Pennsylvania voters remain divided as ever as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to move into the White House in January.
And regardless of who they voted for, they’re not necessarily enthusiastic about a Biden administration and the policies that may come with it — or about Biden’s ability to heal divisions and get things done once he takes office.
Those are some of the takeaways from a final post-election convening of The Inquirer’s Election 2020 Roundtable, which took place over the course of two days last week. The conversations occurred days after Biden won Pennsylvania and became president-elect, and as President Donald Trump refused to concede.
The Roundtable brings together a representative group of 24 voters from across Pennsylvania, a critical swing state, for a series of open virtual conversations about politics, policy, and the presidential election.
Here’s what some of them said. Learn more about the Election 2020 Roundtable here.
Several voters who supported Biden used the word “relieved” to describe their feelings in the aftermath of Election Day.
“I was really happy, relieved — more than I thought I would be — with the election results," said Soneyet Muhammad, 40, of Philadelphia. “It was a moment of relief and joy.”
Muhammad, a Democrat, said Biden was not her first choice for a presidential candidate. She said she’s also already frustrated that Biden may not govern as progressive as she would like.
Mary DeBeer, an independent in Armstrong County, said she sees Biden as an inclusive and unifying leader who can heal divisions after a tumultuous Trump presidency.
“It’s a relief to think that yeah, there isn’t just going to be crazy,” said DeBeer, 66. “It’s going to be nice to get the level of fear down.”
Lauren Jessop, 62, a Republican in Northampton County, voted for Trump and disagrees with Biden’s policies. But, she, too, is dismayed by the divisions in the country.
“We do need to kind of everybody take a step back and calmly look at where it’s coming from and try to calm it down," she said. "It’s very frustrating for me too.”
“I’m disappointed in my fellow Republicans that we didn’t take a stronger stance against him,” said Walton, 55.
David Graham, a Republican in Johnstown and a Trump supporter, said he’s not ready to accept Biden as the winner and wants to give the president time to pursue legal challenges.
“I’m not ready to call this election and I don’t think anybody else should either,” said Graham, 66. Echoing Trump’s baseless claims of fraud, Graham added: “My family’s been here since 1681 and I’ve completely lost confidence in our government. I may never vote again.”
There is no evidence of any widespread voter fraud in Pennsylvania’s presidential election. Trump’s campaign itself hasn’t presented any such evidence in its numerous legal challenges contesting the result, nor has it cited in legal filings even a single specific allegation of a vote deliberately cast illegally. In one legal filing Thursday, the campaign acknowledged its lack of evidence, saying its goal was to persuade a judge to halt the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results long enough to find information to support its theories of wrongdoing.
“This whole thing was so close," Graham said. "The division is growing in this nation because of this election. It terrifies me to no end. I’m so afraid that we’re going to see gunfire in the streets and I’m so afraid that people are just going to give up.”
Roundtable members who identify as progressive said that while they supported Biden, they are not optimistic his administration’s policies will align with their views.
Kaitlin Ahern, 20, of Scranton, said Biden was “really the only viable option,” but said she’s worried by the conservative backlash against him — considering that he is a moderate Democrat.
“It shows that America isn’t ready for any sort of progressive change if they can’t even accept this Joe Biden, [Kamala] Harris, corporate Democrat platform,” she said.
Voters who didn’t support Biden, meanwhile, said they are worried he will do too much to appease the more liberal wing of his own party. Drew Jennings, a Republican who wrote in former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld for president, said he’s concerned Biden will be too progressive.
“My problem is not with him,” said Jennings, 47, of Chester County. “My problem is what comes along for the ride."
Vanessa Benton, a Philadelphia Democrat, said it will likely be difficult for Biden and Harris to accomplish their agenda if the Senate remains in Republican control after run-off elections in Georgia next month.
“It’s going to be difficult to get things done, but I’m not as bothered by that as some may be,” said Benton, 54. “I do think moving more to center would be good if Biden can find a way to reach across the aisle as he has done in the past.”
Scott Young, a Republican from Bucks County who voted for Biden, said he hopes Biden will be able to develop a national plan to deal with the pandemic.
“I think everyone would have to recognize at this point that we’re heading into a tough time, that cases are undeniable," said Young, 51. "And until we get arms around that problem, I don’t see how any other problem is more important.”
Melissa Robbins, a Philadelphia Democrat, said she’s most hopeful that Biden and Harris will work to end systemic racism and make the country safer for Black Americans.
“I’m very hopeful that with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, they will take this country in a new direction for the first time ever for Black Americans to receive justice that we’ve never received,” said Robbins, 47.
Jessop, of Northampton County, said she’s most worried about the economy under Biden.
“I’m not that hopeful because I really don’t think his economic policies are great,” Jessop said.
Ezelle Sanford III, 30, a Democrat and a Biden voter from Philadelphia, said he hopes Americans can understand they all have things in common and need to work together as a society.