After months of hoping and organizing, Biden's presidential victory marked a sigh of relief – but by no means the end of the road – for many Penn students and political activists.
The Penn community and thousands of local residents joyously flooded the streets of Philadelphia from Saturday morning to night upon hearing that former Vice President Joe Biden was declared president-elect with Kamala Harris as the nation's first woman, Black woman, and Asian American woman as vice president. The results came after a tense, four-day wait for Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state that 1968 Wharton graduate and president Donald Trump flipped and won just by 1% in 2016, to call the race and propel Biden across the 270-vote threshold.
Despite the celebrations, many students believe the nation must continue fighting for progressive policies in efforts to undo the nation's divisions exacerbated under the current administration.
"It was really nice to have a moment where it felt like everyone could stop holding their breath and celebrate something," College sophomore Alisa Ghura, who went to the Saturday parades in Philadelphia, said. Ghura emphasized, however, that the American people cannot be complacent with the administration's future progress.
College junior and co-director of Penn Justice Democrats Jack Cahill, who also served as an at-large Pennsylvania delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, said that though members of Penn Justice Dems find Biden’s platform to be too moderate, the end of Trump’s presidency is certainly something they are able to celebrate.
"Obviously we should celebrate the ousting of a neo-fascist, I mean that should not be taken for granted [and] should be taken as a win in and of itself. There's nothing wrong with anybody in the left celebrating that, even if Joe Biden, you know, in [Penn Justice Dems'] view, is still very moderate and a sort of encapsulation and manifestation of the neoliberal sphere.”
Cahill added that he believes this could be an opportunity for Penn Justice Dems and leftist political groups everywhere to attract more students to their base in leftist organizing.
"I think a lot of people here, especially young people, they're so used to the Trump presidency, and so they're all focused on that, and now I think that if they see some failures under a moderate democratic presidency, then I think that there's definitely ample opportunity for building our base.," Cahill said.
Penn Dems Political Director and College junior Michael Nevett took pride in Pennsylvania's key role in securing Biden's victory in a decidedly close race.
"It's was a field margin, so less than 1% of the vote," he said. "That means this election was decided by hardworking people like us and young people who are organizing for different campaigns in Pennsylvania, because this election really could have gone either way and the reason it went for Biden is because so many of us put in this hard work."
Undergraduate Assembly president and College senior Mercedes Owens said she is proud to have supported the Biden-Harris campaign, explaining that the alternative was antithetical to "basic human rights," such as LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter.
"For Biden to win and to be someone who supports [those basic human rights] and is now representing our country, and their views on that, that means a lot to us especially as people of color to feel safe in our country and in our communities," Owens said.
This year, Owens and College junior Mary Sadallah, the newly elected UA vice president, became the first students who identify as women of color, first-generation, and low-income to lead the student body.
But Owens said that while she and many members of the UA supported many of Biden's policies and campaign, his administration must now be held accountable to make good on his promises. For Owens, the administration's top priority should be healing the economic, social, and racial injustices plaguing communities of color across America.
Wharton sophomore Anuva Shandilya said she hopes Biden will expand access to healthcare and reform the criminal justice system and the immigration process. Shandilya, who is an international student and Canadian citizen, criticized America's expensive and slow immigration process.
Although she doubts Biden's and Harris's ability to enact radical criminal justice reform — like defunding the police, which Biden has said he does not support — Shandilya believes that this election is still a symbol of progress.
"This administration will certainly be a step up from the last, promote less hate, and give a lot of POC representation which is so important, especially now," Shandilya said.
Students acknowledge that Harris' election as the first female vice president, and the first Black woman and first Asian American to serve in the office, is a mark of progress for the country.
“Representation matters," Shandilya said. "While I may not agree with all of Kamala Harris’ stances, I think we can all agree that seeing a Black and Indian woman be elected to the second highest office in this country is a win for all."
Like Shandilya, Ghura said she is excited for a woman of color to be in the nation's second-highest office, which she said is long overdue.
Going forward, College junior and Penn Dems Membership Director Cassy Ingersoll said the country must focus on ensuring that Trump accepts defeat, after his highly publicized claims that the election was unfairly won, as well as ensuring that Biden keeps the promises he made during his campaign.
"Part of [holding Biden accountable] will also be continuing to help take over the Senate by helping in any way we can with the Georgia runoff,” Ingersoll says. “So, the work is clearly far from over. But the weekend was a good time to just take a quick breath before we start up again.”
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