PITTSBURGH – Like many Trump supporters, Dennis Tippie watched the steady tally of votes that wiped out the president’s advance in Pennsylvania, not with the belief that democracy was being played out, but with grim and growing anger.
“If he ends up with this number of electoral votes,” he told Joseph R. Biden Jr. last week, as Mr. Biden appeared en route to winning the state and the White House, “he would have won them by fraud, deception and simple criminality. ”
There is no evidence of fraud, deception or criminality in the counting of the postal votes that accumulated during the worst health crisis to hit the country in a century. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature has refused to allow processing of those ballots upon arrival, compounding delays until the race is called on Saturday, making Mr Biden the 46th president-elect.
But Mr. Tippie, a retired truck driver who absorbed the president’s words in part via Fox News, agreed with Mr. Trump and his surrogates that the election was stolen in front of their eyes. He lives in Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania, inside the state that so-called Philadelphia elites sometimes refer to as “Pennsyltucky.” For Mr. Tippie, Mr. Biden is “a total jerk,” his running mate, Kamala Harris, is “a very scary woman,” and a Biden presidency would be both illegitimate and disastrous.
But, he said, “I am not resigning myself to him being president.
While Mr. Biden has had major successes in turning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania back to the Democrats, and succeeded in the rare ouster of an incumbent, he did not mark the crushing demolition of Mr. Trump to which de many Democrats had aspired, despite leading the popular vote of over four million.
Instead, Mr. Biden will inherit a country where many Americans are already supported in mutually hostile corners. It threatens the President-elect’s most fundamental campaign pledge: to unite Americans, to overcome divisions as a government strategy, to heal “the soul of the nation.”
“I think we are a long way from unifying the country, and I am sure Trump will continue to work to divide us,” said Catherine Lalonde, Democratic Party chairperson from Butler County, a blue-collar region in the western Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think his supporters will accept Biden’s victory and wouldn’t even do it if it were a bigger margin,” she added. “I have a feeling all of the Trump flags and signs will stay put until they fall apart.”
Interviews with Pennsylvania voters, mostly Trump supporters, showed that Pennsylvania reflects a nation still mired in tribal polarization. The country is perhaps ahead as deeply divided as ever.
Many of the president’s supporters were swayed by his blizzard of disinformation that illegal voting was rampant and election officials suppressed a Trump victory. They envision a democratic White that bow to leftists, abandon the fight against China, and encourage rioters and looters.
While Mr. Biden has done a little better in the many Trump counties of Pennsylvania than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, the margins haven’t tightened as much as Democrats had expected or hoped. With a record turnout approaching 7 million in the state, Mr Biden’s advantage over Mr Trump was less than 1 percentage point on Saturday night – a far cry from Barack Obama’s wins of over 10 points in 2008 and more than five in 2012.
Certainly, there were Trump voters willing to accept the results as fair and move forward.
Chace Torres, 37, was making grilled cheese sandwiches for his family in Northampton County on Thursday night. At the time, Mr. Trump’s lead in the state, once close to 700,000, was shrinking as the ballots mailed were counted.
“I think the Trump supporters are going to suck it up and move on,” said Mr. Torres, a railway union. “We’re not going to miss tomorrow to loot and riot. We will bow our heads, go to work, feed our children, take care of the country as we always do. “
But others have not been swayed by Mr Biden’s calls for unity after four years of division.
Jessica Bell, a Trump voter in the suburbs of Philadelphia, said, “We are locked up and loaded” because she sees the country heading into civil disorder.
“I have my television on the news 24/7,” Ms. Bell said. “I have my phone in hand to follow social networks. I have slept about six hours since Monday. I watched very, very closely.
She cited reports on social media and Fox News to support her belief that the election was hijacked: Black Sharpies given to Arizona voters made the ballots invalid; Republican poll observers in Philadelphia were not allowed to see the tally; Nancy Pelosi controls the company that supplies electoral machines to Nevada.
These accusations, some raised by the Trump campaign and the president himself, are distortions or mere plots. Arizona election officials, for example, said the Black Sharpies did not invalidate a ballot and that a judge allowed observers in Philadelphia to be within six feet of the polling poll.
But Ms Bell, 32, who quit her job this summer as an assistant in a doctor’s office, insisted that “Americans are being silenced” and baselessly accused: “It’s a blow. of state.
Some Democrats hoped that with Mr. Trump removed from office, the nation would return to some semblance of normalcy, that divisiveness as government policy would end.
In Erie County, which Mr. Trump won in 2016 after long voting Democratic, the president raised expectations and hopes with his pledges to restore the industry. But Mr. Trump lost Erie County this year, in part because of his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and the chaos it has wreaked, said Carl Anderson III, a Democrat on the county council.
“Its flaws have been exposed,” Mr. Anderson said. “There are elements of extremists and ideologists who initially will not accept the outcome and may be able to protest, but as the dust settles and reality emerges, normalcy takes over.
The nature of Mr. Biden’s narrow victory in Pennsylvania underscored the challenges he will now face. His vote count was prompted by a surge of suburban voters: he improved Ms Clinton’s 2016 margins in the voice-rich counties surrounding Philadelphia by notable margins, including more than 7 percentage points in the county. of Chester and nearly five points in Montgomery County, the third most populous in the state.
But in Red Pennsylvania – a vast strip stretching from northeast to center to southwest – Mr. Trump has ceded very little ground. It has swept over most of the rural counties and small towns, with their faded industrial economies, through landslides. This suggests that the message behind Trumpism – a combination of promised industrial restoration and white grievances – has lost none of its appeal.
“People here still feel left out,” said Rob Gleason, a former state Republican Party chairman who lives in Johnstown, once a steel-making hub, now bleeding and struggling. “I can’t tell you how many people are saying that Trump is saying what I’ve been thinking my whole life.
Cambria County, which includes Johnstown, replaced Mr Trump with 37 points four years ago. This year, the county favored it by an identical margin.
“Trump’s support here in rural counties and the West will last two years,” Gleason said.
He predicted that with Mr. Biden in the White House, Republican senators would block him at every turn, with a view to winning seats midway through 2022.
“You know the Senate won’t give him a thumbs up,” he said.
Democrats’ views of Trump supporters over the past five years have been driven in part by journalist trips to places like Johnstown, once a Democratic stronghold. Many Democrats see the president’s base as enslaved to an authoritarian, energized by his racism and xenophobia, and unable to separate reality from his endless lies.
Many Trump supporters, in turn, do not have a more generous view of Biden’s voters. “Most of them are morons,” said Lois Peters, a retired saleswoman at a Westmoreland County department store.
She was baffled that Biden voters couldn’t see what she is doing, that the former vice president is mentally unfit to lead, and that a liberal and permissive Biden administration would lead to violence and looting, as following some demonstrations against police shootings. and the mistreatment of black people this spring.
“This vice president of Biden, oh my god, that woman is vicious,” Ms Peters said of Ms Harris. Then she surprised herself. “Now I look vicious,” she said. She continued, “But I feel like what I’m doing.”
Mary Jo DePalma, 60, who owns a jewelry store in Westmoreland County with her husband, said Democrats “seemed to hate the president so much” that she feared even Mr Biden’s victory would end their animosity to the right. “It will take a miracle to heal the nation,” she said. “I believe it started a long time ago, not just over the past three years.”
“I hope that in two years I am completely wrong,” she added. “I want the country to be united. I want to continue to have faith in America.”