Joseph R. Biden Jr. was elected the 46th president of the United States on Saturday morning, rounding off an unorthodox election week in the 11th hour of an even more unorthodox presidency. Kamala D. Harris, an Oakland native and daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, is set to make history as the first woman — and woman of color — to serve as vice president.
Biden and Sen. Harris (D-Calif.) will take on a country in crisis, picking up the pieces of a Trump presidency criticized for its divisive rhetoric, unpredictable conduct and botched response to a pandemic that has taken the lives of 237,000 Americans. With Biden’s victory, President Donald J. Trump finds his place next to only 10 other presidents who failed to win reelection to a second term.
Many students expressed relief when the election was called, though professors warned that the impact of Trump’s policies and personality could continue to affect American democracy for years to come. Though support on campus for Biden was lukewarm during the primaries, with most students preferring more progressive candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), widespread animosity towards Trump encouraged some students to rally behind Biden.
The Democratic presidential ticket inched past 270 electoral votes at 8:24 a.m. PT with a victory in Pennsylvania, according to a projection by CNN, which was soon followed by the Associated Press, CBS, MSNBC, and Fox News. Biden urged the public, in a statement released by his campaign, to “put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal.”
While the three Stanford alums initially vying to be the Democratic nominee — Sen. Cory Booker ’91 M.A. ’92 (D-N.J.), Julián Castro ’96 and Tom Steyer MBA ’83 — dropped out of the race early, Stanford still made headlines in the days leading up to election day.
Stanford economists estimated that 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths were tied to 18 of President Trump’s campaign rallies held from June through September in a study cited later by former president Barack Obama, late-night show “Saturday Night Live,” The New York Times and other national papers.
And Hoover Institution senior fellow and Trump’s special advisor Dr. Scott Atlas drew criticism in the lead-up to the election for his role as an integral part of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. Stanford faculty and the larger scientific community have raised concerns that Atlas spread misinformation about COVID-19.
Stanford affiliates have been connected to both of the candidates. Colin Kahl, co-director of Center for International Security and Cooperation and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute, was Biden’s national security advisor during the Obama administration. Harris’ sister, Maya Harris J.D. ’98, chaired her sister’s primary campaign, and Harris’ father, Donald J. Harris, was the first Black scholar to receive tenure in Stanford’s economics department and is now a professor emeritus.
Former United Nations ambassador Susan Rice ’86, who was on Biden’s vice president pick shortlist in August, urged unity in a CNN interview: “We have got to remember that just like in a family, in a country we have so much more in common than that which divides us,” she said.
When asked about a possible role in the future administration, Rice said that she “will serve in any capacity — or not — that Joe Biden thinks is best,” adding that today was not about her but about the United States of America and the historic election of Harris as the first woman of color to be elected vice president.
Professors push back on Trump’s election integrity challenges
Trump received the news at his Virginia golf course while Biden was at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Trump has refused to concede the election and promised lawsuits challenging the outcome.
Trump’s baseless claims about the integrity of the election — calling for an end to counting absentee and mail-in ballots, framing the election as rigged and fraught with fraud and challenging the results of the election — drew criticism for their role in undermining the democratic process.
Some Republicans condemned the president’s remarks. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) tweeted that while legal inquiries into election results are a part of the constitutional process, Trump “is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen.” Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan tweeted that “there is no defense for the President’s comments … America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”
Larry Diamond ’74 M.A. ’78 Ph.D. ’80, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and former director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, characterized Trump’s conduct as “dangerous,” undermining the electoral process and potentially inciting violence.
“It’s unseemly for a president of the United States to be, without any evidence or foundation, broadly, delegitimizing the votes of a sizable number of Americans,” Diamond said. “It diminishes faith in the democratic process.”
Reflecting on the president’s attempts to delegitimize election results, Andrew Hall ’09, political science professor and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, said that “figuring out a way to administer our elections, in a way that [a] broad majority of Americans believe is legitimate is going to be one of the central challenges of American politics in the coming years.”
Hall called for “common sense” electoral reforms and ensuring “the functioning of our electoral system … is communicated effectively to so many Americans who don’t know how the system works, which leaves them open to these sorts of claims about frauds.”
And while the Trump presidency is coming to a close, some Stanford professors believe that “Trumpism” — an ideology centered on the president’s stances and one “steeped in the politics of grievance and resentment” — will not. Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily, political science assistant professor Hakeem Jefferson and political science professor Bruce Cain predicted in a Thursday webinar the persistence of the “Trump formula” in Republican politics.
‘A beacon of hope’
After four days of anxiously awaiting election results, students woke up Saturday to a more definitive picture of the next four years.
Stanford College Republicans (SCR) echoed the president’s contested claims and remained adamant that the election “is not over” yet, despite all major news organizations calling the election in Biden’s favor. SCR further praised Trump as a fighter for the conservative movement and condemned a Biden presidency as a “vote for division and disunity.”
Stanford Democrats declared in a Saturday morning tweet that the Biden-Harris victory indicated a “bright future ahead.”
Stanford Democrats co-president Kevin Li ’22 wrote in a statement to The Daily that members were elated by the decision, but also recognized the daunting “task of building a new brand of American politics, one which every American can be proud of.”
Cardinal for Biden spent Saturday celebrating the news. President of the organization, Chloe Stoddard ’21, wrote in a statement to The Daily that the Stanford campus will feel the impact of the election “because we will no longer have a president that encourages white supremacy and instead one that will listen to those fighting for equity and justice for all.”
As an advocate for Title IX policy reform, she is especially looking forward to Biden’s pick for new Secretary of Education to replace Betsy DeVos and “hopefully create more survivor-centered policies.”
Stanford in Government chair, Antonia Hellman ’21 wrote that there was also a sense of relief among the nonpartisan group’s members after the long-awaited results were announced.
“This relief wasn’t about the exact outcome of the election per se, rather it was more a reaction to months of speculation and stress — from all sides,” Hellman wrote in an email to The Daily.
Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) President Vianna Vo ’21 and Senate Chair Micheal Brown ’22 wrote that results came as a relief and encouraged hope. Both student government leaders encourage the campus community to use this to engage in campus, national, and global issues — viewing the election as just the starting point.
Brown wrote he was not surprised with the election outcome but was especially pleased with “the flexing of Black and urban political muscle in the closing moments of vote counting.”
“Change does not come from political parties and power to make radical change is not simply given,” Brown wrote. “Moving forward, we are looking to go beyond only advocating for change and to be more responsive to student needs.”
Vo wrote about the need for students to take time to process the news: “Do not be afraid to ask for extensions on assignments, to take a day off for yourself, and to take advantage of the support systems that Stanford has.”
Stanford alums in Congress, some of whom celebrated electoral victories of their own in the past few days, congratulated Biden on his win.
“America is a beacon of hope again,” Rep. Joaquin Castro ’96 (D-Tex.) wrote on Twitter.
Booker, who won reelection in New Jersey, also congratulated Harris.
“I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing,” he tweeted. “For the first time, a Black and South Asian woman has been elected Vice President of the United States. My sister has made history and blazed a trail for future generations to follow.”
This article has been updated to include comments from Cardinal for Biden.
Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu, Kaushikee Nayudu at knayudu ‘at’ stanford.edu and Anastasia Malenko at malenk0 ‘at’ stanford.edu.