America Left in Limbo Awaiting Presidential Election Results


UPDATED: November 6, 2020, 3:15 a.m.

Election Day is over. All the anxiety that came with it is here to stay.

A race that many liberals hoped would end in a Democratic landslide will come down to the wire, as Harvard students — along with the rest of the country — are left in a sleep-deprived state of disarray awaiting a conclusion to a pandemic-stricken election that has broken with tradition at every turn.

The race’s outcome remains a live question — for now. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has insisted he is on track to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold required to win the presidency, is closing in on President Donald J. Trump in Pennsylvania, a state that would deliver him the White House.


After initially trailing on election night in key midwestern swing states, Biden secured critical victories in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, leaving him just 6 electoral votes shy of the presidency, according to the Associated Press. The AP called Arizona for Biden, but with more than 7 percent of the vote outstanding in the state as of 3 a.m. Friday, other news organizations have been hesitant to follow.

The nation’s eyes remain fixed on the critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada, all of which remain too close to call.

Biden gained significant ground in both Pennsylvania and Georgia Thursday, leaving him on the brink of victory. President Trump’s lead in traditionally red Georgia shrunk to a mere sliver by the end of the day, with now less than 2,000 votes shy separating the candidates there. Given the razor-thin margin, the state is unlikely to be called soon.

In Pennsylvania, a state that Trump must win to have a path to 270, Biden is less than 20,000 votes shy of catching Trump, as of 3 a.m. Friday. More results are expected from the state in the early morning hours.

Wins for Biden in Nevada and Arizona would also put him above 27o electoral votes.

In a speech to supporters in Wilmington, Del., during the day on Wednesday, Biden expressed confidence in his standing.

“We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator [Kamala D.] Harris and I will be declared the winners,” he said. “So, I ask everyone to stay calm — all the people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed, and we’ll know very soon.”

President Trump also addressed the nation for the first time since election night on Thursday, delivering a slew of falsehoods in prepared remarks from the White House press briefing room as he claimed without evidence that “they’re trying to steal an election” from him.

“They’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen,” he said.

His campaign has mounted several legal challenges in an attempt to slow down the vote counting. In Pennsylvania, the president’s allies successfully went to court to get observers a closer position to watch ballot counting. Judges in Georgia and Michigan ruled against Trump.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said at the White House.

In fact, officials are counting legal votes — and Trump’s path to victory appears to be narrowing by the hour.

More than 73 million votes were cast for Biden — the most of any presidential candidate in U.S. history, breaking former President Barack Obama’s 2008 record. Trump trails Biden in the popular vote by more than 4 million votes.

On election night, President Trump slowly but surely racked up a cluster of southern victories in states Democrats hoped were in play, wiping away any chance of a landslide victory for Biden.

For Michael B. Baick ’22, the state of Florida is analogous to “Lucy holding the ball in front of Charlie Brown.”

Baick — along with many Democrats — had hoped Biden would be able to flip Florida, along with a handful of other normally red states near it — such as Texas — that appeared, based on polling averages, to be in play for the Democrats.

Those hopes disintegrated, as much the south trended in the same direction it did in 2016 — for Trump.

Trump held on to Florida, Ohio, and Texas, and he has a steady lead in North Carolina. His advantage in Georgia, which is home to 16 electoral votes, has become razor thin.

“I think the two scenarios of a 2016 repeat and a magical landslide both tugged at my imagination — like they tugged at everyone’s imagination, I think,” Baick said just after 1 a.m. Wednesday. “What we have going forward is taking hours or days to figure it out — that we were warned about, yet I think many of us did not take that possibility as seriously.”

In a rebuke of the democratic process, Trump portrayed himself as the victor after 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, declaring, “We will win this. As far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”

In fact, the president has not won the election.

“On the one hand, he did exactly what everybody thought he would do. And that is jarring,” Harvard Government professor Ryan D. Enos said of Trump’s remarks. “There’s no doubt that saying things like that is potentially very damaging to the functioning of democracies. And it falls exactly in line with the behavior of autocrats and other people that try to undermine democratic processes, and so it should be jarring.”

But Trump “telegraphed” that he was going to make such claims on Election Night, Enos said, and “it kind of undermines the legitimacy of his claims because everybody knew he was going to say it.”

“In that sense, elected officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan and these other states where they’re counting ballots were prepared for it, and they’ve continued to do their job, to their credit, and have continued to count ballots like they should be,” he said just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. “I think what we might see — and we hopefully will see — is that there’s some resiliency to American institutions that allow the Democratic process to unfold as it should, even if the face of a president that’s trying to undermine it.”

Despite Trump’s invocation of the Supreme Court, it may be difficult for the president’s allies to mount a legal challenge that halts all vote-counting, Enos said.

“People are going to attempt to bring this to the courts — there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “If the states are counting votes using rules that they clearly set out beforehand, by their legislature as was clearly written down in the U.S. Constitution, then it’s hard to imagine that the courts would come in and interfere in that in some way — or what the grounds would be for somebody even bringing suit about something like that.

“So far, it’s just not clear — other than just a general sense of being upset — what stands Trump or any of his supporters would have to challenge any of the results in those states,” he added.

For much of Harvard’s majority-liberal student body, the results that did get called Tuesday were crushing.

“I have seen the results so far, and I feel very much like they are a call to action,” Jessica Moore ’21, a Georgia native, said as election night results rolled in just after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. “They’re very revealing of what our country values. The fact that the race is still close to begin with, I find really upsetting because it means that almost a majority of our country is aligning themselves with racist, white supremecist, misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ values. And that is incredibly upsetting and very disheartening.”

For students, though, school rolls on — at least in theory.

“It feels a bit callous,” Moore said of the prospect of classes reassembling. “I think part of that has to do with the fact that it is a virtual semester as well because we’re not a unified force anymore on campus that can just be on Widener steps protesting or standing in solidarity or whatever students might find themselves activated to do as a result of the elections.”

“As of right now, I really couldn’t care less about what my lectures are on tomorrow,” she added. “And I’m unsure if I’ll attend them.”

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.