Castleton University senior Jac Culpo heard a buzz from his phone. He looked at it and realized America had chosen the next President of the United States.
His phone screen presented the words “Joe Biden is president” and he immediately felt all the stress and anxiety and tension from the last few days leave his body. He sank into his gaming chair, put his phone down and as he focused on his breathing, he knew the anticipation was over.
Although the news he had longed to hear for days was finally here, he still realized it wasn’t over.
“I’m relaxed but I don’t think I’ll be fully relaxed until Biden is in office in January but it is nice, we can take a breath, we can focus on the holiday season, we can take a little month-and-a-half rest,” he said.
For many voters and ultimately the whole country, the days following the election until Saturday have been debatably the most stressful of the year. With a record-breaking number of early mail-in ballots, this country has never seen a presidential election like this before.
And for many Americans, watching the polls was the only thing they could do. Culpo said he couldn’t focus on anything else and he kept checking his computer for updates every 5 minutes with the hope of new news.
“It was stressful because of course freaking Nevada is counting about as slow as a snail, Pennsylvania can’t keep track of shit, Arizona suddenly stops, North Carolina and Georgia are announcing they’re not going to count for a few days so I just had to stop watching because I got so anxious,” Culpo said.
Students said Election Day was not as stressful as everyone thought it was going to be, but the days following – waiting for an answer – was what shook impatient voters.
Adam Mitchell, a junior, talked about how voting was fun but that he wasn’t too concerned with having an answer right away.
“So November 3rd, I knew the president wasn’t going to be called that day,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really stressing and a lot of friends were but I was like, ‘you’re gonna have to wait another week, at least.’”
Mitchell’s plan was to go home to New York and vote. He knew there was an open position for senator on the New York ballot and he felt that was more important to fill out than Vermont’s. He explained how he figured Vermont would vote Democratic and that he feels nothing ever gets done if the senate is led by the opposite party of the president.
But like Culpo, Mitchell said that after Election Day, his stress and anxiety increased “because I knew that democracy and basic human rights were on this ballot.”
In the days leading up to Election Day, some students were feeling optimistic and excited to finally get the chance to vote.
“This was my first presidential election voting and I’m a woman and I didn’t want my rights taken away and Joe Biden knew what he was doing,” said junior Baylee Lawrence.
Lawrence and junior Olivia Strong were both happy with the way the election turned out but also with how smooth the voting process went.
Strong said this was her first election and she admitted never really knowing much about politics.
“Well, this was actually the first year that I had ever even voted so I hadn’t been registered to vote either so it was a cool experience to be able to do that,” Strong said. “I wasn’t really nervous about it, I voted, I did what I could for the country, I played my part.”
Lawrence and Strong said they were both proud to say they voted for Biden.
Adam Murray, sophomore, contributed to the conversation by acknowledging that had there not been so much posting on social media about going out to vote, he may not have done it.
“I think what motivated voters the most in 2020 were the constant reminders to vote. I don’t think there were many social media sites/websites in general that allowed you to forget about Election Day and how important of an election this was,” Murray said.
As the voting process was coming to an end, those in the Castleton community were feeling even more anxious but united in a need for change. Rich Clark, a political science professor, talks about how he believes in our government system but that maybe it needs to be updated. He also stressed how badly the country is split and said he hopes this election will put a stop to it.
“We’ve seen the parties divide in a way that is tribal; we’ve seen the rise of open hatred and bigotry, and we’ve seen a decline in trust of one another over the last dozen year,” he said. “While our problems did not emerge from the rise of Donald Trump, the president’s disregard for the truth, demonization of political opponents, and alliance with conspiracy theorists have brought our divisions to a boil, making the task of uniting the country very difficult.”
Even when looking forward to the future, Clark doesn’t see a happy ending anywhere nearby.
“I am not optimistic about the next four years no matter who wins this presidential election. We have a lot of work to do to restore civic engagement and civil debate,” he said.
Whereas Clark is continuing to look forward far into the future, others are taking a moment of silence that the voting season is over and reflecting their emotions about how it went.
Culpo is thankful that last week’s stress of deciding who will lead our country is over and is happy to take time to enjoy the holidays with his family.
Strong and Lawrence are very glad to see Biden’s victory and said they will be “sleeping easy for the rest of this week.”
And even though we have a momentary pause, Mitchell knows that we should enjoy this happy time but that the work has only begun.
“I’m happy that America voted for Biden, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’re not out of the woods yet,” Mitchell said.