‘Like a breath of fresh air’: Claremont Colleges students, faculty react to Biden win

Two people wave "BIDEN-HARRIS 2020" flags in Portland, Oregon.
Celebrators cheered and waved flags in Portland, Oregon. (Jaimie Ding • The Student Life)

Fredo Moreno PO ’22 was in the middle of eating breakfast when he heard the ruckus from the apartment next door. Someone in the Pomona College Politics Slack said the election was called. And on the live results page of The New York Times, Pennsylvania was blue.

“I initially couldn’t fully comprehend what just happened,” Moreno said via email. After four nerve-wracking days, Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes had pushed former Vice President Joe Biden over the finish line of 270 on Saturday morning, clinching him the presidency. 

Across the country, many Claremont Colleges students rejoiced at the news, a stark contrast from many students’ morale just four years ago. 

Sam Horowitz PZ ’20 recalls being in the Pitzer College Gold Student Center, waiting for the results of the 2016 presidential election.

“Everyone was excited. Everyone expected Hillary Clinton to win,” Horowitz said. “As the results came in just throughout the night, I saw the mood deflate. I saw people slowly start to realize what was happening. Students, professors, everyone. Yeah, I mean — it was a very grave energy. And once it was official, I remember hearing people screaming and crying.”

Four years later, Horowitz felt just one thing: relief. 

“I mean, it’s about time we have a president who knows what they’re doing; has the interests of the American people at heart,” he said.

For Will Frankel CM ’21, seeing the results was “like a breath of fresh air.”

“As someone who’s young, it definitely feels like a lot of the period of my life that I’ve been politically aware and engaged has been just this ongoing nightmare, where so much of our politics has been dominated by one terrible personality,” Frankel said. 

However, Frankel added that he’s worried about the current administration being unwilling to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration, potentially affecting the president-elect’s ability to govern “on day one.”

For many Claremont students, this particular election hit home.

“Plenty of my friends both here and from Claremont are students who weren’t sure if they’d be able to stay in this country if [President Donald] Trump got re-elected,” Horowitz said. “Plenty of my friends of color, were worried about the implications of a second term for Trump. Of course, it’s not like Biden’s gonna snap his fingers and fix everything. But I think there’s a lot more certainty, a lot more comfort.”

Pomona professor David Menefee-Libey cited Biden’s stance on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as something that will have an immediate impact on the Claremont community. 

“DACA recipients will again have the protections of DACA, which is a massive, massive change from the last four years, tremendous relief for this community, for students and staff and faculty, and their families and loved ones. That’s a really important change that’s immediate,” Menefee-Libey said.

John West Jr. PO ’23 said he was most excited to see the first woman and person of color to serve as vice president. However, West is worried that four years is not enough time for Biden to accomplish everything he needs to. 

West is hopeful that “if someone holds [Biden] accountable … he [will put] more money into leveling the economic playing field for minority communities.”

Sunrise Claremont Colleges founder Eric Warmoth CM ’22 believes Biden’s win is also good news for combating climate change. Although Warmoth and many other climate activists are currently optimistic about Biden’s climate plans, this wasn’t always the case.

“In the primary, he was not the favorite candidate of climate activists — by far — Sunrise gave him an F on his climate plan … [but then] Joe Biden came out with a climate plan that completely flipped the script,” Warmoth said. “He really committed to [the issue of] climate as a jobs plan, he committed to changing our energy infrastructure, to be green energy, to be renewable.”

Warmoth also said he believes Biden will take climate change “the most seriously of any American president.” This is evident, Warmoth said, in Biden’s willingness to listen to climate scientists and activists, specifically with leaders of the Sunrise Movement of which Warmoth is a member. 

“Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise, was on the unity task force with Joe Biden’s team. She was in that room, impacting climate policy and she will continue to be making an impact,” Warmoth said. “[Whereas] President Trump is never going to invite the executive director of the Sunrise Movement to the White House.”

Warmoth sees the election of Biden as a positive step. But he also wants to ensure people do not see it as a solution to the climate crisis.

“It’s not time to rest, this is when our fight’s beginning, and [we] really start to make sure that Joe Biden follows through on his promises,” Warmoth said.

Raj Bhutoria CM ’22 served in the Biden 2020 campaign as a student leader for the DNC. Likewise, for him, the work is not over yet. He is now pivoting to help secure a victory for Democrats in the two Georgia senate runoff elections, in hopes of ushering in an “era of change that American desperately needs.”

Bhutoria believes Kamala Harris’s position as Vice President-Elect is promising for Indian American representation in the U.S. 

“To see Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian immigrant, become our VP-elect has shattered a monumental glass ceiling for Indo-Americans across the nation,” Bhutoria said.

By the time Biden and Harris delivered their victory speeches Saturday evening, Trump still had not conceded. His rhetoric surrounding election results and the behavior of his followers has been a source of concern for students and faculty alike. 

“There are armed mobs surrounding the places where ballots are being counted … and this has been a continuing problem in the United States in recent years,” Menefee-Libey said. “… So, we have a really frightening time in the United States, where we had a president that was inciting armed mobs to be showing up in various places in the States and around political demonstrations to intimidate people. And that’s a really dangerous thing.”

According to Menefee-Libey, the election has left several people in the United States experiencing a “deep polarization” and “deep disagreement” on ideal visions for the future of the nation.

But Menefee-Libey is encouraged by the high voter turnout and the prospect of an administration that will take a “less politicized and more scientific approach” to mitigating harmful reaches of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not an easy time to focus on politics in the United States, because it’s a struggle to maintain a sense of hope,” Menefee-Libey said. “But I’m working on it.”

This article was last updated Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020 at 4:42 p.m.

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