Election night in the United States is a television spectacle like no other. Yesterday was no exception. There was no clear outcome from the presidential race at the end of the night, but the fog hanging over that began to clear the day after.
One thing though is clear: the United States is a deeply polarised country. The fractures which run along political lines are a reflection of not only long-standing inequalities, particularly along ethnic lines, and widely divergent world views, but also of the impact of technological change and globalisation which have seen once secure and unionised jobs disappear, leaving whole communities and regions behind.
It was that latter phenomenon which enabled Donald Trump to break through the Democrats' firewall states in the rustbelt in 2016, promising to bring back jobs and save what remained of traditional industrial sectors. And it is those same states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – which have been at the heart of the electoral drama this week.
Carrying Michigan and Wisconsin, turning over Arizona, and retaining Nevada are Joe Biden's path to victory. Changing demographics in Arizona have cancelled out the need to win Pennsylvania as things stand at the time of writing. The trend as the vote count proceeds is for a Biden win.
Whichever way Americans finally decide, this is a country in need of healing, and of a common purpose within the broad parameters of its democracy. The United States is the world's only superpower. A superpower wracked by division and self-doubt about its core values and its place in the world is a destabilising force in global affairs at a time when collaborative and compassionate leadership is sorely needed.
A Biden presidency has a chance of turning this around. By nature, Biden is not a polarising figure. His decades in politics have seen him reach across the aisle and out to diverse communities. Those skills would be at a premium in calming emotions within the country and making it clear that he would pursue policies inclusive of all Americans.
Biden's speech to the nation late afternoon Wednesday from Delaware was in that vein. There are "no red states or blue states" he declared. "There's just the United States of America." He said he would work as hard for everyone who didn't vote for him as he would for everyone who did.
These are comforting words, and - if trends hold - they are the words of the next President of the United States of America. The world would breathe a sigh of relief, with the expectation of a return to a more collegial America in the family of nations. But there is much to do at home, beginning with overcoming the pandemic and building an economy which can generate decent work and incomes on a far greater scale and thus enable the American dream to be a realistic aspiration and not something which eludes the poor and marginalised across communities.