As night fell last Friday, the nation was gripped by the same uncertainty that first set in on Tuesday, when election results first poured into the news. Five states had yet to be called, even as Biden overtook Trump’s lead in many of them, including Pennsylvania, a critical swing state for either candidate. At any moment, it was expected to be called, finally pushing Biden over the 270 electoral vote margin required to secure the White House.
By 7 p.m. in Wilmington, Delaware — just miles from the Biden family home — excited crowds gathered outside the Chase Convention Center, where his campaign had completely commandeered a Westin Hotel as a temporary headquarters. A fence surrounded the entire complex, forcing onlookers to watch the stage anxiously for any sign of Biden’s arrival. Campaign supporters, press, and traffic was heavy for several blocks, and parking was a nightmare for anyone who dared to attend. The tension in the air was palpable. No one knew if or when Biden and Harris were expected to show, or whether it might be a victory speech, or just another gesture of reassurance to the millions of voters who had supported them.
The dropping temperatures had no effect on the crowd’s excitement, and as Biden and Harris pulled into the scene via armored motorcade, they were met with the same waving signs and overwhelming cheers as every night for the last week. Although the speech was short, it was well-met by the crowd, many of whom were streaming it live on smartphones. Despite there being no definitive results at the time, the scene in Wilmington was markedly more optimistic than anything seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around 11:30 a.m. the next morning, many major networks, including The Associated Press, called Pennsylvania for Biden, thus projecting him to become the President-elect. The nation erupted. Celebrations immediately took to the streets, from San Francisco to Boston. For the first time seemingly all year, the masses took to the streets to celebrate rather than demonstrate.
“This weekend was one of the greatest experiences I have had in a long time,” senior Elena Rossi said. “I wish I were home in New York City for the celebrations. My brother was there and was constantly sending me videos throughout the day. There is so much hope, something I think Americans have needed for awhile now.”
For many University students, it is a day that will likely be remembered for years to come. Many had the opportunity to be first-time voters in one of the most critical voting districts to both candidates, helping to directly contribute to the final stroke of Biden’s victory.
Upon hearing the news, many students rushed to Center City, only a few miles from campus, where some of the nation’s largest celebrations were underway. Biden’s victory was especially sweet for many Philadelphians, who have not forgotten a comment made by President Trump at the first Presidential debate in September, “Bad things happen in Philadelphia.” The phrase was a common motif on signs and t-shirts at the celebrations.
Back in Wilmington that night, Biden-Harris supporters again gathered at the Chase Center, after five long days of waiting in uncertainty, to hear the victory speech.
“It was amazing,” senior Lauren Carroll said, who made the short drive to hear the speech herself. “This year was the first time I got to vote in a presidential election and going to the speech was a concrete way to see how important that contribution was. It was empowering being surrounded by people who were excited and hopeful about the future. I do not think ‘hopeful’ is a word that has been applicable to much of this last year, so it really gripped me.”
The election results will not be officially confirmed until December and continue to come under attack from the Trump campaign and the President himself. However, the controversy is unlikely to have any substantial effects on the outcome, and it is with near certainty that Biden and Harris will be sworn in on January 20th at the National Mall in Washington D.C.
The celebrations that are certain to follow the inauguration are as well-founded as the ones this weekend. Although the future of the nation remains uncertain in many respects, hope seems to have reigned this weekend, marking the end of a long, tense election cycle, making way for new progress in the years ahead.