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Brown students react to historic Biden victory with quiet optimism

Celebrations and protests look different amid COVID-19 pandemic restrictions

In a sudden conclusion to a drawn-out battle, former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election Nov. 7. Biden’s victory arrives four days post-Election Day after a close battle for the Oval Office with incumbent President Donald Trump. 

The Democratic nominee surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency with 279 after Pennsylvania and Nevada were called for Biden Saturday morning by major broadcast networks. Alaska, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina remained uncalled at press time.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has also become the first woman, as well as the first Black or South Asian person, to be elected vice president. 

But even as supporters of the president-elect rallied and celebrated around the country, College Hill was mostly quiet. Nine students who spoke to The Herald said they felt relieved more than anything else.

Prior to Nov. 7, University students had waited anxiously for results. Both liberals and conservatives felt cautiously optimistic for their respective parties in the lead-up to Nov. 7. 

Brown students are largely left-leaning, according to Herald poll data. In 2016 after the election of Trump, many students took to the streets in tears, The Herald previously reported. Eight years prior, the Main Green was a celebration spot for many University students who were excited to elect the country’s first Black president, Barack Obama.

The University has strongly discouraged gatherings post-election due to COVID-19 restrictions. The U.S. has reached a record-high number of cases, hitting over 132,000 Nov. 6. There have been 14 positive cases in the Brown community since Nov. 1.

Quiet celebrations around campus

The Main Green was calm in the hours following Biden’s victory. Students sat at tables and on the grass, soaking up the unusually warm weather on a November afternoon. 

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we're mid-pandemic. So there aren't going to be large gatherings versus like in New York City,” Zoe HasBrouck ’22 said. “But people are driving by and honking — I feel like that's like the pandemic version.”

The nine students who spoke to The Herald were quietly enthusiastic about Biden’s win.

“I'm just feeling so excited and hopeful for the future,” Lucy Spahr ’22.5 said. “I felt very anxious and on edge and now, just looking around, it's a beautiful sunny day and it just feels optimistic.”

Other Biden-supporting students also expressed feelings of relief, hope and optimism. 

“The last few years I've just been feeling — especially in 2020 in general, with everything going on — I've just been losing a lot of hope,” Ivy Bernstein ’21 said. “So today, I just feel really hopeful again.” Bernstein and her friends gathered on the Main Green, enjoying the weather and their candidate’s win while social distancing.

Lara Kosar ’22, who voted for Biden by absentee ballot in Illinois, said that though she was “fucking stoked” that Biden had won, she only felt that way “after months of resignation, that this is the best that I can hope for.”

Kosar said she hopes Biden will be a bridge “to better things,” but added that Trump supporters — and the policies they support — are not going away.

“We were made aware of a certain sect of our country that shares (Trump’s) views,” Kosar said. “We can’t unlearn that fact about our country.”

Jack Riccardo-Wood ’21 said that Biden was not his ideal candidate, but he “definitely feels good about where we’re going from here.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “was definitely my preferred choice, but I think after the primaries, we kind of just had to coalesce around the chosen candidate,” Riccardo-Wood said. “I feel good about the future, but Joe definitely doesn't represent the progressive values that I had hoped for in a Democratic candidate.”

Ten students, several in Biden-Harris t-shirts, celebrated on the grass near the Circle Dance statue. A picnic basket and a Bluetooth speaker sat atop a table, surrounded by parked bicycles and Adirondack chairs. Students chatted as music played loudly.

The students initially planned to plant themselves on the Main Green, but reconsidered when they saw how quiet it was, according to Amit Chakrabarti ’21, who attended the picnic. The students were relieved that the race had finally been called, Chakrabarti said.

“It’s about time we have somebody responsible for the state of affairs in the country,” he said. “There is professionalism back in the White House.” 

Chakrabarti had been “glued to the TV for the last five days,” and he was glad that most of the vote counting was over.


Ben Glickman

Ben Glickman was the 132nd editor-in-chief and president of The Brown Daily Herald. He previously served as a metro editor and oversaw the College Hill and Fox Point beat, in addition to writing and editing about city politics, COVID-19 and the 2020 election. He is the co-creator of the Bruno Brief, The Herald's first news podcast. In his free time, he is passionate about birds (also tweeting) and eating way too spicy food. 


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