UPDATED: November 8, 2020, 7:45 a.m.
America can finally get some rest.
Following five days of uncertainty and anticipation, Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the presidential race Saturday morning, bringing an end to a unique and divisive campaign that brought anxiety to Harvard students — and Americans — around the country.
The Associated Press declared Biden the winner in Pennsylvania at 11:25 a.m. Saturday, boosting him over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the presidency.
“Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he said in an acceptance speech before supporters Wilmington, Del., Saturday night.
“For all those of you who voted for President [Donald J.] Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight,” Biden said. “I’ve lost a couple times myself. But now let’s give each other a chance.”
Biden’s running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), will become the first woman and woman of color to serve in one of the nation’s top two elected positions.
Celebrations broke out around the country Saturday, with thousands taking to the streets in major cities to celebrate Biden’s victory — and President Trump’s loss.
“It just felt like we were dancing for democracy and for hope and for healing,” said Clara L. Nevins ’23, who celebrated with other Harvard students near Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles. “There was just so much joy and light and positivity. It felt like a collective sigh and a deep breath on behalf of all of America.”
Nevins recieved the news of Biden’s victory through a single-word group chat text: “Finally.”
She turned on the TV and “saw that check mark next to Joe Biden’s name and just burst into tears,” she said.
“It was just one of the best feelings in the world,” said Julian A. Wagner-Carena ’23, who celebrated in front of the White House in Washington. “Everyone coming together having the same idea about what America should be like and how this country should be run.”
For all the twists and turns of the 2020 campaign, Biden cleared the 270 electoral vote threshold by flipping the three states that from the beginning provided him with the clearest path to victory — Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
“There was a rather predictable way for Biden to win the presidency, which was to flip back the states that Trump was able to claw away from Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Jon C. Rogowski, an associate professor of Government at Harvard, said. “Despite all the uncertainty that’s happened this year, we got a rather predictable strategy that ended up being successful.”
Critical moments in the campaign like the debates and Trump’s COVID-19 hospitalization likely did little to move the needle in the end, Rogowski said.
“Those things may have mattered at the margin, but I don’t think they shifted the underlying dynamics in a way that was meaningful at the end — even things like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the confirmation of her replacement in the weeks since,” he said. “I think those were momentary diversions from a larger story that was playing out more or less the way I think we could have anticipated coming into the last month or two.”
After trailing on election night in the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Biden benefitted from a surge of late-counted early and absentee ballots that put him over the finish line.
“It was an exhausting week,” said Harvard Physics professor Lisa Randall ’84, who attended a celebration in Harvard Square on Saturday. “At some point, it started looking better, but that’s not the same as it being over.”
“It just was so nice to see people just so happy, and that’s why we decided to head over to Harvard Square — just to witness people being happy about what happened,” she said.
Nevada was also called for Biden on Saturday, putting him at 290 total electoral votes, according to the AP. Three states — South Carolina, Alaska, and Georgia — remain uncalled by the AP. But their outcomes will now be electorally trivial.
Trump has refused to concede, and it is unclear if he will ever do so. The president has vowed to litigate the election in court, claiming — without evidence — that there has been fraud in the election process. Much of the Republican party stayed tight-lipped about Biden’s victory Saturday, leaving only a handful of moderate-leaning members of the GOP, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (D-Utah), who have congratulated Biden for winning the election.
“The people to pay attention to are Republicans in Congress and other Republican Party officials,” Rogowski said, pointing to a tweet from Romney that called Biden and Harris “people of good will and admirable character.”
“I think if we see a growing number of other Republicans speak out in that kind of way, that’s going to box trump into a corner because he basically will have no other choice than to accept the result and sort of stand down,” Rogowski said.
“Whether or not that’s going to lead to a smooth presidential transition is unclear,” he added.
Biden — whose three-point popular vote lead is expected to grow over the coming weeks — will win the White House with more votes than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history.
“I think that the last four years have just made me unpatriotic, not proud to be an American — and that’s such an uncomfortable feeling,” Nevins said.
But under Biden, who “represents everything that Trump is not,” she said, that is no longer the case.
“I’m so happy, and I’m so proud to be an American,” she said. “I missed being patriotic.”
—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.