When Daphne Brooks, professor of African American studies, first heard MSNBC announce that Joe Biden had won the presidency, she was unloading laundry in her basement. Immediately, she ran onto her front porch and screamed at the top of her lungs: “It’s over! It’s over! We got him!” on repeat for three minutes, as her partner jumped for joy.
The News interviewed nine professors on their reactions to the results of various races in this year’s election. Their responses ranged from elation — as described by Brooks — to surprise, fear, relief and a mix of them all.
“I am shocked at what it feels like to not wake up with a kind of existential anxiety about my government terrorizing me,” Brooks said. “I feel hopeful and comforted by the idea of a government that will engage in a politics of care in the midst of the worst health crisis we’ve seen in a hundred years.”
In a previous article, the News interviewed 16 professors on their predictions for the presidential election: two of them, Matthew Jacobson, professor of American studies and history and David Simon, director of undergraduate studies of political science, both initially told the News that they believed that Biden would win the popular vote. Simon believed that this would translate into an electoral college victory, albeit one that might take a while to come to fruition, while Jacobson expressed only 50 percent confidence in a Biden victory.
Simon wrote that the results on Saturday largely match his initial thoughts of a “Red Mirage,” where the initial reported results are overwhelmingly Republican in certain states because of laws governing when provisional and absentee ballots can be tallied. But Simon also thought that Biden would win Michigan and Wisconsin with larger margins.
“I predicted a ‘scorched earth retreat’ from the outgoing administration — and so far I appear to be wrong there,” Simon added. “The Trump administration doesn’t appear to be retreating at all, so far.”
Jacobson told the News that, because he was not confident in a Biden win, he is currently “relieved” with the Biden victory. He added, however, that Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and an illegitimate election are “dangerous” and could seriously damage the incoming administration.
In an email to the News, history professor Sunil Amrith characterized his reaction, similarly to Jacobson, as a mix of both relief and anxiety. Both expressed worries about the long-lasting damage of Trumpism: Amrith wrote to the News that, in the short term, he fears an attempted coup by Trump’s supporters, who may become even more emboldened and violent due to Trump’s false claims of a rigged election.
Brooks expressed similar fears, telling the News that she fears the spread of misinformation and lack of trust in facts and media — as well as how those factors might affect the Biden administration’s ability to implement a “transformative” agenda. Brooks also worries about the two Senate runoff races in Georgia and the “cruel and underhanded” voter suppression tactics that could make the races unwinnable.
Roderick Ferguson, the chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies, felt pride towards his native state of Georgia for “the ways that people very bravely and forthrightly have refused voter suppression.” He noted the high turnout among voters of color during the presidential election, specifically.
“I’m really inspired by the level of participation and interest in the overall political and social situation,” Ferguson said. “What’s so interesting about this moment for me is that people are developing a sense that voting is simply one item on what must be a menu of interventions. Hence, I’m not seeing a lot of romanticism about this or that person winning but a real clarity that there’s more at stake than this office being filled or that person being elected.”
Professor of linguistics Veneeta Dayal told the News that, while she is feeling both “relief” and “elation” at the prospect of a Biden presidency, she also questions what the future of American politics will look like.
Dayal is looking forward to a shift towards a “more normal, more civil tone in public discourse,” which, she notes, is not yet guaranteed and depends on whether much of the trends of the past four years can be reversed.
“I should be excited about the first woman as Vice President of the US, a woman of color, a woman whose parents were immigrants, a woman of South Asian origin,” Dayal wrote to the News. “It’s unfortunate that these major landmarks in American political history are overshadowed by relief at the prospect of a return to normalcy.”
Dayal was also surprised by how many people voted for President Trump, as well as how poorly Democrats fared in some Senate and House races.
While Brooks described a scene of joy, screaming on her East Rock porch after hearing that Biden won, she also spoke of deep sadness in the more than 72 million people who cast their ballots for the incumbent president.
“I’ve been very concerned by this focus on what the Democrats did wrong,” she added, noting that Biden received more votes than any other candidate in history. “I wish that we could have a more imaginative and rigorous and brave conversation about why is that portion of the electorate [who voted for Trump] so morally broken. Because there’s no other way to describe it than that.”
The Associated Press declared Biden the winner of the presidency at 11:25 a.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Madison Hahamy | firstname.lastname@example.org