy to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and least each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.”
Trump, of course, has pledged to continue his now-lost battle for re-election.
“WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!” Trump vowed on Saturday, as mobs of his supporters crowded the streets of the nation’s capital in order to “Stop the Steal” of the election. But their failure to do so—despite the kabuki theater of some “alternate slates of electors” meeting to cast symbolic votes for Trump—was a demonstration of the resilience, if not imperviousness, of the electoral process to Trump’s anti-democratic tantrums.
Monday’s proceedings weren’t entirely without Trump-inspired drama. In Lansing, Michigan, fewer than a dozen MAGA-supporting protesters gathered outside the state capitol to decry the vote being held inside.
Candace Cook, 33, from Perry, Michigan, read from the Declaration of Independence on the capitol steps, telling The Daily Beast afterward that she was sure there was election fraud—and that she’s no longer confident that her vote “means anything.”
“There’s so much evidence, real and circumstantial evidence—if you really delve into it, there’s too many coincidences, too many statistical improbabilities, too many irregularities,” Cook said. Though she held out hope that the electors would go for Trump, she said that she plans to “hope and stay informed” if they don’t.
William Frayer, another protester, repeated the false claim that “dead people voted” and that voting machines were tampered with in some unprovable way.
“We won’t know for 50 years who won this election,” Frayer said. “It’s theft. It’s a steal. By then, the country may be stolen.”
Counter-protester Lisa Hamm, who came from nearby Mason, dismissed the MAGA conspiracies.
“Reality is what it is and it’s time for people to grow up," Hamm said, nodding in the direction of the small group of protesters.
Even Biden’s transition, assured of his victory for more than a month, clearly felt compelled by Trump’s flurry of futile court filings to emphasize in a rare and extensive briefing with reporters that Biden’s victory is both real and legitimate.
“We’ve won so many times at this point in so many different ways—we’re just excited to keep on winning,” Jen O’Malley Dillon, who managed Biden’s campaign, told reporters in a briefing on Sunday ahead of the Electoral College vote. “The electors will vote in a process determined by their own states throughout the day, and it will clearly reinforce exactly what’s been true for weeks and weeks and weeks—that the president-elect and vice president-elect have won.”
With the wind of dozens of court victories and election certifications at their back, that certitude may seem well-earned, but the Trump transition is already plotting to tilt at one more windmill: the counting of the Electoral College’s votes by Congress on January 6.