US elections bring neither a victory celebration nor a protest march

US AFFAIRS: In the limbo ahead of the final US presidential results, Americans waited and pondered

THE SCENE Wednesday night at Black Lives Matter Plaza outside the White House. (photo credit: OMRI NAHMIAS)
THE SCENE Wednesday night at Black Lives Matter Plaza outside the White House.
(photo credit: OMRI NAHMIAS)
WASHINGTON – Americans are used to getting answers at the touch of a screen or mouse – or in the case of a presidential election, at least on the same day as the vote.
As the nation encountered the unique scenario of having to wait for the results of the contested race between US President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden, there was almost a freeze-frame atmosphere in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, some people were glued to their TV screens, and the streets of the nation’s capital were noticeably empty downtown. A significant number of businesses around Franklin and McPherson squares were still boarded up, as dozens of police officers on bikes patrolled near the White House, and some of the roads were closed to vehicular traffic.
Shortly after TV networks officially called Wisconsin and Michigan as blue states, adding them in Biden’s column, and as the Democratic candidate was getting closer to the 270 electoral votes that are required to win, a little movement began.
Some 250 people arrived at Black Lives Matter Plaza, outside the White House, some of them wearing Biden-Harris T-shirts. TV crews from all over the world were positioned at the plaza, waiting to deliver the news. But as the counting in the key states of Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania was continuing, there wasn’t much to report. It was neither a victory party nor a protest.
In the middle of the plaza, at the intersection of H Street and 16th Street, one DC resident played classic American hits on his speakers. He was holding a sign that said: “Stop hating each other because you disagree.”
Mike Mintz, a DC resident and a Biden supporter, was among those who decided to come to the plaza after watching the news.
“I’ve been watching the results come in all day, and I know that this is probably the gathering place, right next to the White House. So I thought I’d come here with a camera, to see what was going on,” he said.
Mintz added that he hoped that the final results would come in by the time he got to the plaza. “It might be unlikely, but it’s great. It’s a little party here.”
Asked about the country’s tensions, Mintz said that things will not settle down until the election is settled. “I think it’s going to be a very interesting few months here in DC. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, a lot of news about legal proceedings and final vote counts and potential recounts, he added.”
“It’s definitely the most partisan time in my entire life, for sure. And this is looking to be the closest election in my life, beyond Bush and Gore, too,” he noted.
Quentin McHoes, a student at the George Washington University and his fellow student Erin, who asked not to be identified with her last name, also decided to visit the plaza after following the news.
“We were curious as to what the environment was going to be. It was really interesting to see the city kind of get boarded up and locked down as the days got closer,” she said.
“It was something I’ve never seen in my lifetime heading up to a presidential election. And the mounting pressure in the city and the mounting quietness of the city was really all I had to go off of,” she continued. “It was concerning for a little bit, but I’m glad to see that everyone is staying calm and just being patient. It restored a lot of faith. It really doesn’t matter at the end of the day who’s in leadership, as long as the people can rely on one another.”
“I expect things to remain relatively calm because I think other leaders are remaining relatively calm,” said McHoes. “And I think that will help kind of inform the temperature of the country. I think that the American people are settling into the idea that one person is going to emerge victorious very soon. And it’s sort of clear who that person is right now.”
“You just have to take it day by day,” said Erin. “Today this is really nice, tomorrow might be different, and the next day it might be different again. That’s kind of the nature of this presidency and this pandemic and a lot of things that have been going on lately. I think just taking this moment to be happy about how we’ve succeeded so far is good, and tomorrow will be another day. Who knows?”
MEANWHILE, PENNSYLVANIA remains the focal point of the election, as the Trump campaign is challenging the counting process, and a litigation process is under way.
Philip Rosenzweig is the chairman of the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth, which encompasses the first 14 towns of the Eastern Main Line of Philadelphia. He said that the Trump campaign has many of the nation’s most talented election lawyers on the ground in Pennsylvania.
“There will be a significant litigation that surrounds this election and the counting and what qualifies as a legitimate ballot and what doesn’t,” he said. “There were ballots that would have been disqualified under normal circumstances that are apparently being counted. That is contrary to election law, so that’s going to be a fight. And at the moment, the counting is still going on, and the Trump team is still very confident that, at the end of the day, they will win Pennsylvania.
“There’s going to be a lot of fighting postelection about the unprecedented nature of the mail-in ballots and the counting and the qualification of the mail-in ballots. And that is likely to go on for weeks and weeks,” he continued. “So that is disconcerting because the uncertainty is damaging to the country.”
He noted that he was encouraged to see that Republicans were on track to keep the majority in the Senate and picked up a few seats in the House.
“The Pennsylvania rules got changed and expanded so that ballots that wouldn’t have been counted are now being counted,” Rosenzweig added. “A ballot that may have a defect in it; a signature that doesn’t match; an envelope that wasn’t included; an actual physical defect in the ballot that four years ago would have resulted in that ballot being disqualified.”
And yet, despite the legal challenges and the uncertainty, Rosenzweig said he believes the election will be resolved in a civil manner.
“This country is fundamentally one that eventually heals its wounds, he said. “We have gone through other turbulent times, and ultimately we came through it and entered into a long period of political stability and prosperity.
“We’re going through a rough period of time right now,” he continued. “Our system of government is very resilient, and I believe the American people are strong. And I think ultimately we will come through this, although I do expect a period of some additional turmoil.”
Jill Zipin, the chairwoman of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, said she anticipates a quiet and civil counting and process as well. “It would be very unusual for an American election to have widespread civil unrest. It would be just unusual generally. I just don’t get the sense that that’s going to happen,” she said.
“I don’t really see any major issues,” she continued. “I don’t think it’s any different than any of the major big cities. If you look in Detroit or New York or even cities in Wisconsin, they all seem pretty calm. I don’t envision any rioting or anything like that, from either side, from either the Left or the Right. People seem to be sort of honoring the election process. The person who seems to be honoring [it] the least is our current president, who declared himself a winner. But beyond that, everything seems relatively calm, and people are counting as they should be.”
She said that she is mostly concerned that Democrats did not take the Senate and lost a few seats in the House.
Zipin dismissed the Republican efforts to stop the counting process. “They’re saying that they want the votes counted where he’s behind. They don’t want the votes counted where he’s ahead. Election officials have reassured the public that everything’s happening in an orderly process. We don’t have major issues of voter fraud in Pennsylvania or anywhere in the United States.”
She expressed optimism that Biden will eventually carry Pennsylvania.
“It’s just going to take a while to count the vote,” she noted. “While it will probably be close, I do think Biden will win.”
Back in the nation’s capital, and throughout the country, Americans found themselves out of sorts as the waiting game continued to find out who their next president will be.