By Sarah Beth Huntley
Stressed. Confused. Anxious. Cautiously relieved. These are the emotions I felt over the four days it took for Joe Biden to be declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election. This election was the most stressful so far for my generation, and possibly so for many members of older generations as well. In the wake of COVID-19, the protests for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and two rocky presidential debates, we all felt the divide in this country that a man like Donald Trump only stands to widen. As not just a woman, but a Black woman, I personally felt so many emotions at the prospect of having Donald Trump continue to be the President of the United States, especially considering his inability to denounce white supremacy at the first debate. Still, with Joe Biden as the President-elect, Donald Trump promising not to leave without a fight, and Trump supporters talking of protest and even civil war, we must question Biden’s ability to promote unity and healing, and whether or not this country is truly headed in that direction.
I’ve had the television playing CNN since Tuesday night at 5:00 p.m., and in the beginning, I was extremely nervous. Many states were trending red, and Texas and Florida had gotten my hopes up that they might shock us all and flip blue. I also watched in horror as my home state of Alabama elected Tommy Tuberville, a former football coach, to the US Senate over incumbent candidate Doug Jones, a former attorney who prosecuted bombers of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Feeling this disappointment and seeing the mass amount of red on the map, I felt worried that perhaps Biden would not be able to pull off a win. By the end of the night, things had started to look up, but I remained skeptical. I also shook my head at the tens of millions of people that decided to look past Donald Trump’s racism, homophobia, sexism, and more to cast their vote for him.
As the hours and days dragged on, I felt more and more anxious. I found myself not doing homework and just sitting in front of the television hoping that Biden’s 253 electoral votes would move up and Trump’s 213 would stay down. I tried to find joy through the stress by making fun of John King’s excitement about being able to discuss vote counts, and taking breaks from the constant stream with The Bachelorette and Legend of Korra. However, I continued to find myself glued to the screen at the end of the day, waiting, hoping that something would happen. And it did.
Saturday morning, I saw a text come into a group chat and read the fateful words. Rushing into the common room, I screamed as I saw Jake Tapper announce CNN’s projection that Joe Biden would become the 46th President of the United States. I felt a flood of emotions: joy, surprise, pride, relief. I called my sister and watched her fight tears as we came to the realization that a woman —a woman of color at that—would become Vice President of the United States, paving the way for more women and people of color in the future. Growing up in our community, we had never seen people who looked like and resonated with us in the media, or in positions of power. We had our mother, but to us it seemed she was a rare case. Kamala Harris means a generation of young girls of color growing up and being able to see themselves in that position, and that is the greatest feeling out of the entire election.
Still, with the relief I feel a sense of caution as well. We have seen Donald Trump undermining a largely mail-in based election from its earliest beginnings, and he has continued on this path with baseless claims of fraud and threats of recounts and court cases. He has also created fury within his base, with several of his followers protesting, speaking out in support of him, and even threatening violence. Biden’s first statement as President-elect spoke of fostering unity and healing within our nation, but is it too late to get there? With the Democrats keeping the House while the Senate and now conservative Supreme Court will, seemingly, be maintained by the Republicans, it is questionable whether any active legislation can happen in this new administration. Biden has spoken of fixing systemic racism while many Republicans continue to deny its existence. Congress continues to argue over stimulus checks for Americans. Hundreds of children are still separated from their parents at the border. We are still in a pandemic.
There is so much work to be done and, although Biden claims to work as a bipartisan President, I worry that what we hope to get done will not happen due to push back and partisan fighting.
This election is absolutely cause for celebration. While many feel conflicted over whether to support or settle for Biden and Harris, I’m sure many of us can agree that Donald Trump being ousted from office is more important than anything. His presidency fostered hate and exclusion, and four more years of that would have been detrimental to this country. Biden and Harris are attempting to usher in a new era of peace and inclusion, and my hope is that they are able to do so. Despite all of this, it is ultimately important that we continue to stay cautious, stay educated about what is happening in our government, and, most importantly, work each and every day to truly make America great in a way that benefits ALL people.