People haven’t historically scrambled for spontaneous outdoor dance parties for Joe Biden.
They didn’t slam spoons against stoves to celebrate for him, formed parades of triumphant horns along Fifth Avenue for him, made champagne toasts with strangers in his honor through chants and tears .
“BIDEN!” His supporters shouted outside Manhattan’s Washington Square Park on Saturday, the call echoing from apartment windows, taxis and sidewalk restaurant tables. “JOE BIDEN!”
Joe Biden. This Joe Biden – 70-something institutionalist, incorrigible square, inexhaustible reciter of Irish poetry.
But then, it looks like defeating President Trump can do strange things for a man’s reputation.
In Mr Biden’s early hours as president-elect on Saturday, many voters who have assessed him over the decades as a special type of capital veteran – prone to perpetual wind, requests for ‘point of privilege staff ‘in casual conversations and digressions about dead senators – seemed ready to greet him as some sort of conquering hero.
“Winners make history,” said Amanda Litman, former Hillary Clinton campaign aide in 2016 and executive director of Run for Something, a group encouraging Democrats to seek a local office. “I think he definitely gets bonus points for doing what nobody thought possible, even though we hoped.
Ms Litman said she spent the day walking for miles through Brooklyn, sobbing on the street and encountering a dance-a-thon intersection, set to “Shout” by the Isley Brothers, which felt transported by plane after a wedding reception.
Mr. Biden, of course, hasn’t usually been Washington’s main supplier of cool. This will not necessarily change in the long run. It is likely that gushing Democratic affection would have awaited anyone who managed to beat Mr. Trump.
And yet, this is the person who did it.
If the last two commanders-in-chief were phenomenon candidates turned phenomenon presidents, Mr Biden would appear to end the trend, rather comfortable with the identity that helped him elect him: the man for slow things down a bit, to lower the collective volume before the neighbors complain.
He’s someone who doesn’t drink, who doesn’t smoke, who once berated friends at his own bachelor party for being too loud.
During the campaign, Mr. Biden’s team went out of their way to create a mini personality cult around him, bragging about his signature accessory (aviators), his signature vice (ice cream), his interest in muscle cars.
“Ridin ‘With Biden,” launched a slogan that has spread a bit.
While most of this weekend’s impromptu gatherings were in places unaccustomed to the revelry associated with Biden – with exhilarating fights from Los Angeles to Washington in nearly every city in between, cheering on Mr. Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris – there was at least one ZIP Code where the embrace was more the culmination than the novelty.
On Saturday, hundreds of cars got stuck in a parking lot outside an event center in Wilmington, Del., Carrying friends and fans of Mr Biden from the state he represented for 36 years in the Senate for a somewhat socially remote drive-in rally. They sat on the roofs of their vehicles and played cornhole while they waited. They dragged oversized American flags and settled into lawn chairs and champagne flutes balanced above their cars. They were proud, they said, of their state’s most famous resident.
Carrie Casey, 49, said she came in part to bask in “the utter excitement of a near-Delaware native winning the presidency, as well as the first woman and woman of color vice president.”
She had surrendered days earlier – polling day one, Tuesday – for what was supposed to have been a victory party. Instead, with the outcome uncertain, Mr Biden only made brief remarks about confidence in the process. Some of his supporters left deflated and nervous.
Mr Biden’s team had a few more false starts last week as the vote count continued. Early on Friday, his campaign recommended that he give a major speech at prime time in the evening, as a crowd began to gather outside a security fence. He had planned to use the elaborate, flag-adorned setup that remained on display all week.
As the sun set in Wilmington on Friday, teleprompters were ready, “Biden Harris” flashed on large screens, and onlookers gathered in an increasingly cold parking lot nearby, hoping to catch a glimpse of an elected president. But with Pennsylvania and the race, still officially unnamed, they would have to wait another day.
“I was here Tuesday night, and it was very stressful,” Ms. Casey said. “Waking up in the morning and there’s still hope, and the next day and the next, and being patient – and being here now is absolutely amazing.
In his own speech, Mr. Biden was in essence himself. After running around on stage with a chorus of car horns, he started off with a nod to the good people of Delaware (“the people who brought me to the ball!”), Then decided to name a few. -a, shouting various local dignitaries as a city candidate for council.
He cited relatives and welcomed Ms Harris and her husband to the Biden family, “like it or not.”
He tried to sympathize with Trump’s voters, noting that he had “lost myself a few times” on his political day. He recognized the current national gravity. He projected humility. He smiles a little.
It had been a long campaign – three, in fact, for the presidency alone during his lifetime. He watched the guests who had seen him lose as often as they had seen him win.
This time around, the mood was purely festive – so much so that Maureen Whilby had decided to celebrate her 55th birthday there, where the fireworks and confetti explosions might as well have been for her too.
“The best birthday in the world!” she said, several hours before the sky lit up with the words “Biden” and “president-elect.” “Never forget this anniversary. Unit. Call us back. No division. “
Nearby, a group of Delawarians stood together wearing T-shirts indicating their past lives as Iowa volunteers for Mr. Biden, a reminder of the dark and icy days he spent in a state that was rejected during his race in 2008 and again in 2020.
“We were a little nervous at the time,” admitted Patti McKelvey, 53, a Pilates and yoga teacher from Wilmington. “But we were still 100% backing Joe.”
State Representative Krista Griffith – “I’m Joe Biden’s State Representative,” she noted – also made the trip to Iowa. This, she suggested, was more fun.
“We all know him,” she said on Saturday. “We just can’t wait for the rest of the country to experience it.”
Katie Glueck reported from Wilmington, Del.