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Bristol student responses to the outcome of the US election

News broke on Saturday afternoon that Joe Biden officially won 2020 US Presidential election. Epigram talks to a handful of students about their response to the election results.

By Noa Blane Damelin, Digital Features Editor

News broke on Saturday afternoon that Joe Biden officially won the US Presidential election. This result has had a profound effect on a number of Bristol students, both in terms of their political engagement and emotional responses to what Biden's victory means for them. Epigram talks to a handful of students about their response to the election results.

‘Despite Biden’s win, I think it’s still really scary that there was such a slim majority and that half of America still voted for Trump,’ says Iona James, Third Year Politics and International Relations student.

While counting of votes is still ongoing eight days after election day, Biden has currently reached 290 votes in the American electoral system (called the Electoral College). This places him firmly over the threshold of 270 that is required for victory. However, the nature of Electoral College makes it easy to overstate how much of a lead Biden held over Trump.

Biden voters in Arizona. | Flickr / Gage Skidmore

In a number of states Biden only won the vote by a fraction of a percentage – so the popular vote was closer than his comfortable win in the Electoral College would indicate. For example, in Pennsylvania Biden only won by 45,000 votes. This was an election in which 6.7 million votes were cast, giving him only just over a half a percentage point lead over Trump.

The state of Pennsylvania is worth 20 Electoral College votes, and Biden’s narrow victory there propelled him to win the Presidency on Saturday afternoon.

First Year Law Masters student William Wood summarises his view on what the close election outcome indicates about American voters: ‘About the election outcome, I am concerned that the narrow margin shows how polarised American society is. I feel a huge amount of goodwill is needed to bridge gaps, but it seems things are almost designed for this kind of opposition in the American system.’

Increasing polarisation in American politics has been a hot topic over the past four years.

Democrats and Republicans have had an anatagonistic relationship throughout Trump’s Presidency, often played out on social media outlets such as Twitter. See examples of Trump attacking progressive Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi and, famously, Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election.

‘It seems things are almost designed for this kind of opposition in the American system.’

Second Year Politics and International Relations student Estelle Nilsson-Julien also commented on the polarisation in American politics, although she chooses to rather focus on a more optimistic vision of a future under Biden: ‘University students often criticise Biden for not being radical enough, however as his acceptance speech outlined, this is a time for healing a polarised nation and World. I feel Biden will be radical in contrast to Trump, and for that I am grateful.’

Nilsson-Julien volunteered as a phone-banker for the US Democratic Party in the lead-up to the election from her room here in Bristol, so she is uniquely placed to advocate for a Biden Presidency.

Nilsson-Julien also commented on one of the other most defining aspects of this race: the election of the first female Vice President in US history. ‘I am thrilled at the election of Kamala Harris, both from a historical perspective, the first female black Vice President, but also a great politician,’ she said.

Kamala Harris’ success in breaking this second-highest glass ceiling has also inspired another Bristol student, Third Year Politics and Philosophy student Maddy Baskerville.

Baskerville emphasised the importance of recalling the women who have fought in the past for Harris to get to where she is today. She commented, ‘In the documentary Hillary (2020), Clinton’s aide Cheryl Mills said “I don’t know that we’re ever ready for the person who has to blaze the trail. We're ready for the people who come after them.” I feel like Kamala’s success really shows this.’

Harris personally recognised the work of the countless women who blazed trails before her in her Vice Presidential acceptance speech on Saturday afternoon. She also promised to continue paving the way for future generations of American women and girls, saying ‘While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.’

The Bristol students who canvassed for the US Democrats
How the American election could affect Bristol and its students

The outcome of this Presidential election is still ongoing, as votes are still being counted in Georgia and in North Carolina. Votes are also still being counted for outcomes in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives (the two houses of US Congress).

However, the results of the election have clearly already affected Bristol students on a profound level, both in terms of political idealism and on a more personal and emotional level. In particular, the antagonism and polarisation in American society and the prospect of a new role for women in the highest political office have struck chords with students here in Bristol.

Featured Image: Christopher Michel / Flickr

Watch this video produced by UBTV to see more students discussing their reactions to the election outcome:

How do you feel about the outcome of the US Presidential election?

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