After a bitter election campaign that capped a tumultuous four years under President Donald Trump, Minnesotans on both sides of the political divide held out hope that President-elect Joe Biden can help America come together again.
“Our country needs to start working together. I pray for it: Stop the hate,” said Jeanne Sheehan of Austin, Minn., a Trump voter. “Never going to get anywhere with rioting and arguments and fighting.
“I don’t want people to judge anybody else by for whom they voted,” she added. “We need a peaceful leader that is going to lead.”
On the campus of Macalester College in St. Paul, Sami Banat lounged under an elm tree on the sunny campus quad, his laptop open to the latest election news.
“What Joe Biden has been campaigning on since he got in this race is uniting the divisions in this country,” said Banat, a freshman from St. Anthony Park who was Minnesota coordinator for Rock the Vote, an organization dedicated to engaging young people in politics. “He’s not going to be my way or the highway, like Trump has been.”
Spontaneous small celebrations broke out around the Twin Cities when Biden's win was reported. People waved flags in the street and Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" blared from windows.
An exuberant crowd gathered on Lake Street near the former Third Precinct police headquarters, chanting and cheering. The gathering was a repurposing of a rally planned earlier this week sponsored by a host of Democratic and liberal organizations.
Chloe Jackson of Minneapolis was among those joining the Lake Street celebration. "These last four years have been really hard under the Trump administration," she said. "He hasn’t supported Black people. He hasn’t supported people of color’s lives at all."
Meanwhile, hundreds of Trump supporters congregated on the front steps of the Minnesota State Capitol, many wearing MAGA hats and waving Trump/Pence flags. "Stop the steal!" they chanted.
In the Kingfield neighborhood of south Minneapolis, dozens of adults and children hustled down to 40th Street and Nicollet Avenue. They waved flags, banged on drums and tambourines and cheered as cars drove by honking in support of Biden's projected victory.
Kyrra Rankine and her neighbors had planned to walk down to the intersection last night when the race was called. She and her daughter made some banners in preparation. "I feel like we just kept waiting for the answer," Rankine said. "I stayed up until 2 in the morning every night and it kept not coming in. And finally it came in."
This morning, a group of them walked down from their block, raising noise and dancing in the street. She said she hadn't felt this way since 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected president; she was looking forward for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to set an example for her young daughter of color.
Once again, Minnesota is expected to lead the nation in voter turnout, with 79.3% of registered voters casting a ballot. The state gave its 10 electoral votes to Biden, who got 52.4% of the vote to Trump’s 45.3%.
Many voters were reflective, assessing the challenges faced by a country that has perhaps seen more turmoil in recent years than at any time in the past half-century.
Elise Eckert, a recent University of Minnesota graduate, hopes that Biden will swiftly work to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
“In January, one of the most important things to get done is a national mask mandate. Let’s handle this virus before we deal with the economy,” said Eckert, who was a Biden delegate to the Democratic National Convention. “Then once we deal with that, we can get to the issues that Democrats have been waiting to deal with for the past four years,”
Peg Furshong, a community organizer in western Minnesota, stressed the importance of bringing new voices to the table.
“The thing that comes to mind for me is, I appreciate the fact that [Biden] is talking about being a president for all the people, and not just half the people,” said Furshong, a resident of Sacred Heart, Minn. “That tells me that he realizes there’s a huge number of people who don’t feel valued or feel heard in our system.
“I hope going through this process has really created an awareness among leadership in this country that it’s not us vs. them,” Furshong added. “It’s: What do we care about and what do we do about it?”
Fred Kirschman, a Trump voter, said he was disappointed his candidate lost, but “the world will go on.
“Them other guys are crooks,” said Kirschman, of Coon Rapids. “All the media say Trump’s a crook, but it’s the other way around.” Kirschman said he grew up in St. Cloud, where “everybody was a Democrat. But the Hubert H. Humphrey Democrats aren’t the same,” he added, referring to the legendary Minnesota politician.
Yet despite his strong partisanship, he said he regrets the division of Minnesota into “blue” urban areas and “red” rural ones.
“I don’t know how you get around that,” he said.
Simone Ntim of Roseville said she feels a sense of calm and relief after four years of Trump’s “unreasonable, selfish and self absorbed” presidency.
Ntim, who is half Black and half white, said Trump fanned hate.
“There is racism in this country. It was more overt because of Trump,” she said, adding that she’s especially excited at the prospect of the nation’s first Black vice president, Kamala Harris.
Jessica Milbrett, a stay-at-home mother of three who lives in rural Waseca County, voted for Trump for economic reasons. But she’s a holistic healer and a “doomsday prepper,” and she doesn’t watch television, so she’s managed to avoid the most heated sentiments of the past week.
“You’re feeding into it — that’s what they want,” she said. “Do what you want. Have a heart attack over the president. I don’t mind. But that’s not me. I don’t listen to either of their bickering. It’s all an energy thing to make people fear everything, to make people sick so then they go back to the doctors. That’s all it is, a whole big plan. I just stay out of it.”
She wanted Trump to win, but will feel just fine with Biden.
Crystal Norcross, a 31-year-old resident of St. Paul’s East Side, was initially unhappy with the candidate choices, but ended up getting involved in a nonpartisan effort to get out the Native American vote through the nonprofit Oyate Hotanin (“Voice of the People” in Dakota), where she is board chairwoman. She called Biden’s win a relief.
“It isn’t what we all wanted, but at the end of the day, at least us poorer people, us people of color, everything like that, from the not-so-rich communities, we’ll kind of have more of a voice,” she said. “I guess that’s what it boils down to for me.”
About 88% of registered Ramsey County voters cast a ballot, and more than 70% voted for Biden, according to unofficial results from the county. About 85% of St. Paul residents voted, including Alex Smith, a 32-year-old artist.
Smith said he avoided following the election closely, for “sanity and mental health reasons,” but voted by mail and encouraged people around him to vote. He said he felt a mixture of hope and anxiety at the result.
“I feel like after this summer, witnessing the uprising and everything that happened, it’s pretty safe to say that anything can happen,” said Smith, who painted murals along University Av. after the civil unrest. “I’m not holding my breath for any part of this process.”
Patrick Casey of Stacy, Minn., said he’s looking for a healer.
“I hope ... that the new president is for everyone, not just for who he chooses to help out in this world. We need a leader for everyone.”
Asked for whom he voted, Casey replied: “For hope.”
Staff writers Reid Forgrave, Zoë Jackson, Emma Nelson, Shannon Prather and Katy Read contributed to this report.