US Democrat voters in Auckland and Wellington mustered their energy – and their most patriotic t-shirts – for impromptu celebration drinks last night.
Joe Biden’s win brought an end to nervous, sleepless nights watching the election coverage, but some expats say they are bracing for a long haul for their divided home country to heal.
The election result prompted tears of joy at Sarah Smith’s Papakura household, where she has been living for a few months after 22 years in New York.
She said it had been a long election partly because of the drawn out ballot-counting, but also because of the two-month process for her and her husband to register and vote by courier mail.
Their ballots arrived with the board of elections just one day before voting closed.
“Honestly, I have been stressed out waiting for our ballots to be registered. That’s all we wanted. We just wanted our votes to count and I knew if everybody’s mail-in ballot votes were counted, that Biden would win,” she said.
Smith was one of half a dozen democrats gathered among United States flags at Auckland’s Fox Sporting Bar & Restaurant yesterday evening.
Former New Yorker and Democrats Abroad New Zealand vice-chair Genice Paullay-Beazley was also raising a glass in celebration, although she described Biden’s win as bittersweet.
“Despite the 74 million votes that Biden received, making him the presidential candidate receiving the most votes in the history of the United States, Donald Trump still received 70 million making him the second most voted president in history. To say that seven million more people voted for him than even four years ago is a pretty scary and sad statement,” she said.
Paullay-Beazley’s mood was dampened by the possibility of Democrats facing a Republican senate, which she said would be “like a brick wall” in the way of new legislation.
South California expat Cindy Buell was more optimistic.
“If anybody can work across the aisle, it’s Joe Biden. He was in the senate and he has some really dear, long-time friends that are still in the senate,” she said.
“Even [Senator] Lindsey Graham is a very long time friend of his, so let’s hope they can put some ideologies aside and work for the good of the American people.”
At Democrat drinks at Wellington beer bar Hashigo Zake yesterday afternoon, former Washington resident Julia Pasztor shared that hope.
She said the United States had a lot to work on when it came to issues of racial injustice, climate change, healthcare and international relations.
“I mean the list goes on with what we’re having to deal with. But because of how Biden just presented that in his speech, I’m hopeful that he is going to surround himself with true experts, individuals who use science and evidence-based information in these very difficult decisions,” she said.
Asked what should be top of Biden’s to-do list, Auckland and Wellington Democrat supporters unanimously said fixing the healthcare system and Covid-19 response.
Leading forensic pathologist Judy Melinek decided to emigrate from San Francisco to Wellington this year, in a move that was partly motivated by Trump’s handling of the virus.
She said Covid-19 in the United States could worsen before it improves.
“I’m optimistic that our president-elect Joe Biden will be able to put science as a priority and start to get the Covid-19 pandemic under control. I’m concerned that he does not have power to do that, essentially, until January.”
If Trump had stayed in power Paullay-Beazley was bracing for a few more membership applications for Democrats Abroad New Zealand – including relatives who had devised backup plans to emigrate.
“They’ve been threatening to come and live with me now and of course it was hinging on what happened. Now I’m getting lots of great messages going ‘I won’t need that room after all.”