Kimberly Nuez (COL ’21) was asleep when the call came in.
“I got a morning call from my best friend in L.A. that Biden won the presidency,” Nuez recalled. “The morning wake-up call was the best news I’ve received and couldn’t believe that he won. I immediately jumped out of bed and hurried to the White House to celebrate Biden’s win.”
Nuez wasn’t the only D.C. resident with that idea. Thousands of Washingtonians flooded the streets chanting and clapping in excitement, blaring horns, singing the national anthem, and setting off fireworks in support of Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) victory.
After Election Day turned into an “election week,” many Americans were relieved when the Associated Press officially named former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election just before noon on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, D.C. residents young and old felt the need to commemorate together on this historic day. They joined an impromptu parade, enthusiastically and safely marching from Adams Morgan toward the White House. Georgetown students living in the area were elated to partake in the festivities.
“Honestly, the day felt dreamlike,” Maya Durnal (COL ’21). said. “When [my partner and I] first read the news, we smiled at each other and hugged. When we got to the street, more and more cars were honking and blasting music from their systems. Within ten minutes, cars had all their windows down and people were shouting and pumping their fists.”
Durnal described the electricity of the city, where after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, the largely Democratic population of the District was able to celebrate a new resident of the White House. In the 2020 election, 93 percent of D.C. voters chose Biden.
This enthusiastic choice was reflected in the celebration, which Durnal said featured residents throwing candy and selling t-shirts and plants on the sidewalk. “I had never felt the city so alive,” she said. “Every person seemed to throw their head back when they laughed and their eyes sparkled as we passed them. It was beautiful, lively, and hopeful.”
That hope was a welcome contrast to the anxiety of the week before. Biden’s victory was not promised and was only determined after five days of intensely scrutinized ballot counting. Democrats entered the election confident in a landslide, but Tuesday evening’s initial results had Trump ahead in key states. For Nuez, this period was incredibly personal and alarming.
“As a woman of color, I feared that Donald Trump would win reelection,” she said. “I was emotionally exhausted by election week since I stayed up almost every night watching CNN for the election results.”
As the week progressed, it became increasingly apparent that late-counted ballots in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Georgia could provide Biden with multiple paths to victory even as Trump held onto a slim margin in Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. Biden’s victory was characterized by a blue wave washing over historically Republican strongholds. Arizona voted Democrat in the end for the first time in 24 years. Currently at 99 percent reporting, the reliably red state of Georgia will also go to the Democratic Party for the first time in 28 years.
This victory came with a record-breaking number of voters during this election cycle. In 2020, 66.8 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, in contrast to only 56 percent of the U.S. voting-age population doing so in 2016. In the end, it was Biden’s native state of Pennsylvania that pushed him over the necessary 270 electoral votes—the same state Trump had previously announced he won before all ballots were in. By Saturday morning, Biden had won with 290 electoral votes and 51 percent of the popular vote.
Despite the excitement for the Biden-Harris win and the celebrations across the nation, Trump still managed to rake in nearly 75 million votes. The mere existence of these votes dampened some of the festivities.
“Personally, I have dedicated so much time and thought to the American political landscape over the past four years, and many of Trump’s decisions have been the source of extreme stress and anxiety for me,” Grace Keegan (COL ’21) said.
“Knowing all of these strong feelings could be prolonged for another four years made the election week a monumental moment in my life—and Saturday’s celebrations over the Biden win was the biggest relief I think I have ever felt. I am still shocked and upset by the fact that the election was not a landslide and that America did not overwhelmingly denounce Trump in this election.”
Leading up to the election, Trump consistently discouraged citizens from voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that it would lead to widespread voter fraud. As of Nov. 19, the president has yet to concede and has filed roughly a dozen election lawsuits.
“The Radical Left Democrats, working with their partner, the Fake News Media, are trying to STEAL this Election. We won’t let them!” Trump wrote in a recent tweet.
Biden supporters were not the only voters drawn to the capital in recent days. In support of Trump, conservatives traveled to D.C. the weekend after the election was called for the Million MAGA March. They traveled to the base of the Washington Monument, waving American flags and Trump 2020 banners, and chanting “four more years” and “stop the fraud!” Although many did not have masks on, they did manage to wear red Make America Great Again hats.
Despite these tensions, residents of D.C. and beyond were thrilled to celebrate the potential of a reunified, more inclusive America.
“D.C. felt different. I felt like I was surrounded by a community that accepted my identity,” Nuez said.
In his acceptance speech, President-elect Biden stated, “I am humbled by the trust and confidence you have placed in me. I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States. And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people. For that is what America is about: the people.”
Harris is set to serve as the first female, first Black, and first South Asian U.S. vice president. Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president in the nation’s capital on January 20, 2021.
And if the initial celebrations are an indication of anything, Biden will be welcomed back with open arms by many in the District.
“It was truly a euphoric experience seeing the whole city come alive, with every car beeping and playing music and people in the streets popping champagne,” Keegan said. “It felt like there had been a cloud over D.C. for the past four years, which was finally lifted.”