Barring a dramatic decision by the courts in the United States, former vice-president Joe Biden has secured more than sufficient votes from the electoral college - a quirk of the American democratic system that sometimes seems to bend against the popular vote - to clinch the presidency, and form the country's 46th administration with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. The biggest turnout in US election history has propelled Mr Biden, who turns 78 this month, to outscore incumbent Donald Trump in several key swing states, and bring him now to the apex of a political career which stretches back some five decades to his Senate debut in 1972. Going by the popular vote count, Mr Trump retains significant support, which has no doubt contributed to him and his team mounting challenges to the results in what has been a bitter contest that exposed deep divisions in American society.
Recognising these fissures and the tumultuous four years for the US and the world since Mr Trump's 2016 win, Mr Biden spoke of a need for unity, saying he sought the presidency to restore the soul of America, rebuild the nation's backbone and to make America respected around the world again. His to-do list is significantly long. Mr Trump came into the presidency with no previous experience in public office. That lack of experience in government has been costly for the US, particularly in the way the administration failed to substantially and consistently restore the economy at home and, most recently, ignored scientific advice in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, which now has taken more than 240,000 American lives and is seeing a fresh spike with the arrival of the cold season. Racial, ethnic, political and income divides have worsened. The "America First" policies he pursued on trade and other areas, such as defence, may have been a response to his political ground but its results have not helped. Certainly, it left key global allies alienated and perplexed. The 46th presidency will thus need to be a healing one, literally and figuratively, domestically and globally. It has to start understandably at home. With the US leading the world in pandemic cases, the urgent task - and it appears his team is assembling a Covid-19 task force - is to fashion a medically informed approach to the scourge. The economy needs help to recover, and balm needs to be applied to the race divide.