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Breaking tradition: The many firsts of the 2020 U.S. election

The 2020 United States general election was historic for its many firsts – from victories in diversity, to the bitter and foreseeable close of the incumbent president’s term.

Former vice president and Democrat Joe Biden is poised to be the 46th president of the United States, soon putting an end to President Donald Trump’s grip on power.

Biden will enter the White House with California Senator Kamala Harris. They promised to unite Americans after Trump’s failures to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s a list of firsts the world saw in this year’s US elections:

1. Kamala Harris: The first female, Black, Asian vice president

Kamala Harris makes history, marking not one, but 3 firsts in the vice presidency – she is the first female, first Black, and first South Asian to be elected to the second highest government position in the US.

Harris was born to immigrants to the US – her father from Jamaica and her mother from India. She was the first Black woman to be California’s attorney general. In the US Senate, she also emerged as the second Black woman, and the first woman of South Asian heritage.

She becomes the automatic frontrunner in the race for the 2024 or 2028 Democratic nomination.

2. Donald Trump: The first president who did all 3 of the following – lose the popular vote, be impeached, and serve a single term

President Donald Trump will step down in January 2021 with a triple whammy of a lost popular vote, impeachment, and a single term.

In the single term he was looking to extend, Trump was impeached by the Democratic Party-majority House of Representatives in December 2019. He was accused of pressuring Ukraine to dig up defamatory information on Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

A two-thirds vote is needed in the Senate to remove Trump from office. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump in February 2020.

Trump is the fifth president to lose the popular vote yet end up in the Oval Office. The last was George W. Bush who won over Al Gore in 2000.

The reality TV star is the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Trump also joins the list of at least 9 other presidents who were rejected by Americans for another term.

But Trump is the first to experience all 3.

3. Trump: The first president refusing to concede in modern history

As of posting, Trump has yet to concede to Biden. Trump has publicly made baseless allegations of election fraud.

Even before the election, Trump refused to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he lost.

While there is no legal requirement that the loser of the presidential election must concede, it has been tradition for over 100 years. In 1896, Democrat William J. Bryan sent a congratulatory telegram to Republican William McKinley two days after the latter’s election, becoming what is considered the first public concession in US presidential politics.

Concessions, in some form or another, continued in various forms in every election since – until 2020.

4. Douglas Emhoff: The first 'second gentleman,' first Jew in the first or second families

With the first female vice president comes the first second gentleman: Harris’ husband Douglas Emhoff. Emhoff is also set to be the first Jew to be part of America’s first or second families.

He is white while Harris has colored ancestry, thus also making the couple the first mixed-race couple to occupy their positions.

Emhoff is credited as the “secret weapon” on the campaign trail for his wife – even earning his own following on social media. He is an accomplished lawyer specializing in media, sports, and entertainment law.

The vice president-elect and the lawyer met on a blind date, and it was “love at first sight,” Emhoff said. They married in 2014.

5. Jill Biden: The first FLOTUS to have a full-time job

President-elect Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, plans to continue working full-time as a teacher when she becomes the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS).

She will be the first FLOTUS with a full-time job in the 231-year history of US elections. She holds 4 degrees, including a doctorate.

Jill highlighted the importance of teaching in a CBS News interview in August. “I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession,” she said.

6. New Mexico: The first state to elect all women of color to Congress

The November 3 polls saw New Mexico become the first state to send a delegation to the US House of Representatives made up entirely of women of color.

The group consists of Democrat Representative Deb Haaland, who in 2018 became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, Republican Yvette Herrell, who is also Native American, and Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is Hispanic.

7. Other firsts in federal governments

The 2020 elections were groundbreaking in the realm of representation. Here’s a list of some other election candidates who made history:

  • Cynthia Lummis (R) - Wyoming’s first female senator
  • Sarah McBride (D) - Delaware’s first transgender senator
  • Taylor Small (D/Vermont Progressive Party) - Vermont’s first transgender representative
  • Kim Jackson (D) - Georgia’s first openly LGBTQ+ state senator
  • Cori Bush (D) - Missouri’s first Black congresswoman
  • Marilyn Strickland (D) - the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress, and Washington’s first Black congresswoman
8. Major Biden: The first presidential shelter dog

Dogs are returning to the White House. Major, one of Biden’s German Shepherds, will be the first presidential dog to come “directly from an animal rescue,” Presidential Pet Museum director Andrew Hager told CBS News.

The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. The other soon-to-be “DOTUS,” Champ, has been with the Biden family since 2008.

Donald Trump was the first president since 1897 to not have a pet while in office. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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