‘A four-year exhale’: Democratic organizers reflect on Biden’s win

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Dalia Maeroff | Senior Staff Photographer

People celebrate and dance in the street in Squirrel Hill after learning about Biden’s election win.

By Elizabeth Primrose, Staff Writer

Sophia Shapiro, co-president of Pitt for Biden, said Joe Biden’s presidential victory was a relief that pushed away stress and anxiety from the last four years.

“It was such a sigh of relief — it’s like a four-year exhale,” Shapiro, a first-year political science major, said. “It felt like the anxiety and stress of the last four years were being pushed aside.”

Student leaders of Democratic political organizations at Pitt said they were a little nervous while awaiting the results of the presidential election, yet ultimately felt relieved once the Associated Press called the race for former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday morning. Shapiro said she believes that Biden’s ability to get in touch with the average American and their issues led to his victory.

Christian Resch, president of the Pitt College Democrats, said he knew Pennsylvania would be a key factor in deciding the presidential election. Resch, a junior political science major, said what he has seen in his work in politics since 2016 made him confident Pennsylvania would turn blue this presidential election.

“I’ve always felt that Pa. was going to turn blue since 2016,” Resch said. “I’ve been working in politics since then, and I’ve seen all the different activists, all the different organizations formed.”

But Alex Nelson, a volunteer coordinator for Pitt for Biden, did not have this same confidence about Pennsylvania on election day.

“I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous,” Nelson, a senior chemistry major, said. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, especially in Pa.”

Shapiro said she and others in Pitt for Biden felt nervous as well, yet also optimistic as they knew the results may favor President Donald Trump at first.

“Trump told all of his supporters to vote in person. So, we were expecting the results not to look great at first,” Shapiro said. “But with the work that we had done and the work that the organizers all across that state had done, we were feeling nervous but very optimistic.”

Despite any nerves from earlier in the week, Nelson said he felt relieved after the announcement of Biden’s victory. Nelson, who learned of the results while working at Hillman Library, said the victory made him emotional.

“It was a very cathartic feeling,” Nelson said. “I was very emotional. I came to tears at least three times during that segment of my day.”

Resch said Biden’s victory felt like a weight had come off his shoulders, as Trump’s election four years ago got him into politics in the first place.

“I came into politics because I was so in despair by Donald Trump being elected,” Resch said. “He was the original thing that brought me into politics, so to see Donald Trump be defeated and have Biden put into office was like a weight had come off my shoulders.”

According to Ron Rineer, co-president of Pitt for Biden, Biden’s action to mobilize young voters played a key role in his victory. Rineer, a senior political science and economics major, also said Biden’s ability to make personal connections, such as when he visited Pitt’s campus, contributed to his victory and set him apart from his competition.

“He got out of the car and walked up and started talking to college students,” Rineer said. “That’s something that the opposition didn’t really do so well. You know, [Trump] had those big rallies, but he never really made that personal connection, and I think Joe Biden did that.”

Shapiro said she thinks Biden’s focus on connecting to the average American and his message of being a president for everyone also played an important part of his victory.

“He really focused on kitchen table issues and connecting to the average American, letting everyone know Joe Biden is going to be a president for everyone, not just Democrats,” Shapiro said. “I think that’s something that’s really important in a candidate, to really be able to empathize and just recognize the problems that people are going through.”

Resch said Biden’s visits to counties in Pennsylvania that voted for Trump in 2016 played a key role in his victory. Biden cut into Trump’s margins more than Hillary Clinton did four years ago while also flipping some counties, Resch said. According to Resch, Biden’s trip to Erie was an important factor in flipping Pennsylvania. Resch, who drove one of the cars in the motorcade when Biden visited Erie, said everyone in Erie stopped to wave and smile when the motorcade drove by, as if they were “finally” acknowledged by a presidential candidate.

“It was like they were finally being recognized,” Resch said. “Biden made an effort going there and showing them, ‘Hey, I’m here fighting for you,’ and that was really big.”

Shapiro said she not only celebrated Biden’s win, but also the historic nature of Kamala Harris’ win. Shapiro said she could not describe the feeling of seeing the election of Harris as the first woman and woman of color to be vice president.

“To see Kamala Harris make history and be the first woman vice president — first woman vice president of color for that matter — is a feeling that I can’t fully describe,” Shapiro said. “I’ve been trying to put words to it for the last few days.”

While many Democrats celebrated the Biden-Harris win, Resch said he was not as impressed with down-ballot Democratic performance. Resch said Trump encouraging Republicans to vote had devastating effects, because even Republicans who did not vote for him still voted Republican down-ballot. Resch noted these results showed problems in the Democratic party’s strategy in Pennsylvania.

“Trump’s down-ballot effect was huge and devastating, but it also displays a problem in our party’s messaging and our party’s strategy,” Resch said. “I think we need to evolve from this and improve ourselves.”

With Biden’s win, Resch said now is the time to pressure Biden to fight for things Democratic college students want, even though it may be difficult.

“Now it’s time to pressure Biden to get things done that we want him to get done,” Resch said. “It’s going to be difficult to do, but we are going to make sure he fights for the things that us college students and Gen Z as a whole want to see.”

With student leaders of Democratic political organizations knowing there is still work to come over the next four years, they still celebrated Pennsylvania turning blue in the presidential election this Saturday. Shapiro said she went to the corner of Forbes and Murray avenues on Saturday night, where a crowd gathered to celebrate Biden’s win. Among the dancing and music, Shapiro said passersby could feel the happiness and excitement for the years to come.

“There was a fun celebration of people,” Shapiro said. “It was just a feeling of pure happiness and accomplishment. You could really just see how many people were excited to be in a new era.”

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