PHILADELPHIA—Barring a miracle for President Donald Trump, it seemed it was all over but the crying. Still, you should expect a lot of crying. Crying foul, at least. And shouting, and fighting.
“This election is not over. The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final,” the Trump campaign said in a statement sent out Friday, outlining evidence-free claims of ballot irregularities in states where Biden is ahead. “Biden is relying on these states for his phoney claim on the White House, but once the election is final, President Trump will be re-elected.”
Despite the president’s protestations, the math became forbidding for him as the ballot counting totals came in. Even without any officially unofficial call from media outlets, Joe Biden seemed more and more certain to be on the road to becoming the next president of the United States on Friday, with leads in four out of five remaining battleground states — and a commanding one in Pennsylvania, which, alone, would win him the election.
As the morning gave way to afternoon Friday and Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania grew, the Biden-supporter demonstration outside the Convention Center in Philadelphia where ballots were being tabulated turned into a deliriously joyful street party, complete with DJ, drum lines, streamers, and breakdancers.
The giant “Count Every Vote” banner that had been held on Thursday and Friday morning was replaced by early afternoon with one reading “The People Have Spoken.” Hundreds danced in the middle of the street to music blasting over the loudspeakers: “Motownphilly” by Boys to Men, “Low” by Flo Rida. When the DJ put on “YMCA” — the Village People song that Trump had used as an unlikely anthem at his rallies — the entire street seemed to erupt in giddiness.
“This is the city that delivered the votes that put Donald Trump out of office,” a woman shouted over the loudspeaker, and the crowd roared and jumped up and down. “We’re going to keep dancing for the revolution!”
A grey-haired Black woman next to me in the crowd pumped her fist in the air over and over again, spinning around, her eyes filled with tears.
“I feel amazing,” said Shawn Truppo, a teacher from New Jersey, who brought his young daughter Margaret to the street demonstration here to be present for the moment in history. “She’s the only one of my kids who was born under this administration, I wanted her to be here when it ends,” he said. “The end of just the undermining of what America actually is.”
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Across the street, behind a line of bicycle police keeping the two demonstrations apart, a somewhat smaller pro-Trump demonstration greeted the news with chants of “Stop the Cheat!” and “Count every legal vote!” A man with a megaphone shouted, “This is a celebration of the re-election of Donald Trump in 2020.” At one point, while the other crowd continued dancing across the street, the Trump group played the national anthem and held their hands over their hearts.
“We will not accept it,” said a man named Hemu, holding a “Stop the Steal!” sign and wearing a Make America Great Again hat. “We believe President Trump won in a big landslide already. There is massive voter fraud in this election.” Asked what comes next, after the election is called for Biden, he say, “I don’t know, we’ll have to see. I’m going to be with President Trump. I’ll never give up.”
Another Trump supporter, Greg Garber, wearing a “1776 American Uprising” T-shirt, said he was disappointed that anyone was considering calling the election for Biden because he mistrusted mail ballots. “Given the old way, clean and simple, this wasn’t over. But Trump’s my man, not either party, so I’m just here in the last few minutes to do whatever it takes to keep him in office,” he said. “Whatever it takes to keep our republic, I don’t want to become a socialist nation. I want free speech, free religion, right to carry and bear arms. Very simple. I’m doing this for my kids,” he said. “They don’t agree with me, my kids. But that’s OK.”
As the afternoon progressed, the differences of opinion seemed largely peaceful, interactions between the Biden and Trump camps limited to the odd shouted taunt. But the threat of violence loomed; on Thursday night police arrested two armed men in the area who had allegedly driven from Virginia to come to the site. A tip to police said they might be involved in a plot to attack the ballot counting site, and officers reported finding an AR-15 rifle and ammunition in the trunk of the two men’s Hummer, which reportedly also had paraphernalia in it reflecting the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.
Trump’s campaign continued to pursue a strategy of publicly raising unsubstantiated and outright false allegations about the vote count, even to the point where Trump, in his speech Thursday, was attacking the Republican administrators running the vote in Georgia of being hostile political opponents. Some Trump allies, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz and the President’s son Donald Trump Jr., continued to entertain the idea of Republican state governments overruling the will of voters by appointing pro-Trump Electoral College representatives. State legislators in Pennsylvania have pushed back hard against the idea, saying they have no role to play in the election, according to state law.
During an update about the count in the early afternoon, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney had a message for Trump. “I think what the president needs to do is to frankly put his big boy pants on. He needs to acknowledge the fact that he lost and he needs to congratulate the winner,” he said.
With even news major news agencies still unwilling to project a Biden victory, perhaps it remains a little early to expect Trump to concede one.
But given the way he’s been talking — and everything else Americans know about him — it’s still unclear if anyone should expect him to concede at all.
Edward Keenan is the Star’s Washington Bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Reach him via email: [email protected]
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