“Freedom Friends” Election Diaries

As we experience, record, and later look back on significant events, personal diaries can become powerful sources—they’re the OG “first draft of history.” In turbulent times, too, journaling can also help us cope with uncertainty, anxiety and other strong feelings. So we asked our Democracy & Me student interns, a.k.a. the Freedom Friends, to record some of their immediate thoughts around the 2020 Election, unfiltered, as the news unfolded. Fair warning: most of our interns happen to be personally progressive, and you’ll hear those leanings in their comments. (This wasn’t a reporting assignment, remember; it was a journaling assignment.) If you’re looking for unbiased political news and analysis, you’ll find it at NPR and WVXU.

We’ll keep adding to this journal as the results become more clear (we hope), and our students log their observations, reactions, and questions. We invite readers to add some of their own perspectives, in real time. Whatever happens, let’s capture this moment, really listen to each other, and keep looking to the future. – Julie Coppens        

Monday, Nov. 2, 2020: Election Eve

10:00 p.m. – Texting friends about the election while watching TV, should probably be doing homework. I’ve spent the day checking 538 but ughhhh I can’t think about it too much. – Nico Luginbill

10:33 p.m. – I have to wake up in 5 hours for poll working, but political TikTok has me scared, so I can’t sleep. – Jean Pateman

10:53 p.m. – Normally, “eves” excite me… such as Christmas Eve, All Hallows Eve (Halloween), etc. However, Election Day Eve holds a more frightening energy than the aforementioned eves. Unlike Christmas Eve, I am not itching to wake up in the morning and experience the day. It does not feel like presents are waiting for me. Instead, the only thing that tomorrow holds is uncertainty. There is no Santa Claus. Yet, if you somehow combined both leading candidates into one singular human, they might LOOK like Santa Claus, considering Biden’s snow-white hair and Trump’s corpulent build. Regardless, I do not want a Trump-Biden hybrid climbing through my chimney. Eek, the sheer thought terrifies me. Do they offer some sort security systems for chimneys?  – Jordan Polk

11:37 p.m. – Just saw an example of an Electoral College map showing how Trump could lose the election by 20 million votes and still win… – Jean

11:50 p.m. – It is the calm before the storm. There is about 10 minutes left before the day of reckoning. I can’t wait to viciously grind my teeth through the night, in utter anticipation. – Jordan P.

Tuesday, Nov. 3: Election Day

7:15 a.m. – Coffee, NPR, deep breathing. – Julie Coppens

8:00 a.m. – [Jean’s first report from her polling site in Oxford] Two and a half hours in, and here’s what’s happened: all the chairs had some sort of slime on them that wouldn’t come of unless we used hand sanitizer to scrub them. We have too many Democrats [among poll workers], but everyone is supposed to be paired with someone of the opposite party. I’ve seen three of my teachers. There’s almost no one here and we can see the cafeteria, the janitor has been cleaning the floors for at least two and a half hours. I am very bored. – Jean

9:40 a.m. – My thoughts about this election: whoever wins, they have to treat every community equally. – Alex Bentley

10:30 a.m. – I am thinking of adopting a new parafunctional habit, onychophagia, also known as nail-biting. It seems like a great way to pass time, cope through Election Day, and keep my nails at healthy length all at once. – Jordan P.

12:40 p.m. – My residence hall has sent out a reminder to prioritize self care, especially over the next couple of days as election-related stress takes hold. Though, I am not sure something as simple as a bubble bath will wash away all of my stress. – Jordan P.

1:33 p.m. – For better or for worse, I have a feeling that we are going to have a record number of votes this year. I can feel the raw passion that is emanating from this election. I feel it in my bones. This is going to be big. – Jordan P.

5:49 p.m. – I hope we can move this country forward. What’s happening in this election will be brought back to us as humans..  My worries are that there will be impending violence from individuals that disrupt the process. – Anne Stevenson

6:54 p.m. – So Indiana and Kentucky seem pretty much irrelevant (except for House races), but 7 o’clock poll closings are approaching soon and aaaaaahhh. My blood pressure is probably crazy high right now. – Nico

7:29 p.m. – No no no no no no Florida no Miami whyyyyyyy ??? Is Trump really about to win? I’m so scared. RIP America – Nico  

8:23 p.m. – OK so Miami-Dade put me in existential crisis mode for about an hour, but I’ve somewhat calmed down now. Somewhat. This is scarier than I wanted it to be, but I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it to be close. Still, reality is proving to be more terrifying than I expected. – Nico

11:10 p.m. – So Wisconsin/Michigan/Pennsylvania are looking very much like the “red mirage,” but Trump’s margins are really good there right now. I’m trying to convince myself that it will tighten up, but I’m not sure if it will enough. And Biden is doing well in Iowa for some reason (haha nvm—future Nico)? Maybe it’s a matter of urban areas in MI and PA not reporting, but it’s got me scared for sure. – Nico 

11:13 p.m. – A slightly positive note: Arizona? I guess it’s not too positive if Trump wins overall but still, if Arizona cements its status as a blue state that would be pretty nice. Still have my fingers crossed for the “Blue Wall” that is not looking so blue at all. – Nico 

11:24 p.m. – Welp I’m basically spamming this journal thing, but so far it’s not looking like much of a Blue Wave year at all like some predicted. The Senate isn’t looking good for Democrats (but at least Bullock is up in Montana right now??) and Republicans should gain a few house seats. I still highly doubt we’ll see Republicans flip the house, but that coupled with a Trump victory would mean an absolutely devastating election for the Democrats and a worrisome future for the party. Still unlikely but I can’t stop thinking about the potential disasters that are looking more and more likely. – Nico  

Wednesday, Nov. 4: The Day After

12:52 a.m. – So Biden’s doing a little better (yay Georgia maybe) but like expected it’s still gonna come down to WI, MI, PA and they’re all gonna be really close, it looks like. Also maybe I’m early but it looks like the Republicans will win the Senate: 50-50 with Biden getting 270 seems like the only shot at a Democratic senate, and I just don’t see that happening. Both Georgia races are looking red, IA and NC are basically over, while MI, ME, and MT are all close but seem to be leaning red… So while tonight could be a major blow to those who are Trump supporters before Republicans (if Biden does indeed win, of course), traditional Republicans might not be too mad maintaining a comfortable Senate lead even with a Presidential loss after Democrats were projected to get control of the House, Presidency, and Senate. – Nico. 

1:38 a.m. – Yay finally getting results in Nevada, and they’re looking pretty good. While Biden may have lost a few Hispanic voters in the Las Vegas area, he seems to be doing a little better than Hillary Clinton in other parts of Nevada, and I think he should hold on for the win. I turned the TV off around 8:30 p.m. but I saw something about a water main leak in Atlanta that’s slowing things down there? And I doubt we’ll know anything in the not-so-blue “Blue Wall,” so I can probably go to sleep. If I wake up to a Trump victory that would be… a pretty horrible way to wake up (I’m realizing that’s an understatement). Anyways before I talk more about sleep, I should probably do my Latin homework… *summoning blue wall votes* (legally and non-fraudulently) – Nico

7:24 – Coffee and NPR and deep breathing again. Pretty stunned by results so far… Where’s everyone else’s heads at? – Julie

7:38 a.m. – It’s driving me nuts. – Joyeuse Muhorakeye

7:41 a.m. – It was nice waking up to more votes coming in from Wisconsin and Michigan, but at the same time those states are both closer than I expected, and that’s a little scary. Still also the whole election has had a worrisome outcome for the Democratic Party, especially after high expectations and positive polling. It seems like they will lose House seats and fail to make gains in the Senate. It’s also worrisome considering Biden was considered the Democratic candidate with the best chance to beat Trump, and it looks like he might just barely scrape by. Another thought: Is Trump a better campaigner than we give him credit for? He’s built an extremely impressive base that practically worships him, something no other politician has done, and he’s outperformed expectations in two Presidential elections now. As crazy as it sounds, Trump could go down as one of the best-ever Republican candidates. That could also be good for Democrats if the 2024 Republican nominee lacks the Trump spark, since said candidate might not outperform polls as much. Despite all this ranting, if Biden wins, I’m happy. Not sure if I could deal with any more Trump but I’ve certainly been bracing myself for it. – Nico

10:20 a.m. – Overwhelmed, irritated, disappointed, completely disgusted, and terrified! I had to take a break from watching the results. I was up all night watching the results. It doesn’t make any sense. Our world is just crazy!!! But as always, I’m keeping my faith. – Nailah Edwards

10:22 a.m. – I’ve been checking the news on Twitter now and then, and it’s pretty nerve-wracking because even though Biden is in the lead with Electoral votes, it can go either way. I’ve also been working on school work and other hobbies to keep my mind of it for right now.  – Jordan Shaw

11:02 a.m. – Hi, everyone. Pray for Biden today. – Alex

11:27 a.m. – It’s looking pretty good right now! My main worry is starting to be what Trump might do to try to delegitimize the results. – Nico

11:21 a.m. – I agree. – Anne

11:40 a.m. – Just woke up, love the positivity!  – Jean

3:12 pm – Definitely feeling more confident about the Presidential race now, especially after Wisconsin got called. We might have to wait for Nevada or Pennsylvania tomorrow unless Georgia somehow flips, but I’m definitely much more calm. The Senate is looking pretty bad for Democrats, but the Michigan race is still definitely interesting. I still expect a Republican senate, but if the Democrat does hold his Michigan seat, we might see major spending by the Democrats in the two Georgia runoffs in a last-ditch attempt to take the Senate (50-50 but assuming Kamala is VP). I’ve basically ignored the House so far since there are so many competitive races, but maybe I’ll start paying attention to some of those races. – Nico

Re: Nevada now withholding results until noon tomorrow for some reason:

5:11 p.m. – I’ve been watching about 3 different news channels and there’s like 3 different electoral numbers for Biden: 248, 253 and 264 and Fox News counted Arizona and MSNBC didn’t so i’m not sure what channel to believe about where Biden stands on electoral votes, but I do know he’s in the lead right and has multiple ways to get to 270, while Trump has about 1 way to get there. – Jordan S.

Pro tip from Julie: You can stop scrolling and just check here every now and then: https://apps.npr.org/liveblogs/20201103-election/

Believe NPR! 

Friday, Nov. 6: Nation still in suspense, Trump (falsely) charges fraud

9:36 a.m. – If the four states continue to be blie, the only states Trump can win are North Carolina and Alaska. – Jordan S.

Yeah, and even N.C. has a chance to flip. – Jean P.

10:10 a.m. – I don’t want to say anything too soon, but Pennsylvania looks almost certain to go to Biden, which makes him #46!! Nearly every county that has finished reporting seems to have swung in his favor compared to Hillary Clinton’s results; some Trump counties have also started helping Biden’s total with their mail-in results, and with still more mail-in ballots to be counted in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, I think this election is over. Meanwhile I expect a recount in Georgia, but a Biden win there could lead to extra spending in the Senate races, because knowing Biden won there could give the Democrats extra hope for the Senate runoffs—and, maybe, control of Congress. Either way, yay president Biden! – Nico L.

10:18 p.m. – Now that the election is basically over, I was wondering what specific election fraud claim Trump supporters will start to rally around. I’ve seen some claims about Sharpies and ballpoint pens, but the vast majority of election fraud claims I’ve seen online so far have been extremely vague and broad. While Democrats were quick to blame Russian Interference in 2016, it’s still a mystery what claim, if any, Trump supporters might push this year. – Nico L.

Saturday, Nov. 7: It’s official: Biden/Harris win

11:30 a.m. – 270!!!!! – Nico L.

11:31 a.m. – I can’t believe how quick he [Biden] won PA! – Jordan S.

11:51 a.m. – After about 20 minutes of celebration, the main thing I feel right now is relief. We will finally have a President with a plan to address climate change. We will finally have a President who doesn’t want to strip people of their healthcare. We will finally have a President who will listen to experts in a crisis if one occurs. We will finally have a President who cares about the entire country. We will finally have a President who will choose qualified and capable cabinet members and judges. And we will finally have a President who we aren’t perpetually ashamed of. There is still much more work to be done, but this is a major victory for the future of our (mostly) great democracy – Nico L. 

To be continued….

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