Students celebrate Biden victory with an eye on his presidency

Between 11:25 and 11:45 am on Saturday, November 7th, most major news outlets in the United States projected that former Vice President Joe Biden would win the state of Pennsylvania, the Electoral College and the 2020 Presidential Election. Mohammed Mansour, ’24, heard the news while laying in bed.

“I have a pillow at my side so I don’t slam my head against the wall, and I heard that he won, and I punched my pillow a bunch of times, like fist-pumping, and then I told my roommate and we dabbed each other up,” Mansour said.

He wasn’t alone in his reaction. Savannah Plaskon, ’22, Treasurer of the College Democrats, was also happy to hear the news.

“It was a very long, drawn-out process,”  Plaskon said. “There was lots of waiting. We knew we were not going to get the results on Tuesday night. It definitely did take longer. I was just ecstatic Saturday morning and I’m sure lots of other people in the club were too.”

The words Plaskon used to describe her mood prior to the election were “cautiously optimistic.”

“Tuesday night was a little scary because Trump was doing very well, but we knew that there would be a possibility of this ‘red mirage,’ where it would look like Donald Trump was really ahead, and Joe Biden would catch up,” Plaskon said. “We knew he would win but it was definitely not a guaranteed thing and we were on the edge of our seats.”

Others, like Kelsey Jackson, ’24, saw a Biden victory as inevitable.

“I was kind of happy but I already knew, in a way, he was going to win regardless,” said Kelsey Jackson, ’24. “I had no doubt that he was going to win.”

Emma Godel, ’21, a fellow at the Center for Political Participation, also saw the election as a success.

“From a non-partisan standpoint, because I’m (speaking) as a CPP fellow, I can’t really express happiness or sadness,” Godel said.  “I will say that this election was a non-partisan victory because we saw record turnout since (1900) and a lot of that was carried by young voters and young voters of color in particular. “

Some students, like Irene Reyes, ’24, were more skeptical of the election.

“I didn’t really like either of (the two candidates),” Reyes said. “But I was happy for my friends, who I guess feel relieved because I know that it was important for them.”

Godel thinks that despite pending lawsuits by the Republican Party and the Trump campaign, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president in January.

“I completely understand the Trump team’s calling for a recount — it’s a very close election and I think that’s perfectly within his jurisdiction to do so,” Godel said. “But because it took so long to count the votes the first time, that’s a sign that there was a lot of diligence during this first round. I do think that if there’s a recount we will see similar if not identical election results.”

Though the election is a Democratic victory, Plaskon doesn’t think the campaign is truly over.

“We can’t just say, ‘Okay, he’s in office now, we’re fine no matter what happens,’” Plaskon said. “Being that (Biden) has a very centrist history and his history is not the most progressive, I am slightly skeptical of how much change he’ll make in the White House, but I think it’s our job as a party to keep him on his toes and push him left and hold him accountable while in office.”

Mansour, who voted for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries earlier this year, also sees Biden as a moderate and not as strong of an agent of change.

“I voted for Joe Biden but that doesn’t mean I support Joe Biden,” Mansour said. “I’ll support him now because he’s the president, but what I voted for was a return to decency in the Oval Office, maintaining truth and integrity, all the stuff that’s good for America.”

Despite Biden’s reputation as a moderate, Godel pointed to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a force that will push the new administration towards the left.

“A lot of the progressive left has been really concerned with her record on criminal justice when she was attorney general of California,” Godel said. “That being said, during her time as US Senator she co-sponsored Medicare-for-all (and) she co-sponsored the resolution calling for a Green New Deal. Compared to other Senators she is a fairly progressive candidate, not to mention after Senator (Bernie) Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, not too soon after Biden and Sanders worked together to develop certain task forces on foreign affairs, climate, healthcare, to work together and try and get things done.”

For students who supported President Trump and who may be disappointed by the election’s result, Godel had simple advice.

“Organize!” Godel said. “That’s exactly what students who supported Biden or who supported a Democratic candidate for President did. They were dissatisfied with President Trump, they were dissatisfied with incumbent GOP members of Congress  The Senate, I don’t know if (it) will flip, but we’ll find out in January. The House still remains under Democratic control, so in general we’re seeing a blue trend. If you don’t like this, do exactly what the Democrats did to get it blue in the first place: knock on doors, focus on the grassroots, make connections with people, and that’s how you’ll win.”

Regardless of political affiliation, Godel encouraged students to stay active in off-year elections as well, when some local and statewide positions are decided.

“I am concerned that 2021 will be a low-turnout year, and maybe 2022,” Godel said. “A lot of people who voted for Biden said that they supported him because they wanted things to go back to normal. Now, I think we’re not going to be ‘normal’ by this time next year, but even if things are relatively more ‘normal’ than they were under the Trump (administration), I don’t want that to relax people into not participating. In a perfect world, every single election would be like this: we’d have record turnout, we’d have record youth turnout, and we’d elevate the young organizers of color who got us here in the first place.”