San Francisco woke Saturday morning to the news that Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States, ushered into office with more votes than any other president-elect in the country’s history.
People flocked to their balconies on Haight Street, clanging pots and pans in celebration. Runners in Golden Gate Park carried American flags. Drivers on Market Street honked their horns in gleeful albeit inharmonious melodies while hollering in excitement. One woman circled Duboce Park in her car with the windows down blaring Queen’s iconic anthem, “We Are the Champions” and singing the lyrics through a megaphone. Huge crowds flooded the Castro.
The former vice president officially bested incumbent Donald Trump once the state of Pennsylvania was called in his favor, pushing Biden past the 270 vote electoral college threshold needed to claim victory.
Both candidates were locked in a near-dead heat in the electoral college for nearly four days, with the country waiting for razor-thin margins to be determined in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Biden was projected to win all four of those remaining contests at the time of print, decidedly handing him the presidency in spite of the days-long wait for results.
His running mate, Kamala Harris, will be the first female, first Black and first South Asian Vice-President elect this country has ever had.
She’s also an Oakland native who served as District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California before being elected to serve as Senator of the state.
“The pride I feel as a Black woman is hard to put into words. Kamala Harris is a friend and mentor, but, most importantly, she is an inspiration to many of us all across this country,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “I only wish my grandmother, a daughter of slaves and sharecroppers, a woman who raised me to believe that we can all work to make the world a better place, were still alive to see this day.”
Biden was declared winner by media networks more than 72 hours after Election Day concluded, a fitting end to a campaign that followed none of the other normalities Americans have come to expect of their presidential contests as it took place against the backdrop of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 236,000 people in this country since March.
Biden swapped convention center rallies and ropelines for drive-thru speeches and socially distanced, outdoor gatherings. He was almost always spotted donning a face mask, and regularly appeared on virtual campaign events.
Trump, on the other hand, held his hallmark raucous rallies, most of the attendees unmasked and standing in close proximity to one another. The president himself mocked face coverings, especially the one worn by Biden, and he and some in his close circle ultimately contracted COVID-19.
Whereas Biden rallied his supporters to mail or drop off ballots ahead of Election Day, Trump repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail voting and encouraged his supporters to vote in person on November 3, despite concerns about contracting the virus at crowded, largely indoor polling places.
Here in San Francisco, voters turned out in astounding numbers before Election Day.
Every registered voter automatically received a ballot in the mail, per an emergency state law that sought to make voting easier for every Californian during this unusual election cycle.
Over 537,000 vote-by-mail ballots were issued to San Francisco residents this year. Of those, 388,059 were returned, according to election department data, marking the highest vote-by-mail participation rate in The City’s history.
It’s no surprise that San Francisco voted overwhelmingly to send the Biden-Harris duo to the White House. At the time of print, nearly 86 percent of all ballots cast were in favor of the Democratic ticket.
Donald Trump had earned support from 12.4 percent of voters, again at the time of print.
Though that’s a drubbing for Trump, the president actually earned a larger share of the San Francisco electorate than he did in 2016 when he earned only 9 percent of the local vote.
Data shows, though, that marginal increase is largely due to third-party and write-in candidates who took votes away from Trump four years ago but didn’t do so this go-round.
Local officials were exuberant about the victory, taking to social media to call the election “historic,” the “end of the national nightmare” and the first step in the journey to “save our country.”
“A historic day, not just because of the incredible base-building & organizing that got us here, but because we know what that work can make possible!” San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who also knew Harris as a child, wrote on Twitter.
Many San Francisco policymakers had hoped for a blue wave across the nation that would increase the Democratic party’s advantage in the House of Representatives and secure the Senate majority, expected to be a near guarantee that Congress would pass the kind of comprehensive relief bill that many say is crucial to rescuing municipalities and city agencies across the country.
That did not happen, but many local stakeholders remain hopeful that a Biden administration will portend good things for The City nevertheless.
“The new White House will likely move immediately to put in place an aggressive, national, science-driven and equity-informed plan to curb the pandemic,” said Nick Josefowitz, Policy Director at SPUR. “We could also see a new stimulus package that could extend desperately needed cash support to the San Franciscans and small businesses that are struggling to get through this pandemic, make significant investments in our transit stems, build new affordable housing and help struggling renters.”
Josefowtiz also dangled the possibility of the president-elect using executive action to give California permission to craft regulations to take fossil fuel cars off the roads, slash air pollution and support frontline communities dealing with the impacts of climate change.
“There will be much President Biden won’t be able to accomplish with a Republican Senate and Supreme Court, but there is still so much that his administration can do that will have profoundly positive impacts on the lives of San Franciscans and our city,” he said.
Local election officials nationwide have been counting ballots almost non-stop since Tuesday, inundated with a record-breaking number of vote-by-mail and early ballots that slowed down the vote-count.
Though San Francisco counted its vote-by-mail and early ballots first, many other states prohibit their counties from counting mail-in votes until Election Day.
Whereas Biden encouraged his supporters to cast their ballots before Nov. 3 by mail or drop-box to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic, Trump consistently trivialized the threat of the virus and told his voters to head to the polls en masse on Election Day.
Consequently, the vote-by-mail ballots skewed overwhelmingly towards the Democrats. They are also the votes that have generally been counted last, narrowing Trump’s lead state-by-state.
Trump has continued to levied baseless claims of voter fraud and unsubstantiated allegations against the Democrats that the party has stolen the election. His campaign has filed lawsuits in a number of states calling for investigations and recounts.