Students react to Joe Biden win, critical of the future

Some students attended a celebration at Venice Beach after the projected win of President-elect Joe Biden. (Photo courtesy of Javier Calleja Erdmann)

The news of Joe Biden’s presidential election win Saturday morning sparked celebrations in cities across the United States as well as protests from adamant supporters of President Donald Trump. At USC, responses to the election were also mixed, with some students joining in on the festivities across Los Angeles and others expressing apprehension about the country’s future. 

Javier Calleja Erdmann, a junior majoring in international relations, said he attended a celebration at Venice Beach where he joined a few hundred mask-wearing people high-fiving and dancing in the streets.

“It was such a joyous, energetic environment. Just a lot of love all around,” Calleja Erdmann said. “It felt super inclusive, there was all types of people of all ages, genders, sexual identities, etc. Truly all types of people and it was just this really kind of unifying celebration of people who are just happy.”

At Sunset Boulevard, Brigid Murphy, a junior majoring in public relations, stumbled upon people playing music and waving flags. She said she joined the street celebration because it was “amazing and uplifting to see,” but when she thinks about the next four years, her feelings are “hopeful but realistic.”

Murphy described Biden as a “transitional” rather than “transformational” president, two presidential characterizations discussed in her Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism class with professor Dan Schnur. Murphy said that while some criticize transitional presidents for being uninspiring, she believes a transition is needed right now.

“Whether it be just a transition to more cooperation across the aisle and more respect, or whether it be a transition to greater progressive politics, I think Joe Biden is not quite the candidate most liberals hope for, but I think he’s going to set a path in the right direction and transition into a better era for everyone,” Murphy said.

Members of the Trojan Left, USC’s progressive student organization, expressed views aligning with Murphy’s suggestion that Biden was not every liberal’s dream. Garrett Humble and Jack Green, social media organizers for the organization who identify as anarcho-communists, both said they felt a mixture of relief and disappointment when Biden’s win was announced.

Humble, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics, said he was glad Trump was voted out of office but that the overall election was still a loss. The margin should not have been that close, he said, and reflected the “inherent anti-democratic institutions that we have in our government — that you have to win by that much to get rid of a proto-fascist.”

“What made me sad about the election results was the fact that after months and months of Democrats saying that Biden is the most electable candidate, and that centrist middle of the road positions are what wins, the Democrats have not won the Senate, and it’s highly possible that they will not in these Georgia runoff elections.”

Leading up to the election, Democrats ran expensive ad campaigns and efforts to encourage voter turn-out, hoping a “Blue Wave” would sweep over the Senate. While votes are still being counted, the “Blue Wave” does not seem as powerful as Democrats had hoped. For the party to win the Senate majority, they’ll need a sweep of Georgia — where two runoff elections are set for early January. 

Moving forward, Humble said he hopes the Democratic Party will stop “holding progressive voices hostage” and either reform, following the direction of politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, or establish a third party — which he said was the “unofficial official” stance of the Trojan Left. 

In messages to the Daily Trojan, the University’s official Republican student organization USC GOP declined to comment on the election results. 

Regardless of where students stand on the political spectrum, it is undisputed that the Biden-Harris win will stand in history. Harris’s election, as a Black and South Asian American woman, marks the first time the U.S. has seen a vice president with any of her intersectional identities.

Freshman Sasha Hussain, a biology major and the political director for the Trojan Democrats, said Harris’s speech on Saturday night was inspiring for her as a young woman of color. When the Biden-Harris victory was announced, Hussain said she felt relief because she finally saw representation and a less worrying future.

Her reaction in 2020 stands in contrast to how she felt in 2016, when Trump was elected. She remembered a classmate, who knew Hussain was a naturalized citizen, asking if Hussain would get deported. Since then, Hussain said she has observed an amplification of microaggressions and a regression in political efforts to combat systemic issues such as police violence. 

Despite Hussain’s relief, she said Biden’s election is just the first step in a longer fight against these issues.

“We need to continue fighting and continue holding Biden and Harris accountable for what they promised,” Hussain said. “We definitely have a lot of work to do.”

Green, a junior majoring in history and art, agreed that there is more work to be done and emphasized the role of individuals in continuing the fight — albeit with more censure against the Democratic Party. 

“I think the most effective thing you can do is to go out and protest … and don’t capitulate to the Democratic Party just because they were the lesser of two evils. It’s imperative right now, more than anything, that people stand up for what they believe in, to stand up for climate justice, for racial liberation, for trans rights. It’s issues like these that are driven fundamentally by actions of the people, not the actions of the state,” Green said. “Take from this election what you will, but our action does not stop here.”