Cheers erupted throughout downtown Columbia on Saturday as a small white car with a giant cutout of President-elect Joe Biden's face sticking out of its sunroof drove through the streets.

Media outlets projected Biden as the 46th president Saturday morning after his victory in Pennsylvania put him over the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Biden supporters in Columbia were relieved, while Trump supporters were upset. All agreed, however, that nothing was over just yet.

The election formally continues as states tally the last of their ballots. Trump's campaign has also begun to request recounts and issue lawsuits in close swing states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

The work also continues for those fighting for social equity. Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of the nonprofit Race Matters, Friends, said the election is "a small fraction of what's necessary to realize social equality and racial equity."

"I think we need to be brutally honest about America and what she is and what she is not," Wilson-Kleekamp said. "She is not progress; she is an illusion of performative progress undermined repeatedly by the past and the present. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris cannot fix it alone. It's a huge chasm over the country that we've invested in for decades, since the beginning."

She echoed the sentiment on her Facebook page, adding that she calls the feeling "painful hope."

Some people spending the afternoon downtown were more optimistic. Mike Davis said it was "incredibly awesome," and, after spending three days closely following election results, he was relieved to see Trump would be leaving office.

"The last four years have felt like 40 years," Davis said.

He sat with Amber Seater, who agreed. She was also excited for the historic election of Vice President Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman, first Black person and first person of South Asian descent to hold the office.

The two said their biggest concern now is getting through the remainder of Trump's presidency, which lasts until inauguration day on Jan. 20.

"He just seems unhinged," Seater said.

"Now more than ever," Davis said.

Stephanie Romero found out Biden was projected to win Saturday morning while working at Starbucks.

Her coworker returned from a break saying, "Oh, my God; oh, my God." Romero asked what was happening, and the coworker told her Biden had won Pennsylvania.

Too busy getting out drinks to realize the significance, Romero responded, "OK, that's nice." Once the store finally calmed a bit, it hit her.

"I was like, 'Wait, what?'" she said. "I started tearing up. I got very emotional."

She and her roommate, Lily Hunter, have been watching the results come in for days. Hunter said she lost track of what day it was, as the whole week felt like Election Day.

She was also relieved.

"I'm disabled," Hunter said. "It's been hard to be different and watch the last four years. I'm also 30, and I'm getting out of college in a semester. And, I mean you could ask my mother, I've been terribly worried about my entire future. Today, I feel like I've got it."

She acknowledged Biden's election won't automatically fix everything, but she's taking the day to celebrate.

"There's a lot of work left, and (Trump's) going to throw a huge fit, and it's going to be hard to try to get people back together in some form," she said. "But today is a day where I can just be like, 'OK, I can not stress for today. Tomorrow, we work.'"

A number of Biden supporters also gathered Saturday afternoon outside Daniel Boone City Building and were waving signs as cars drove by and honked. Abbie Brown, a librarian at MU, wore rainbow face makeup, a blue dress with red sleeves and a colonial-style white wig. She said she was as pro-Biden as she was anti-Trump.

"I’ve been a fan of Biden’s for a long time, and I’m very, very excited about Kamala Harris," Brown said. "And just in terms of kindness and decency and honesty."

Rachel Brekhus, also an MU librarian, was less enthusiastic about the former vice president, instead praising figures like Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush in St. Louis. 

"(Biden) wasn't my first choice of candidate, but I'm mostly just so relieved to have Trump out," Brekhus said.

Bridgette Jackson has been no stranger to stress this past week. Hers began even before Election Day, as she tried to vote absentee in her home state of Pennsylvania.

Her ballot was lost in the mail, finally arriving on Election Day. She spent the day running around and making sure she got it in the mail in time to arrive Friday, the deadline for receiving ballots.

She got the email Friday that her ballot arrived in time, as she watched Pennsylvania turn from red to blue.

"I was like, 'I need to vote,'" she said. "It's my first time voting in a presidential thing, the most important one. I need to vote."

She and her friend Jenae Cotton sat outside Shortwave Coffee doing the homework they had neglected throughout the week, as they focused on election results instead. It was all worth it for them, though, to see the candidate they voted for get elected.

"(Biden's) not going to throw a temper tantrum whenever things don't go his way," Cotton said.

Tammy Pich, spending the day at Stephens Lake Park with her family, said she was also excited Trump was no longer going to be in office. She called the election "groovy."

To borrow a phrase from her 9-year-old son, she said, "now, Trump can slump in the dump."

But not everyone was excited. Debbie Haley said she felt the results were "sickening" and attributed Biden's win to the "uneducated youth."

"Uneducated elders," her daughter Hannah Haley retorted.

While Debbie Haley didn't pay much attention to the results as they came in, her other daughter, Lauren Haley, said she was surprised to see states like Georgia turn blue. And while she wasn't as enthusiastic as Hannah about a Biden term, she was open-minded.

"We'll see what (Biden) has in mind," Lauren Haley said.

"I'm sure it'll be better than the last four," Hannah Haley said.

Although the family was split in its views, the group agreed they needed to accept whoever won.

"Like any president in office, we will pray for that party and that person, that the Lord will help them do great things and hope that it happens," Debbie Haley said. "That office deserved respect, and we'll give it that."

Elisabeth Kahube, Marcella Butler and Donna Jeffers were also spending their afternoon at Stephens Lake Park. Although Kahube didn't vote because she said she doesn't believe in the institution, she said she was glad to see Trump voted out of office. She knows, however, that Biden's presidency won't solve systematic injustices.

Butler said what she wants to see most from the next four years is a more united nation. Ben Falby, an adult education and literacy instructor who attended the city hall celebration with his son, felt the same.

"I'm rooting for Biden," Falby said. "I am rooting for him to bring some consensus feeling to the country. I don't expect everyone to agree, but it would be nice to feel like there aren't two different American realities competing with one another."

  • Public life reporter, fall 2020. Studying print and digital news journalism. Reach me at skylarlaird@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

  • State Government reporter, fall 2020. I am a first-year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at mokwb@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has reported on higher education, state government and breaking news. Reach him at galenbacharier@gmail.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

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