The bells of churches across Paris pealed for hours. A two-mile caravan of be-flagged vehicles in Phoenix floored it to the county election office’s headquarters in furious protest. Dozens of people in the nation’s capital marched a gigantic inflatable rat wearing an oversized suit and red tie to the White House, chanting the chorus to Steam‘s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
In the days since the election, former Vice President Joe Biden has pushed for Americans to come together, regardless of how they voted or who was the victor. But after four days of unsustainable national tension, the hours after Biden was finally declared the victor in this year’s presidential election have sparked a global show of both jubilation and dread, of exhilaration and defiance.
Weighing heavily on the last four days of tension, however, was the last four years of pent-up exhaustion, rage, and sadness for a Democratic Party craving catharsis after their devastating 2016 loss.
President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020 may not have been neat. But to many—especially his favorite foils—it wasn’t any less sweet.
“It feels glorious,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the Minneapolis congresswoman who Trump has attacked frequently and viciously, even bellowing last year she should “go back” to Somalia, the country she was born in. “I feel like it is just really tremendous to see him defeated,” Omar told The Daily Beast. “Every single person and community that he picked a fight with sort of came back to bite him in the end.”
Indeed, across the country in Philadelphia—which Trump said is where “bad things happen”—residents were jubilant in the streets, after the city’s votes powered Biden to the win in Pennsylvania that put him over the top in the Electoral College count on Saturday.
Like Omar, Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) was driving around his city, taking in a scene that he compared to the 4th of July. “He always was demeaning,” Evans said of Trump, referencing the president’s attacks on Philadelphia and his campaign’s dog-whistle scaremongering about the end of the suburbs.
“I’ll tell you something, the Black community just stayed focused and disciplined,” Evans told The Daily Beast. “This is where America started, this is where America gets saved.”
Only a few miles away, Trump’s defenders were vowing to save America from an electoral smash-and-grab, despite no evidence that any crime had even occurred. Rudy Giuliani, standing underneath a chemical hazard sign outside a landscaping firm in Northeast Philadelphia, channeled the president’s furious defiance of the election results, which came in the middle of a press conference in which he attempted to outline unproven allegations of a massive and intricate conspiracy to steal the election.
“The call for Joe Biden—who was it called by?” Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and a longtime Trump ally, asked a reporter when informed of the call.
“All of them?” the reporter responded.
“Oh my goodness! All the networks! Woooooow!” Giuliani said with cartoonish sarcasm, holding his arms out and turning his face to the sky, as if seeking the absolution of an Old Testament deity. “All the networks! We have to forget about the laaaaw!”
Giuliani’s insistence that the election results are far from official is logical, if cynical—after all, he’s been on the president’s payroll for years. But even for some of Biden’s supporters, the “kumbaya” moment symbolized by Trump’s removal from the White House may never come.
“We delivered for Biden, now it’s his time to deliver for us,” the left-wing Sunrise Movement, which enthusiastically backs the passage of a “Green New Deal,” said in a statement minutes after Biden’s election was called. “He must do everything in his power and use every tool at his disposal to immediately address the climate crisis."
Progressives like Omar, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Democratic primary, largely put aside their issues with Biden in order to deliver wins for him and the entire Democratic ticket. The congresswoman conducted an aggressive turnout operation back home; Hennepin County, which largely consists of Omar’s district, delivered 532,000 votes for Joe Biden—more than 100,000 than it delivered to Hillary Clinton in 2016—helping Biden secure an eight-point margin of victory statewide.
“As we campaigned in the last couple of months to increase turnout in urban cores of the country, we told people to vote their conditions,” Omar said. “We told people to be clear-eyed about electing someone who will be able to listen and respond. The people have delivered massively in those areas. And our expectation is that listening and response will come with this new administration.”
Among Biden’s staunchest supporters, however, there’s a conviction Biden won because he didn’t tack left, and an early sense that doing so as president would doom the party’s chances to hold the House, take the Senate, and make Biden’s agenda possible.
“I am sure there is going to be some push,” said Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), an early endorser of Biden’s. “I’d caution people with whom I agree on 99 percent of the issues that, if you do that, and Joe Biden succumbs, we’re going to lose the midterm elections, and then everything that we want is going to be pushed back.”
“I think Joe Biden is gonna be Joe Biden, which means, he's gonna try to work with Mitch McConnell, if he ends up as Senate majority leader,” Cleaver told The Daily Beast. “That doesn’t mean Joe Biden is a little Mickey Mouse guy who’s gonna obey Mitch McConnell down to his political theology. I think he is gonna be careful because the first job he has to do is try to erase four years of division.”
But, like Omar and Evans and virtually every other Democrat, Cleaver couldn’t help but savor the victory. The congressman recalled a dismal stretch of the primary, shuttling around the frigid expanses of Iowa to stump for Biden, whose chances to win the nomination were, at the time, dimmed.
“I am going to be calling John Kerry in a few minutes,” said Cleaver. “He and I were in Iowa, in the ice and snow, back in the first week of February. And we were laughing on the Biden bus that a big crowd for us was 12.”
In real time around the nation, and around the world, normally quiet streets filled with roaring cheers and honking cars, and a golf course in Northern Virginia became the site of President Donald Trump’s political nadir.
But on a jogging trail in an idyllic park somewhere in Delaware, the newly minted vice president-elect celebrated quietly her own history-making election, in a ponytail and running shoes.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California was on a run in Delaware—a campaign official was not sure of the exact location, but “somewhere very nice, clearly!”—when the results were declared. In a video tweeted from her personal account, Harris was elated.
“We did it—we did it, Joe!” Harris said, laughing. “You’re going to be the next president of the United States!”