2020 U.S. Presidential Election: A Sigh of Relief and Hope

Election Day and a Few Days After  (Nov 2 – 8, 2020)

Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020

It’s November 3rd, 2020 – Presidential Election Day in the US – the most consequential election in my lifetime here in the US and the most consequential election for most Americans.

All of the ballots were cast today, large percentage through mail-in ballot and on-site election day voting.  The polls had been holding steady with Biden in the lead with ten percentage points (10%). We were very confident of a Biden win, the same way we were confident of a Hillary win in 2016.  But this time we felt it was different.  With such a lead in the polls, Biden would surely breeze through this election.

Voting ended at generally between 7:00pm ET and 10:00pm ET, except for Hawaii and Alaska.

So starting at around 5pm, our time (Pacific Time), Cess and I (and the kids in their apartments) were glued to the TV to watch the unfolding results of the election.

The numbers started trickling in and we were not overly concerned with the earlier results because they were trending in line with expectations and projections.

At around 7:00pm Pacific Time, The Wall Street Journal reported:

Then, at around 8pm Pacific Time, Florida went to Trump.

I told myself, not to worry, there are still a lot of electoral votes out there. Biden was hoping to flip Florida.

Then Texas went red.

Although still early in the electoral vote count, I was getting nervous since these were two states with large electoral votes. Although the Democrats had hopes of flipping Texas, the Lone Star state had almost always gone Republican and this was expected.

One glimmer of hope was Arizona. Biden took the state.

Although the Associated Press (AP) and Fox News called Arizona for Biden, CNN did not make any call yet.

Wednesday, Nov 4, 2020

When I went to bed past midnight and early Wednesday, I had the feeling of unease that Trump may still win a second term. Although the polls had given Biden a 10 point lead before the election, it did not seem to be holding.  I was half-asleep, tossing and turning at the rec room sofa while peeking every so often at the TV, nervously anticipating an update on the election results from CNN first thing in the morning.

I slept and, upon waking up at around 7am, I quickly turned on the TV with the latest update. Nothing new until 11 am Eastern or 8 am Pacific until John King of CNN goes on air with his magic wall.

And then, the magic wall. At 11:35 am:

The tide was going Biden’s way! He won Wisconsin. Even the doggies were watching.

A few minutes later, CNN updated the magic wall showing Biden leading in Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada, with the added banner “. . . IF HE [BIDEN] HOLDS ON, HE WINS.”

I was cautiously getting excited but 237 electoral votes for Biden was not quite 270 yet. I could see a hint of a smile on Wolf Blitzer (I still remember his downcast look in 2016 when Hillary was losing).

At 5:30 pm, the Seattle Times had this update:

This was getting to be a nail-biter or heart attack-inducing. If Biden wins Nevada, he squeaks in by one electoral vote. I could see Trump raising Cain.

Thursday, Nov 5, 2020

From cnn.com:
9:13 a.m. ET, November 5, 2020

Razor thin margins separate Biden and Trump in these un-called states. Here’s what we know.

It’s Thursday morning in the US, and the race for the White House is still too close to call.

As votes continue to come in, former Vice President Joe Biden has edged closer to the 270-electoral-vote threshold needed to win the presidency, but razor-thin margins separate him from Donald Trump in key battleground states.

Here are the six states where CNN has not yet made a projection:

Alaska
Arizona
Georgia
Nevada
North Carolina
Pennsylvania

At 9:14 am, this is how the election map looked like, from yahoo.com, which gets it data from the Associated Press.  Remember, CNN had not yet called Arizona for Biden but AP already did.

Biden was on the cusp of victory. Three states were sure to go Trump:

North Carolina – 15 electoral votes – sure to go Trump
Alaska – 3 electoral votes – sure to go Trump
Pennsylvania – 20 electoral votes – Trump leading by a wide margin

And three states remained the battleground states:

Nevada – 6 electoral votes – trending Biden
Georgia – 16 electoral votes – trending Trump
Arizona – 11 electoral votes – trending Trump (called for Biden by AP and Fox News)

Going with the assumption that Biden had won Arizona (according to AP and Fox News, but not CNN), Biden had just to win Nevada or Georgia. Trump had an uphill battle to gain 270.  And I was getting more relieved (or giddy) at home watching the results on TV and checking the web.

Here’s what cnn.com reported at 9:23 am:

Democrats woke up Thursday morning cautiously optimistic with how presidential results are trending, with party operatives – like everyone else – keeping close tabs on four states: Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Joe Biden holds a lead in both Arizona and Nevada, two states where more votes are expected to come in on Thursday. But the belief is that Biden’s narrow margins in each state could shrink as incoming votes continue to trickle in. The question that remains: Will President Donald Trump’s margins in these new votes be enough to cut into the leads Biden already enjoys?

Most Democratic optimism comes from Pennsylvania, a state that has dominated Biden’s focus throughout the general election. Although the former vice president trails Trump in the state with roughly 10% of votes yet to be reported, it is where those votes are coming from – Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and thee suburban counties in Southeast Pennsylvania – that has the party confident.

A source told CNN on Thursday morning that there are approximately 140,000 outstanding mostly mail in ballots in Philadelphia alone. Although Trump enjoys a lead of over 160,000, the bulk of votes from Philadelphia are expected to go for Biden. Additionally, there are still thousands of votes outstanding from the areas around the city – like in nearby Bucks County, with 28,000 mail-in ballots left to count. Biden has consistently maintained a significant lead in mail in votes.

“I mean, it depends. I know there is enough out there in the state as long as those trends continue, I believe personally, a margin that will carry Pennsylvania for the Vice President,” Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday.

Then there is Georgia, a state that has continually narrowed as votes from the more Democratic greater Atlanta metropolitan area have come in. Trump is up by less than 20,000 votes in the state, with around 50,000 votes left to be counted, according to Walter Jones, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office. The key for Democrats will be how many of those votes come from reliably Democratic areas like Fulton and DeKalb counties around Atlanta and Chatham around Savannah.

I spent most of the day watching updates on TV and checking the web.  The voting counts were terribly slow in the four states mentioned in the article above – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

In the evening, the results were crystalizing and Biden was seemingly solidifying his lead.  There was cautious optimism in Arizona and Pennsylvania.  FiveThirtyEight election forecaster Nate Silver called on Fox News and The Associated Press to retract their early projections that Joe Biden would win the state of Arizona, saying that the race is getting very tight.

At around 10:00 pm, I took screenshots of the race on my iPhone.


Trump was leading in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Biden was winning in Nevada and Arizona but the pollsters were predicting that Trump might overtake Biden in Arizona.

Now the suspense was building.  If Biden holds Arizona and keeps Nevada, he would be the next president.  If Biden loses Arizona, he would have to win either Pennsylvania or Georgia.

Another perspective from nbcnews.com:

A good graphical analysis from bbc.com:

Then, from Bloomberg.com:

Biden Takes Lead From Trump in Georgia for First Time

By Kathleen Hunter
November 6, 2020, 1:39 AM PST

Democratic nominee Joe Biden edged ahead of President Donald Trump in the state of Georgia, a major shift in the Republican stronghold that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1992.

Biden only needs a win in one more state — Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada or North Carolina — to reach the 270 electoral votes he needs to be elected president, provided that other race calls stand.

Biden moved out front of Trump in Georgia by 917 votes early Friday with the release of the latest batch of results from the state. The former vice president had trailed in the state since Election Night, but Trump’s initial lead of several hundred thousand votes progressively shrank as election officials tallied mail-in ballots that heavily favored the Democratic candidate.

Friday, Nov 6, 2020

Overnight, as we were awaiting the results from Georgia and Arizona, no one was paying particular attention to Pennsylvania since everyone assumed Trump would take the state and Biden had to win Arizona and Georgia.

But Pennsylvania slowly crept into the picture as the votes started to turn in Biden’s favor.

But it was not yet time for celebration. It was still early and the numbers may still change. Two days before on Nov 4, when the count was going his way, Trump declared victory in Pennsylvania.

It was the first Friday of the month and, after going to bed in the wee hours of the morning watching the tally of votes and after a few hours sleep, we woke up to attend Mass for First Friday.

After Mass, we tuned in on the TV and eagerly awaited the election tally.  Then, the update on the latest election results at 11:30 am Pacific Time.

Biden was leading in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona.  In Arizona, although the lead was about 40,000 votes, news reports had it that Trump may cut the lead but may be not enough to overcome the margin. Biden had now overtaken Trump in Pennsylvania, as projected.

As we watched the votes trickling in and were comfortable enough that Biden was the president-elect, we spent some time lounging around and playing with the doggies, especially with Anna’s dog, Chewie, around. They had their special treat and it kept them preoccupied for a while.

That evening, at around 8:00 pm, Joe Biden spoke to the nation on national television. From abcnews.com:

Biden says ‘we’re going to win’ as Trump falls behind in key states

Biden delivered remarks from Wilmington, Delaware.

By Libby Cathey November 6, 2020, 8:07 PM

Former Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage in Wilmington, Delaware, Friday night as his lead over President Donald Trump grew in battleground states that could the decide the election.

With independent outlets yet to declare victory, Biden urged Americans to keep calm, have faith in the system and stay patient while every vote is counted as he has each day since Election Day.

“I know watching these vote tallies on TV moves very slow, and as slow as it goes, it can be numbing,” Biden said. “But never forget, the tallies aren’t just numbers. They represent votes and voters. Men and women who exercised their fundamental right to have their voice heard.”

Biden stopped short of claiming victory, but did say “the numbers tell us it’s clear.”

“We’re going to win this race,” he said.

 These are pictures I took from the TV, as Cess and I were watching (with the doggies too).

When we went to bed that night, we felt relieved, a little lighter, a heavy burden lifted from us the past four years.

Saturday, Nov 7, 2020

I slept downstairs on the rec room sofa to keep abreast of the breaking election news. I turned off the TV but tossed and turned the whole night (or early morning) in nervous anticipation of the declaration or “calling” of the winner.

I woke up at 7:30am and turned on the TV. No news yet but at around 8:30 am, there was this welcome newsbreak from CNN. We had our new President-elect Biden!

Then MSNBC:

And finally, FOX.  I couldn’t believe that I’d see this day.

Media was abuzz about the election of Joe Biden and everyone was excited what the next steps would be.

But the most memorable images on TV for me this early morning were that of Wolf Blitzer and Van Jones on CNN. I remember their devastated look in 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost. But today was redemption, as evidenced by Wolf Blitzer’s confidently smug demeanor and Van Jones’ tears.

Here is what Van Jones said, as broke down in tears.

It’s easier to be a parent this morning. It’s easier to be a dad. It’s easier to tell your kids character matters. It matters. Telling the truth matters. Being a good person matters. And it’s easier for a whole lot of people. If you’re Muslim in this country, you don’t have to worry if the president doesn’t want you here. If you’re an immigrant, you don’t have to worry if the president is going to be happy to have babies snatched away or send dreamers back for no reason.

It’s vindication for a lot of people who have really suffered. I can’t breathe? That wasn’t just George Floyd. That was a lot of people who felt they couldn’t breathe. Every day you’re walking up you’re getting these tweets and you don’t know. And you’re going to the store and people who have been afraid to show their racism have been getting nastier and nastier to you. And you’re worried about your kids and you’re worried about your sister and can she just go to Walmart and get back into the car without somebody saying something to her. And you spend so much of your life energy just trying to hold it together. And this is a big deal for us to be able to just have some peace and to have a reset.

And the character of the country matters. And being a good man matters. I just want my sons to look at this and do it the cheap way and get away with stuff. But it comes back around. It comes back around. And it’s good for this country. I’m sorry for the people who lost. For them it’s not a good day. But for a whole lot of people, it’s a good day.

It was a new day in America. Many felt the same way as Van Jones felt – Cess, myself, Vicki, good friends, Cess’s Confidants, 79 million Americans who voted for Biden.

In the evening, there was a whole lot of celebration.  Because of the pandemic, many Americans were glued to the TV and participated virtually in the celebration.  Here are the photos (from screenshots) of the Biden and Harris celebration.  They speak for themselves.

Here is a transcript of Biden’s victory speech, which he delivered tonight.

My fellow Americans, and the people who brought me to the dance: Delawareans. I see my buddy Tom, Senator Tom Carper, down there. And I think, I think Senator Coons is there. And I think the governor’s around and … is that Ruth Ann? And that’s former Governor Ruth Ann Minner. Most importantly, my sisters-in-law, my and my sister, Valerie. Anyway.

Folks, the people of this nation have spoken. They’ve delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for we, the people. We’ve won with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of the nation. Seventy-four million.

Well, I must admit, it surprised me tonight. We’re seeing all over this nation, all cities and all parts of the country, indeed across the world, an outpouring of joy, of hope, renewed faith in tomorrow to bring a better day. And I’m humbled by the trust and confidence you placed in me. I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.

I’ll work with all my heart, with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you. And for that is what America, I believe, is about. It’s about people. And that’s what our administration will be all about. I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation: the middle class. And to make America respected around the world again. And to unite us here at home.

It’s the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for that vision. And now the work of making that vision is real. It’s a task, the task of our time.

Folks, as I said many times before, I’m Jill’s husband. And I would not be here without her love and tireless support of Jill and my son Hunter, and Ashley, my daughter and all our grandchildren and their spouses and all our family. They’re my heart.

Jill is a mom, a military mom, an educator. She has dedicated her life to education. But teaching isn’t just what she does. It’s who she is. For American educators, this is a great day for you all. You’re going to have one of your own in the White House, and Jill is going to make a great first lady. I’m so proud of her.

I’ll have the honor of serving with a fantastic vice president. You just heard from Kamala Harris, who makes history as the first woman, first Black woman, the first woman from South Asian descent, the first daughter of immigrants ever elected to this country. Don’t tell me it’s not possible in the United States. It’s long overdue.

And we’re reminded tonight of those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. Once again, America’s bent the arc of the moral universe more toward justice. Kamala, Doug, like it or not, you’re family. You become an honorary Biden, there’s no way out.

All those of you who volunteered and worked the polls in the middle of a pandemic, local elected officials: You deserve a special thanks from the entire nation.

And to my campaign team and all the volunteers and all who gave so much of themselves to make this moment possible. I owe you. I owe you. I owe you everything.

And all those who supported us. I’m proud of the campaign we built. I’m proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse coalition in history. Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American.

I mean it. And especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.

I said at the outset, I wanted to represent this campaign to represent and look like America. We’ve done that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like and act like.

For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance.

It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again. Listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans. They’re Americans.

The Bible tells us to everything there is a season, a time to build, a time to reap and a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.

Now, this campaign is over. What is the will of the people? What is our mandate? I believe it’s this: America has called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure your family’s health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. And the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control.

The battle to restore decency, defend democracy and give everybody in this country a fair shot. That’s all they’re asking for. A fair shot.

Folks, our work begins with getting covid under control. We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments, hugging our grandchildren, our children, our birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us, until we get it under control.

On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to help take the Biden-Harris covid plan and convert it into an action blueprint that will start on January the 20th, 2021.

That plan will be built on bedrock science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I will spare no effort, none, or any commitment to turn around this pandemic.

Folks, I’m a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did. Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now.

Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another. It’s not some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision, a choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.

And I believe that this is part of the mandate given to us from the American people. They want us to cooperate in their interest. And that’s the choice I’ll make. And I’ll call on Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to make that choice with me.

The American story is about slow, yet steadily widening the opportunities in America. And make no mistake, too many dreams have been deferred for too long. We must make the promises of the country real for everybody, no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity or their disability.

Folks, America has always, is shaped, by inflection points, by moments in time. We’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be. Lincoln in 1860 coming to save the Union. FDR in 1932, promising a beleaguered country a new deal. JFK in 1960 pledging a new frontier. And twelve years ago, when Barack Obama made history, he told us, yes, we can.

Well, folks, we stand at an inflection point. We have an opportunity to defeat despair, to build a nation of prosperity and purpose. We can do it. I know we can. I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. And what presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail. Tonight, the whole world is watching America, and I believe in our best, America is a beacon for the globe.

We will lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. I know I’ve always — believe many of you heard me say it — I’ve always believed we can define America in one word: possibilities. That in America, everyone should be given an opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.

You see, I believe in the possibilities of this country. We’re always looking ahead. Ahead to an America that is freer and more just. Ahead to an America that creates jobs with dignity and respect. Ahead to an America that cures diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. Ahead to an America that never leaves anyone behind. Ahead to an America that never gives up, never gives in, this great nation.

It’s always been a bad bet to bet against America. We’re good people. This is the United States of America. There’s never been anything, never been anything we’ve been not able to do when we’ve done it together.

Folks, the last days of the campaign, I began thinking about a hymn that means a lot to me and my family, particularly my deceased son, Beau. It captures the faith that sustains me, and which I believe sustains America.

And I hope — and I hope it can provide some comfort and solace to the 230,000 Americans who’ve lost a loved one to this terrible virus this year. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Hopefully, this hymn gives you solace as well.

And it goes like this: And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand. And now together, on eagles wings, we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do, with full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and each other, with love of country, a thirst for justice.

Let us be the nation that we know we can. A nation united, a nation strengthened. A nation healed. The United States of America, ladies and gentlemen, there’s never, never been anything we’ve tried we’ve not been able to do.

So I remember as my grandpa said when I walked out of his home when I was a kid up in Scranton, he said: “Joey, keep the faith.” And our grandmother, when she was alive, she yelled: “No, Joey, spread it.” Spread the faith.

God love you all. May God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you.

It was fitting and stirring that Joe Biden, the second Roman Catholic president of the US, would quote lyrics from the beloved Catholic hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings”.  Most Catholics know this song and it is and has been sung in our parishes here in Bothell.

It was quite an extra special day. Tonight, we will all sleep well.

But we knew that there would still be challenges in the days ahead , especially the new two months while Trump is still in office until Inauguration Day on Jan 20, 2021.

To our children and grandchildren, if you read this many years from today, we (mommy and I) just witnessed an extraordinary part of history and we’re glad to have been part of it by voting for Biden and helping defeat Donald Trump.

 

Galen S. Altavas

Galen Altavas has worked in both the private and public sectors both in the Philippines and the United States, as a rural banker, fishpond operator, marketing manager, financial analyst, IT manager and IT project manager. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Ateneo de Manila University and an MBA in Finance from the Seattle University in Seattle, WA. He resides in Baybay, Roxas City, Philippines and Seattle, WA.