PITTSBURGH – At 8:50 a.m. on Friday morning, the City of Philadelphia updated its vote count, pushing Joseph R. Biden Jr. past Donald J. Trump in the state of Pennsylvania. The question in everyone’s mind for several endless days immediately changed: not “if” but “when”. The election – this tense, angry, virus-infested and exhausting election – would soon be over.
“We are celebrating everyone’s right to vote,” said Bernadette Golarz, 36, amid the impromptu street party that erupted outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Friday, where the ballots were still being counted at the interior. “And the fact that we all showed up to kick him out.”
The country waited three trying days for news of a final result. All the while, the nation’s fate has been cast, but not yet fully known, as local election offices scattered across a handful of states counted the crucial remaining votes. Voters from both parties stayed up late and woke up early, praying, hoping, refreshing streams and watching TV cards that never seemed to change.
“What’s happening now is what I thought was going to happen,” said Rosemary Gabriel, 51, who moved from Nigeria 19 years ago to suburban Atlanta where she lives and working now, “because I still have faith in the American people.” “
Despite all that confidence in the outcome, however, she had been glued to the TV all week. “I slept four hours,” she says.
As the count went on in a tedious fashion, the president falsely declared victory and raged over the plot, one of his sons urged “all-out war” in the election, his lawyers The campaign filed a flurry of lawsuits and crowds of supporters took to the streets to ask election officials to stop counting or keep counting depending on where they were.
“I feel like things are being pulled from under me,” said Joel Medina, 44, a businessman from Rowlett, Texas, who voted for Mr. Trump on Tuesday for the first time in his career. life. He had not ruled out that Mr. Trump would eventually win.
Yet even some of those who had deep suspicions about the election had resigned themselves to a victory for Biden. It was proof, as they saw, that ultimately the swamp always wins.
“I’ll never forget it, they were so shocked when he was elected,” recalls Kim Anzelmi, 55, of Scranton, Pa., Who assumed the policy was irreparably rigged until nightfall. where Mr. Trump won in November 2016. That election had changed my mind about the system and what was possible – briefly. Now she’s more cynical than ever. “Politics have been twisted since the Romans,” she says.
But Dolores Selico, who voted for Mr Biden on Tuesday at a high school in South Los Angeles, was convinced that whatever happened would be “the will of God.”
When Ms Selico voted, she was wearing a T-shirt bearing the face of John Lewis, the late civil rights pioneer. It was a way of honoring “what our ancestors went through so that we could vote,” said Ms. Selico, an 80-year-old black woman.
Shanna Davidson, a social worker from Louisville, Ky., Who also supported Mr Biden, had seen enough to feel relief.
“Today is a good day,” she said. Still, she admitted that tens of millions of Americans voted differently from her, and would be as dejected as she was now invigorated. The election came so close when she woke up Wednesday morning, she said, that “I almost had a nervous breakdown”.
It was the thing, however. In the weird and lingering limbo of an unnamed election, there was still a lot of anxiety to do. For every Biden voter like Susan Macovsky, buying bottles of prosecco at a Pennsylvania liquor store to celebrate – though perhaps a little prematurely, she admitted – there was another, like Rachael Lindemann, relieved but still nervous.
“I’m not going to count my chickens until they hatch,” she said.
There had been plenty of evidence in his life that things could change suddenly and inexplicably. Her husband, a struggling dairy farmer in Albany, Wisconsin, had backed Mr Trump in 2016, when she voted for Hillary Clinton. But Mr. Trump’s trade war with China devastated their finances and they eventually had to sell their farm and cows. Mr. Lindemann has accepted a job in construction. This year he voted for Mr. Biden.
For now, Mrs. Lindemann was not partying. “I know he’s going to give a 5 year old a tantrum and he’s going to turn all the tables he can,” she said of Mr. Trump. “We don’t have a president yet.”
There are many, like Mrs Lindemann, whose vote was personal, a first chance to respond to the president for what he has brought or taken away from them.
Nephtalie Hyacinthe, 42, a Haitian immigrant in Miramar, Florida, took her citizenship test the day after Mr. Trump was elected in 2016. She saw her first term as a four-year lesson in citizenship that would help her. to shape her political views and prepare herself for the 2020 election.
She studied the president, listening as he took a hard line on immigrants and hearing reports of derogatory things he called his homeland. And so on, on the last day of October, Ms. Hyacinthe stepped in, casting her first vote in America for Mr. Biden in a library. As she learned this week, she had chosen the likely winner.
“For an immigrant, voting is the white fence,” she said, her voice shaking with excitement. “It means that I am an American citizen and helped choose our next leader.”
Just as Ms. Hyacinthe was discovering in her adopted country, many people who have lived here since birth had learned – this week and over the past four years – that it might not be the country they thought it was. know.
“My stomach hurts a bit,” said Sam Diana, a 55-year-old Scranton antiques dealer – and lifelong Democrat – who voted for Mr. Trump. He had been lying on the couch watching the returns for days, learning Friday morning on a trip to Sam’s Club that his condition had likely returned to Mr. Biden. “I really, definitely, definitely believe it was settled.”
Behind all of this, however, lie deep and unresolved questions about what is happening in the country and in the minds of its fellow citizens.
“Something is happening in America – something scary,” Mr. Diana said. “It makes a lump in your throat when you think, is this really America? Are we all partners? Why did they hate this man so much?
Across Erie state that same morning, Karen Moski, 67, was leaving home to work when she learned that Mr. Biden was now leading in Pennsylvania. Among friends, the night before, she had discovered that her home county, a reliable Democratic stronghold that shockingly sent most of its votes to Mr. Trump four years ago, had also turned blue again.
“We are getting rid of Donald Trump and it has been my goal for years,” she said, laughing as she realized that an outspoken supporting colleague of Trump would be entering the office later today. Erie’s overthrow was perhaps a sign that the county had “probably made a mistake” in 2016.
But there was no turning back completely. Ms Moski had learned about her town over the past four years, she said, the opinions friends had about race and politics that surprised her. Biden or not, Erie – and the country – would never be the same.
“It was a wake-up call,” she says. “We have work to do.”
Campbell Robertson reported from Pittsburgh, Audra DS Burch Hollywood, Florida, and Sabrina Tavernise of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The report was contributed by Jack healy in Denver, Jon hurdle from Philadelphia, Tim arango from Los Angeles, Elizabeth dias from Washington, Will wright from Louisville, Ky., Ruth graham from Warner, NH and J. David Goodman from Houston.