In the days following the long-awaited conclusion of the Nov. 3 general election, members of the University of Virginia community reacted to the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. Both the College Republicans and the University Democrats have made statements, while the Center for Politics and Miller Center of Public Affairs each offered predictions for the upcoming transition. While President Trump has not conceded as of Nov. 9, University scholars projected optimism for a peaceful transfer of power.
Student leaders of the University Democrats, including fourth-year student Kiera Goddu, released a series of videos thanking their members for their campaign efforts.
“All of your campaigning really added up, and we appreciate all of the hours that you all put in,” Goddu said. “Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts, and can’t wait to celebrate with you all.”
The College Republicans released a statement expressing dismay, but also signaling optimism about yet-to-be-determined Senate control. Unlike President Trump, the students acknowledged Biden as the president-elect.
“While we harbor great concerns about a Biden presidency, we recognize that the American people have spoken,” wrote the College Republicans Executive Board. “Regarding potential voting irregularities, these do not appear to be widespread nor decisive in their impact … Regardless of the results, the College Republicans at UVA already have our eyes set on the future and are as determined as ever to fight on for our conservative principles.”
As for University faculty, Larry Sabato — Director of the Center for Politics — highlighted President Trump’s unwillingness to concede.
“Everyone expected Trump to be a sore loser,” Sabato wrote on Twitter. “He is, inventing nonexistent fraud & making flimsy excuses. But GOP ‘leaders’ are coddling him, indulging his stubborn delusions. A predictably disgraceful ending to the worst presidency in U.S. history.”
In separate posts, Sabato praised the president-elect and denied that the 2020 race was a nail-biter, despite the characterizations of some media outlets.
“Experience is respected in every field but politics,” Sabato wrote. “In listening to [Biden] we’re reminded that his long & deep experience is his greatest strength. He’s a President we won’t need to train — and with this nation in crisis, we don’t have the time … This was NOT an especially close election. [Biden] won 306 [electoral votes] plus a 4-5 million-votes plurality. You want close? Look at 1960, 1968, 1976, 2000, among others.”
The University Miller Center of Public Affairs has closely studied the Trump presidency since the 2017 inauguration. In his evaluation of Trump’s loss, Director and CEO Bill Antholis concurred with Sabato. On Nov. 8, Antholis published a piece on the Center’s website expressing his similar point of view.
“When compared with other close elections, this one is actually quite a comfortable victory for President-elect Biden,” Antholis wrote. “This does not have to be a political crisis. The election was not historically close. President Trump can claim victory for his policy accomplishments and devote the considerable power of a post-presidency to advancing his priorities. The alternative would be the first sitting president to challenge the legitimacy of our democracy. In short, he would be doing what the South did in 1860. We cannot repeat that mistake.”
Whether President Trump will heed such warnings is unclear. Yet as of Nov. 9, he faces enormous pressure to commence the presidential transition, even from past leaders of his party like Senator Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush. No matter the current turmoil in the White House, the historic nature of the first female and first African-American Vice President-elect in the United States has captured the nation’s attention.
Professor of Politics Jennifer Lawless contributed to Politico and celebrated this week’s “clear signal that the American people are willing to elect women.”
“The Biden-Harris victory chips away at the perception that female candidates face systematic disadvantages,” Lawless wrote. “Chipping away at that perception is key to convincing more women — and the party leaders, donors, and activists who recruit candidates and help them raise money — that they can successfully follow in Harris’ historic footsteps and affect policy change at all levels of government across the country.”