The American University community reacted overwhelmingly after the Associated Press projected former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania on Saturday, as the state's 20 electoral votes made him president-elect of the United States.
Biden’s victory was a relief for many, who cited constant stress and fear over the last four years of President Donald Trump’s term. Others highlighted Vice president-elect Kamala Harris’s status as the first woman, first Black American and first Asian American to hold the position.
Renan Rocha, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, said the news overwhelmed him.
“Being a child of immigrant parents and a first-generation college student in the U.S., I always felt as if I, and many others, were never going to have our voices heard with a Trump administration,” Rocha said. “I have been crying for the past hour, and I’m just overfilled with joy. This doesn’t mean the fight is over, it’s a step in the right direction.”
Other students echoed Rocha’s sentiments, saying that although Biden’s victory is vital and historic, it’s not the solution to many of the problems facing the country.
Trent Szczucki, a sophomore in the School of International Service who drove home to Pennsylvania to vote for Biden, asked his peers not to become apathetic in the aftermath of the election.
“So many people are like, ‘Oh, man, I can’t wait to go back to brunch again, I’m so happy this is over,’” Szczucki said. “We can’t go back to normal after this. It shows there’s a major issue in America with disinformation, with education and critical thinking, and right-wing populism in general, that needs to be addressed and needs to be fixed in the U.S.”
Makenna Lindsay, the AU liaison for Black Girls Vote and a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, was overjoyed, especially by Harris’s groundbreaking victory.
“I have not stopped screaming since the news,” Lindsay said. “I am jumping in joy. We have a lot of work to do, but I’m so grateful. History has been made in so many ways. Also, big up to Jamaica, my island — Kamala representing!”
While students celebrated, they were quick to point out who to thank for the Democratic victory. Jeremy Ward, the director of AU College Democrats, said the role of Black women in Biden’s victory, as with many victories for the Democratic Party, cannot be overstated.
“Oftentimes, [Black women’s] priorities haven’t been the priorities of the party, but they are the most reliable voting group for Democrats, and with this election being secured primarily by Black women, it’s time for their priorities to be front and center,” Ward said. “We can't say that we're a diverse party when we aren't treating everyone with respect and dignity, hearing their concerns and pushing them forward.”
In a statement released Saturday, the executive board of AU College Republicans recognized Biden, along with successful Republican congressional candidates.
“We congratulate President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and their families, on their widely projected victory,” they wrote. “Republicans flipped several Democrat-held seats in the House, defying all expectations and significantly reducing the Democrats’ majority.”
Gen Z GOP, a campus group dedicated to supporting youth issues within the Republican Party, concurred. In a statement to The Eagle, they celebrated down-ballot victories for Republican candidates across the country, saying that despite its loss of the White House, the party still has a place to lead the country on conservative issues.
“We wish a hearty congratulations to President-elect Biden, and we hope that he will be a bipartisan leader for all [emphasis as written] Americans in this time of great division,” the group wrote. “When the President succeeds, we all succeed.”
Journalism Division Director Amy Eisman said the election points to Americans’ support for issues beyond Biden and Harris themselves, including an emphasis on civility, truth, human rights and science that the Trump administration in many ways pushed back against over the last four years. According to Eisman, the biggest winner in this election is democracy.
Going forward, she said, student voices will matter even more than they have in recent years. AU students have an opportunity to play a role in the future of the Democratic Party, especially in working toward addressing the internal split between moderates and progressives, Eisman said.
“Students have faced things I can’t imagine facing at your age,” Eisman said. “From school loans, Covid, the political and social reckoning over racism, the pandemic, politics — I cannot imagine what the students have had to go through. I think they should feel reassured that they will have a voice moving forward in what comes next. It’s a new time, and it’s a new time for them.”
Eisman added that the role of journalism in particular is center-stage right now, with the emphasis of storytelling moving away from artificial balance toward fairer, more comprehensive coverage. While it can be hard to know one’s role in history, students will remember this moment and its aftermath for the rest of their lives, she said.
“AU students have their work cut out for them,” Eisman said.