Kamala Harris pays tribute to Black women in VP acceptance speech

Kamal Harris

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. 

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris on Saturday paid tribute to the women, particularly Black women, whose shoulders she stands on as she shatters barriers that have kept mostly white men entrenched at the highest levels of American politics for more than two centuries.

“Tonight I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been,” Harris said, wearing a white suit in tribute to women’s suffrage. President-elect Joe Biden had the character and audacity “to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country, and select a woman and his vice president.” she added.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Harris said in her first post-election address to the nation.

The 56-year-old California senator, also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, represents the multiculturalism that defines America but is largely absent from Washington’s power centers. Her Black identity has allowed her to speak in personal terms in a year of reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism. As

the highest-ranking woman ever elected in American government, her victory gives hope to women who were devastated by Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago.

Harris told little children to “dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’re never seen it before.” After Biden’s speech, she was joined on stage by her family, including her two grandnieces who wore white dresses.

A rising star in Democratic politics for much of the last two decades, Harris served as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator. After she ended her own 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, Joe Biden tapped her as his running mate. They will be sworn in as president and vice president on Jan. 20.

Biden’s running mate selection carried added significance because he will be the oldest president ever inaugurated, at 78, and hasn’t committed to seeking a second term in 2024.

Harris often framed her candidacy as part of the legacy of pioneering Black women who came before her, including educator Mary McLeod Bethune, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nomination, in 1972.

She paid tribute to Black women “who are too often overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”

Despite the excitement surrounding Harris, she and Biden face steep challenges, including a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on people of color, and a series of police killings of Black Americans that have deepened racial tensions. Harris' past work as a prosecutor has prompted skepticism among progressives and young voters who are looking to her to back sweeping institutional change over incremental reforms in policing, drug policy and more.

Jessica Byrd, who leads the Movement for Black Lives' Electoral Justice Project and The Frontline, a multiracial coalition effort to galvanize voters, said she plans to engage in the rigorous organizing work needed to push Harris and Biden toward more progressive policies.

“I deeply believe in the power of Black women’s leadership, even when all of our politics don’t align,” Byrd said. “I want us to be committed to the idea that representation is exciting and it’s worthy of celebration and also that we have millions of Black women who deserve a fair shot.”

Harris is the second Black woman elected to the Senate. Her colleague, Sen. Cory Booker, who is also Black, said her very presence makes the institution “more accessible to more people” and suggested she would accomplish the same with the vice presidency.

Harris was born in 1964 to two parents active in the civil rights movement. Shyamala Gopalan, from India, and Donald Harris, from Jamaica, met at the University of California, Berkeley, then a hotbed of 1960s activism. They divorced when Harris and her sister were girls, and Harris was raised by her late mother, whom she considers the most important influence in her life.

“When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible,” Harris said Saturday night.

Kamala is Sanskrit for “lotus flower,” and Harris gave nods to her Indian heritage throughout the campaign, including with a callout to her “chitthis,” a Tamil word for a maternal aunt, in her first speech as Biden’s running mate. When Georgia Sen. David Perdue mocked her name in an October rally, the hashtag #MyNameIs took off on Twitter, with South Asians sharing the meanings behind their names.

The mocking of her name by Republicans, including Trump, was just one of the attacks Harris faced. Trump and his allies sought to brand her as radical and a socialist despite her more centrist record, an effort aimed at making people uncomfortable about the prospect of a Black woman in leadership. She was the target of online disinformation laced with racism and sexism about her qualifications to serve as president.

Joe Biden

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her family watch fireworks on stage in Wilmington, Del., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)AP

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington said Harris' power comes not just from her life experience but also from the people she already represents. California is the nation’s most populous and one of its most diverse states; nearly 40% of people are Latino and 15% are Asian. In Congress, Harris and Jayapal have teamed up on bills to ensure legal representation for Muslims targeted by Trump’s 2017 travel ban and to extend rights to domestic workers.

“That’s the kind of policy that also happens when you have voices like ours at the table,” said Jayapal, who in 2016 was the first South Asian woman elected to the U.S. House.

Harris' mother raised her daughters with the understanding the world would see them as Black women, Harris has said, and that is how she describes herself today.

She attended Howard University, one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s first sorority created by and for Black women. She campaigned regularly at HBCUs and tried to address the concerns of young Black men and women eager for strong efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

Her victory could usher more Black women and people of color into politics.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who considers Harris a mentor, views Harris' success through the lens of her own identity as the granddaughter of a sharecropper.

“African Americans are not far removed from slavery and the horrors of racism in this country, and we’re still feeling the impacts of that with how we’re treated and what’s happening around this racial uprising,” she said. Harris' candidacy “instills a lot of pride and a lot of hope and a lot of excitement in what is possible.”

Harris is married to a Jewish man, Doug Emhoff, whose children from a previous marriage call her “Momala.” The excitement about her candidacy extends to women across races.

Friends Sarah Lane and Kelli Hodge, each with three daughters, brought all six girls to a Harris rally in Phoenix in the race’s closing days. “This car is full of little girls who dream big. Go Kamala!” read a sign taped on the car’s trunk.

Lane, a 41-year-old attorney who is of Hispanic and Asian heritage, volunteered for Biden and Harris, her first time ever working for a political campaign. Asked why she brought her daughters, ages 6, 9, and 11, to see Harris, she answered, “I want my girls to see what women can do.”

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Biden defeats Trump to become 46th president, AP projects

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee, left, and Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic vice presidential nominee, wear protective masks while holding hands outside the Chase Center during the Democratic National Convention in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Joe Biden has won the 2020 presidential election, the Associated Press projected Saturday, sending President Trump to a bitter defeat four years after he shocked the world by winning the White House with a victory over Hillary Clinton.

Biden crossed the 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College on Saturday after the AP called Pennsylvania for him. He was also able to capture Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona, states that Trump carried in 2016. 

Other states remain too close to call, and the Trump campaign has filed multiple lawsuits to contest the legitimacy of certain ballots. The fate of those challenges was obscured Thursday after Biden was projected to have won the Electoral College. 

Biden now holds the record for the most number of votes cast for any presidential candidate in history — more than 73 million — shattering the previous mark (69,500,000) set by Barack Obama in 2008. He leads Trump by nearly 4 million votes nationwide.

The former vice president, who turns 78 this month, won his bid for the White House on his third attempt, becoming the oldest person ever elected president in the U.S. His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is the first Black woman and first Asian American elected vice president in U.S. history.

Trump, however, has signaled that he is not likely to concede defeat quickly. In a Wednesday tweet, the president declared without evidence that he had won in Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina. 

“We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (which won’t allow legal observers) the State of Georgia, and the State of North Carolina, each one of which has a BIG Trump lead,” Trump wrote in tweets that were quickly flagged on Twitter as containing disputed or misleading election information. “Additionally, we hereby claim the State of Michigan if, in fact, there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported!”

Hours earlier, the Trump campaign announced it would seek a recount in Wisconsin, another state the AP said Biden had won. 

On Thursday, as it became clear that his early lead in states like Pennsylvania and Georgia was eroding as more ballots were tabulated, Trump posted a dramatic tweet that read, “STOP THE COUNT!”

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Then in a White House speech without precedent in American history, Trump flailed at the media, pollsters, election officials, mail-in voting, judges and Democrat-led U.S. cities Thursday evening, as his rival Joe Biden continued to inch toward a win in the 2020 election.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said, though no state allows the counting of illegally cast votes. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”

Ahe president portrayed the counting of legally cast mail-in ballots as improper — an assault on American democracy by the president himself.

“Our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away, in secret,” Trump said, again without evidence. “This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election. They’re trying to rig an election. And we can’t let that happen.”

Biden’s election was as much about rallying support among Democrats, independents and even some Republicans with a message of unity as it was a repudiation of Trump, whose approval rating, according to Gallup, never hit 50 percent.

In poll after poll leading up to Election Day, large majorities of voters disapproved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 234,000 Americans and infected more than 9.5 million in the U.S., including him.

Throughout the pandemic, Trump sought to downplay the virus, mocking Biden for wearing a mask and falsely claiming that the United States is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic at a time when cases and deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise. As the race for the White House pushed into October and November, the country set a string of new daily records for coronavirus cases and saw a dramatic spike in states that Trump needed to win to secure his reelection. 

After recovering from his own bout with the disease caused by exposure to the coronavirus — which led to a three-day hospitalization and forced the cancellation of one presidential debate — the president returned to the campaign trail in mid-October, holding rallies where he and many of his supporters eschewed the recommendations from public health officials to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulls off his protective face mask as he poses atop the Truman Balcony of the White House after returning from being hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment, in Washington, U.S. October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

President Trump pulls off his protective face mask as he poses atop the Truman Balcony of the White House on Oct. 5, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Biden campaign offered a sharp contrast, adhering to guidelines from Trump’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, avoiding large rallies and making attendees at campaign events wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. 

Biden overcame numerous attacks from Trump on the campaign trail, including claims of cognitive lapses (Trump branded him “Sleepy Joe”) and questions about his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and China. Trump even called on Attorney General William Barr to launch an investigation into the Bidens just two weeks before Election Day. (Barr did not.) 

Trump, who sought to paint his opponent as a closet socialist being manipulated by the progressive wing of his party, falsely claimed that Biden wanted to “defund” the police and argued that a Biden presidency would “destroy” the suburbs and embrace antifa.

He also floated wild conspiracy theories and disinformation about Biden and other Democratic figures that had been promoted by right-wing activists on social media.

But none of the punches managed to land, infuriating the president and the GOP.

“If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 campaign rally.

The president also accused Democrats of trying to “steal” the election, falsely claiming that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud.

The pandemic caused many states to expand early-voting options, and a record 101 million ballots were cast either in person or by mail before Election Day.

In 2016, Trump won office by riding a populist message against a deeply unpopular establishment candidate in Clinton. But polls showed Biden as far more popular with the electorate than the former secretary of estate, giving him more ways to win the election.

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he pulls off his face mask to speak about the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election during an appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Joe Biden smiles as he pulls off his face mask to speak about the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election during an appearance in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 4, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Biden, a Scranton, Pa., native, began his presidential campaign in April 2019, joining an already crowded field of Democrats with a video denouncing Trump for his response to the violent white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017. While speaking out against the violent clashes that erupted among white supremacists and counterprotesters, Trump infamously said there were “some very fine people on both sides.”

“With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it,” Biden said in the video. “And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.”

He carried that message into the general election campaign, promising that his election would “restore the soul of the nation.”

Biden shrugged off disappointing performances in early primary and caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, gaining his footing after a crucial win in South Carolina, where he was buoyed by the support of African American voters wary of the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who had emerged as the frontrunner. Biden went on to control of the race,  winning 10 of 14 states on Super Tuesday in March. Sanders dropped out of the race and quickly endorsed Biden, paving the way for his nomination.

In August, Biden, who had promised to pick a woman as his running mate, announced his choice of Harris shortly before the Democratic convention. The senator from California, who lost her own bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, had clashed with Biden during the first primary debate by attacking his record on race. But after ending her campaign, she endorsed the former vice president and stumped for him in Michigan ahead of Super Tuesday.

While Biden enjoyed a wave of support among Democrats, he was also backed by “Never Trump” Republicans who opposed the president from the start of his term or became disillusioned by what they considered to be his chaotic and divisive style of governing. During the campaign, Biden was endorsed by dozens of Republican former national security officials, U.S. attorneys and governors, including former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, former Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of the 2008 Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. 

Biden now faces the enormous challenge of attempting to unify a country deeply divided by partisan politics. While that reality predated Trump’s time in office, it also crystallized over the last four years. 

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born in Scranton, Pa., on Nov. 20, 1942, to Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Biden (née Finnegan) and Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. He was raised in Scranton and New Castle County, Del.

Biden studied at the University of Delaware before earning his law degree from Syracuse University in 1968. 

He married his first wife, Neilia Hunter, in 1966. They had three children: Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III (born 1969), Robert “Hunter” Biden (1970) and Naomi Christina Biden (1971). A month after he won his first race for the U.S. Senate in 1972, Neilia and Naomi died in a car accident that also injured his sons. 

During his six terms in the Senate, Biden commuted by train between his Delaware home and Washington, D.C. — 90 minutes each way.

He met his second wife, Jill, in 1975, and they married in 1977, having a daughter, Ashley,  in 1981.

Biden mounted two unsuccessful presidential bids, in 1988 (which was marred by a plagiarism scandal) and 2008 (which he lost to Barack Obama, who ultimately picked him as his running mate).

He flirted with the idea of running again in 2016 but was too grief-stricken over the loss of his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.

“Beau should be the one running for president, not me,” he told MSNBC host Joe Scarborough in January. “Every morning I get up, Joe, not a joke, and I think to myself, ‘Is he proud of me?’”

 

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BREAKING NEWS IT’S OFFICIAL: BIDEN WINS WHITE HOUSE

Biden campaign raises $48 million in two days after naming Harris as running mate

Trump, Biden locked in close race as vote-counting stalls

Democrats expecting a comfortable victory in the presidential election found themselves in a nail-biter instead, as the race remained in limbo past midnight Tuesday. 

By early Wednesday, Joe Biden led with 236 electoral votes to 213 for President Trump, both well short of the 270 necessary to win the presidency. Biden also had a narrow edge in the popular vote. 

On the eve of the election, Biden led in virtually every national poll and in most battleground states. But Trump appeared to gain ground in several in the final week of the campaign, during which he crisscrossed the country, concentrating on Florida and the Midwest, holding multiple rallies nearly every day.

Biden addressed supporters in Wilmington, Del. shortly after midnight, saying “We feel good about where we are. We really do. I’m here to tell you tonight we believe we’re on track to win this election.”

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At 2:20 a.m., President Trump spoke to a crowd in the White House, running down the list of states where he was ahead or in a position to take the lead. “We had such a big night,” he boasted. “They knew they couldn’t win, so they said, let’s go to court.

“Frankly, we did win this election.”

"We will be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump’s remarks met with criticism from some unexpected sources including Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator, who said on CNN, “I was very distressed by what I just heard the president say.”

Bolstered by unexpected strength among Hispanic voters, Trump won comfortably in Florida and Texas, states Democrats had hoped to flip to their side. Biden won Arizona, and although behind in the count in Georgia had a shot at winning that Republican state as well, after a burst water pipe delayed the counting of votes in the heavily Democratic suburbs of Atlanta. 

 But the election appeared to be coming down to the same three states — the traditionally Democratic “blue wall” of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — that decided the 2016 contest for Trump. 

Trump held a lead in early returns in those states, reflecting the expected Republican advantage in same-day voting, which got counted first. Democrats were hoping to make up the difference with mail-in ballots. The coronavirus pandemic led many states to expand early voting options, and a record number of ballots, more than 100 million, were cast either in person or by mail before Election Day.

Most states allowed mail ballots to be opened weeks ahead of Election Day so they could be counted quickly, but in the three key states Republican-controlled legislatures  refused to allow election clerks to open mail ballots in advance. 

 Trump, who had attacked the safety of mail ballots for months, insisted that the vote counting should stop on election night. Republicans brought lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to prevent election officials in various states from counting late-arriving mail-in votes. Most of those efforts failed, although appeals were planned or still in progress in some cases. 

Philadelphia election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 general election in the United States at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

“If people wanted to get their ballots in, they should have gotten their ballots in long before [Election Day], a long time,” Trump told reporters Sunday, adding: “We’re going in the night of — as soon as the election is over — we’re going in with our lawyers.”

Groups that included Trump’s own former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, launched $6 million in TV ads this week trying to educate the public that Trump cannot stop the counting of legitimate ballots. 

Trump has also said he does not want mail ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted if they arrive after Election Day, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled they can be counted up until this Friday, Nov. 6, as long as they were postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day, or if they had no postmark or an unclear postmark.

The Republican Party took that issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, which deadlocked 4-4 two weeks ago on this issue, which meant the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision stood. But Trump has signaled that the GOP will go to court quickly to try to stop that, hoping that newly confirmed conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett might cast a tie-breaking vote in their favor.

Most mail ballots in Pennsylvania — at least 2.5 million out of 3 million requested — arrived before or on Election Day, so they must be counted no matter what. But if Republicans are able to stop even a few hundred thousand mail ballots from being counted, that could have a significant impact on the results there, and for the presidency. 

President Donald Trump supporter Loretta Oakes reacts while watching returns in favor of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, at a Republican election-night watch party, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

Republicans have also filed a lawsuit to throw out mail ballots that were received after elections officials in some counties contacted voters to alert them to problems with their ballot, in a process known as “curing.”

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that Minnesota ballots received after Election Day wouldn’t be counted, even though the instructions said they could be received up to seven days after Tuesday as long as they were postmarked on or before Nov. 3. Pennsylvania — which has a Democratic governor, secretary of state and attorney general — has announced it will separate ballots that arrive after Election Day from the ones that came earlier, so that a court ruling invalidating late-arriving votes can be obeyed without having to throw out all mail ballots.

Democrats have been sounding the alarm for months that Trump might contest election results or declare victory based on early returns that are expected to favor him. A premature victory proclamation would have no legal standing — states have until Dec. 8 to finish ballot counting and appoint their representatives to the Electoral College, which meets on Dec. 14. 

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DAY OF DESTINY — U.S. BRACES — NEARLY 100 MIL EARLY VOTES

Nearly 100 million Americans voted early, and now it falls to Election Day voters to finish the job.

After a campaign marked by rancor and fear, Americans on Tuesday decide between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, selecting a leader to steer a nation battered by a surging pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people, cost millions their jobs and reshaped daily life.

Nearly 100 million Americans voted early, and now it falls to Election Day voters to finish the job, ending a campaign that was upended by the coronavirus and defined by tensions over who could best address it. Each candidate declared the other fundamentally unfit to lead a nation grappling with COVID-19 and facing foundational questions about racial justice and economic fairness.

Lisa Carrera, a former Los Angeles Unified School history teacher from La Puente, Calif., holds the hand of her grandson Mave
Lisa Carrera, a former Los Angeles Unified School history teacher from La Puente, Calif., holds the hand of her grandson Maverick, 2, after casting her ballot in-person at the Top of the Park at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Biden entered Election Day with multiple paths to victory while Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 Electoral College votes. Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.

Voters braved long lines and the threat of the virus to cast ballots as they chose between two starkly different visions of America for the next four years. The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it will be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result.

Fighting to the end for every vote, Biden was headed to Philadelphia and his native Scranton on Tuesday as part of a closing get-out-the-vote effort before awaiting election results in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, was visiting Detroit, a heavily Black city in battleground Michigan. Both of their spouses were headed out, too, as the Democrats reached for a clear victory.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden walks with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden into St Joseph
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden walks with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden into St Joseph On the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump, after a morning appearance on his favored network, Fox News Channel, planned to visit his campaign headquarters in Virginia. He invited hundreds of supporters to an election night party in the East Room of the White House.

The hard-fought campaign left voters on both sides eager to move on.

“I just want it to be done,” said Starlet Holden, a 26-year-old medical biller from New York City, who planned to vote for Biden but spoke for many on both sides of the campaign.

On their final full day on the campaign trail, Trump and Biden broke sharply over the mechanics of the vote itself while visiting the most fiercely contested battleground, Pennsylvania.

The Republican president threatened legal action to block the counting of ballots received after Election Day. If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Trump claimed without evidence that “cheating can happen like you have never seen.”

In fact, there are roughly 20 states that allow mail-in ballots received after Election Day to be counted — up to nine days and longer in some states. Litigation has centered on just a few where states have made changes in large part due to the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump gestures as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, after
President Donald Trump gestures as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, after stepping off Marine One and greeting supporters. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden told voters in Pennsylvania that the very fabric of the nation was at stake and offered his own election as the firmest rebuke possible to a president who he said had spent “four years dividing us at every turn.”

“Tomorrow’s the beginning of a new day. Tomorrow we can put an end to a president that’s left hardworking Americans out in the cold!” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “If you elect me as president, I’m gonna act to heal this country.”

Trump argued, at a stop in Wisconsin, that Biden was “not what our country needs.” He added: “This isn’t about — yeah, it is about me, I guess, when you think about it.”

For Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe. In a country divided along lines of race and class, he often acted as an insurgent against the very government he led, undercutting its scientists and bureaucracy and doing battle with the media.

Lady Gaga speaks during a drive-in campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden i
Lady Gaga speaks during a drive-in campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden in the parking lot outside of Heinz Field on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

The nation braced for what was to come — and a result that might not be known for days.

A new anti-scale fence was erected around the White House. And in downtowns ranging from New York to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses lest the vote lead to unrest of the sort that broke out earlier this year amid protests over racial inequality.

Just a short walk from the White House, for block after block, stores had their windows and doors covered. Some kept just a front door open, hoping to attract a little business.

Both candidates voted early, but first lady Melania Trump was set to cast her ballot Tuesday near Mar-a-Lago, the couple’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The candidates blitzed through the battleground states on Monday, with Biden also pushing into Ohio, a state once thought to be safe for Trump. The president, for his part, packed in five rallies, Air Force One streaking across the sky as he drew crowds in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and then back in Michigan again.

His finale stretched past midnight in Grand Rapids, where he had also held his last rally in 2016. It marked the end of an era in American politics, one in part defined by the massive and exuberant gatherings that the president continued to hold despite warnings from his government’s own public health experts to avoid crowds during the pandemic.

A supporter of President Donald Trump listens to him speak during a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, e
A supporter of President Donald Trump listens to him speak during a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, early Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The next president will inherit an anxious nation, reeling from a once-in-a-century heath crisis that has closed schools and businesses and that is worsening as the weather turns cold.

Trump in Grand Rapids insisted anew that the nation was “rounding the turn” on the virus. But Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, broke with the president and joined a chorus of Trump administration scientists sounding the alarm about the current spike in infections.

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic,” Birx wrote in a memo distributed to top administration officials. She added that the nation was not implementing “balanced” measures needed to slow the spread of the virus. One recipient confirmed the contents that were initially reported Monday by The Washington Post.

The pandemic has shadowed the campaign, which has largely been a referendum of Trump’s handling of the virus.

In Concord, New Hampshire, 70-year-old Linda Eastman said she was giving her vote to Trump, saying, “Maybe he wasn’t perfect with the coronavirus, but I think he did the best that he could with what he had.”

In Virginia Beach, it was a vote for Biden from 54-year-old Gabriella Cochrane, who said she thought the former vice president would “surround himself with the brightest and the best” to fight the pandemic.

The challenge of counting a record-setting early vote added a layer of uncertainty to an election marked by suspicions fueled by an incumbent who has consistently trailed in the polls.

Trump, in Pennsylvania, zeroed in on the state’s process to count mail-in votes that arrive after Election Day, vowing that “we’re going in with our lawyers” as soon as the polls close. He tweeted — without evidence — that “violence in the street” could follow the Supreme Court’s decision to grant an extension to count the votes arriving after Tuesday.

Trump offered himself to voters as the same outsider he first pitched to voters four years ago, insisting he’s still not a politician. Presenting himself as the last barrier protecting an American way of life under siege from radical forces, he repeatedly tried to portray Biden, who is considered a moderate Democrat, as a tool of extreme leftists.

Biden, for his part, cast Trump as an incompetent leader in a time of crisis, trying to connect what he saw as the president’s failures in containing the virus and on other matters to the everyday lives of Americans.

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