It felt like a liberation — for half the country, at least.
Emotions exploded in blue-state America when Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden claims a ‘mandate’ to govern, calls for end to ‘partisan warfare’ Mark Meadows tests positive for coronavirus Trump supporters scream at Telemundo reporter during live broadcast from Maricopa ballot center MORE was declared president-elect of the United States just before 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Four years of frustration — deepened with every furor President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden claims a ‘mandate’ to govern, calls for end to ‘partisan warfare’ Mark Meadows tests positive for coronavirus Georgia Senate race between Perdue, Ossoff heads to runoff MORE ignited — found cathartic release.
So the people came out. In the big cities — New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami, among others — Never-Trump Nation streamed onto the streets.
In Washington, D.C., a crowd of several thousand converged on the White House beneath blue skies and sunshine. They came carrying signs lambasting the president and celebrating the exercise in democracy that, this time, had delivered them victory.
A Trump blimp was deflated. A cardboard cut-out figure of Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisGeorgia Senate race between Perdue, Ossoff heads to runoff Trump says Biden should not ‘wrongfully’ claim victory in presidential race Overnight Health Care: Election results underscore different views on coronavirus | What could a Biden administration do on health care? | Battle lines form over coronavirus fight in lame duck MORE (D-Calif.) — soon to be the first woman to serve as vice president — was carried through the crowd to cheers. So was a similar figure of former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaStacey Abrams earns praise as Biden leads in Georgia Martin Sheen urges voters to ‘get the train back on its tracks’ in new Lincoln Project ad Kanye West says he’s casting his first presidential vote for himself MORE.
The crowd’s diversity underlined how many members of the American family — Black, Latino, immigrant, LGBT — never had the luxury of seeing Trump as a colorful outsider. For many people, he was an actual danger, viscerally felt.
There is, of course, another America — the deep-red MAGA nation that sees Trump as a populist champion, unfairly maligned by his political enemies and an elitist media. They viewed him as someone prepared to stand up for their values, reassuring them they were not being cast aside by history, or by their country. And they came out to vote for him on Tuesday.
But they didn’t have the numbers. The people who wanted Trump gone had more votes, and they had those votes in the right places. Saturday was their day.
Arlington, Va., resident Michael Heminger, shouting to be heard over the din of celebratory car horns blocks from the White House, told The Hill it was “a beautiful day.”
“It’s everything,” Heminger added. “I have never been more happy in my life. This has been the most destructive president in American history, so there has never been a better day than today.”
Several people in the milling crowd talked unprompted about how estranged Trump had made them feel from their own country. Now they had some faith that the U.S. could edge toward finding itself again.
“I could not imagine four more years” of Trump, said Amanda Lopez, who had come into D.C. from her Virginia home to join the carnival atmosphere. “I don’t know what this country would have been brought to if he had stayed.”
“I served my country and I finally feel good to be American again,” said D.C. resident Tiffany Phoenix.
Phoenix was speaking in Black Lives Matter Plaza, the street adjacent to the White House that gained its name amid protests earlier this year. The protests were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis in May. But they grew stronger after Trump made inflammatory remarks and had protesters cleared by force from the streets.
The issue of racial injustice — or, in Trump’s preferred lexicon, law and order — animated this election year. But it was the coronavirus pandemic that altered the face of the nation and the campaign.
Trump supporters insist his missteps on the topic were not as serious as the media made them out to be — even as the pandemic killed almost a quarter-million people in America.
“I’m a scientist,” said one man, Massod Rahimi, speaking close to the White House. “He has degraded our confidence in science and the facts, and it’s really important that we in the next year believe scientists fully.”
Rahimi had been in a state of anxiety while the election’s result lay in doubt, he said.
“I haven’t slept in the last five days. I would go to bed at 3 o’clock and wake up at 6 o’clock just to check my phone and to make sure that nothing dramatic happened. And we are finally relieved,” he said.
America is a complicated place. The millions who will mourn Trump’s loss, rather than celebrate it, are alienated from the dominant values of younger, urban, liberal America. They will not fall silent and their numbers are significant.
Trump had banked almost 71 million votes to Biden’s 75 million by Saturday evening, with many more yet to be counted. The election result would have flipped if a relatively paltry number of votes had gone the other way in key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona.
Trump has shown no sign that he will concede anytime soon. Late Saturday afternoon, he continued to complain, via Twitter, that the election had been stolen from him.
Earlier in the week, he called the election a “fraud” from the lectern of the White House briefing room. He says he is being ousted by “illegal votes.” He has provided no evidence to support the accusation, and his tweets have often been labeled as disputed or misleading.
Meanwhile, the nation is already shifting onto a different footing.
Directly outside the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue is being prepared for Biden’s inauguration in January.
Saturday marked a pivot point, and a changing of the guard.
In Washington, in streets within the president’s sight, the crowds cheered about his demise and danced as the sun began to set.
In the nation beyond, Blue America exhaled.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s America.