Madison Celebrates as Joe Biden Becomes President-Elect



Joe Biden’s supporters gather at the capitol to celebrate his presidential victory.

Mackenzie Moore, News Editor

After roughly four days of the country waiting in anguish, on Nov. 7, Joe Biden became the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election. Seemingly in an instant, downtown Madison, a crucial city in the swing state of Wisconsin, was flooded with celebration and relief.

Emily Mills, a photographer and journalist, recalled her experience.

“I was already geared up to go on a solo bike ride Saturday morning when the news broke about the networks calling the race for Biden. Basically, I’d been feeling anxious and wanted to get out and get some fresh air. My partner and I got to tell a bunch of my neighbors and everyone was yelling with excitement. And that’s when I knew I needed to head to the Capitol. That’s where Madison tends to go for all things political and I knew there’d already been plans for a Count the Vote rally that morning, so figured more people would turn out. I just really needed to be among other people who were celebrating. I wanted at least a moment of relief and catharsis, and for me, it’s important to be with community generally, but especially when big things like this happen. And I know from past experience that the crowd likely to be there would also be good about mask wearing and other precautions, so it felt reasonably safe. And it was.”

When asked about the tone of the celebration, the words that came to mind for Mills were “jubilant” and “relieved.”

Mills said, “I had a few, socially distanced conversations with other folks drawn to the Capitol to celebrate, and everyone seemed to be feeling the same mix of joy, relief and still wariness – because we’re just so used to the relentless stream of bad news, I think, and are all painfully aware of how much work is yet to be done. But we were all just trying to feel some joy for a little while, anyway, and so many people worked so hard and for so long to make this happen, we needed a release valve! People were chanting, cheering, dancing – cars were doing laps in an impromptu parade around Capitol Square, honking their horns to the “democrabeep” rhythm, hanging out of windows with signs and flags (American flags, the BLM flag, Pride flags, Biden Flags).”

Mills said that her favorite moment was when a man in a pickup truck stopped in front of the rally, jumped on his hood, and said, “I’m so excited, I’m going to take out my dentures!” He then proceeded to pull out his set of upper teeth and wave them in the air. This, Mills recalled, made the crowd “go wild.”

Despite the generally exuberant tone, some less-than-pleased Trump supporters did make an appearance.

“At first, just a small handful gathered up the block from the main celebration, and then they moved to the other side of the Capitol and I think there were maybe two or three dozen of them. They had those anti-BLM “Thin Blue Line” flags, Trump flags, and “Stop the Steal!” signs. After I left, I know there were some sporadic arguments between some of them and some of the people celebrating,” Mills remembered.

“The biggest conflict I saw happened when a truck with three (white) men inserted itself into the car parade. They were flying big Trump flags from the back, and one of them was standing in the bed talking through a megaphone – lots of denial about the election results, trying to convince us that we’d been ‘led astray’ and that ‘Trump will save us all! Trump is our president!’ It reminded me of cult leader rhetoric, to be honest.”

Mills continued, “When they pulled up in front of the main part of the rally, a Black gentleman walked out and cracked the wooden flag poles in half and threw the Trump flags on the ground, then walked off to much cheering. Then a bunch of folks surrounded the truck, but no one was pounding on it or anything, they just yelled at the young men to ‘get out’ and, thankfully, they drove off pretty immediately and nothing worse happened.”

While many Madisonians feel as though there is plenty of work left to be done, for one day, they breathed a sigh of relief.