Washington DC :: Election 2020
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"Follow this page to see what's going on with the people in DC during the election. You can get your political analysis elsewhere. We talk about democracy in action polling stations, voting, citizens. Let's start seeing each other's meaning and humanity..." - Alex Chiu
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How it ended for us.
Lincoln Memorial (Nov. 8th 2020)
Edi and I knew that this project would end on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise, the day after the election, regardless of the results. We thought this project would end on election night but what has gone according to plan in 2020? I was tired and delirious at this point but once you start walking up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, you feel the magnitude of the building. It was 4am and pitch black outside, the only thing lit up was honest Abe, the scripture behind him states ‘For whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever’. It was fitting to gaze upon those words all night, after such a difficult election, this union is worth saving, regardless of how divided we are.
The dawn of a new day in our nation's capital, elections divide people, there is no way around it. I’ve seen it here from both sides. I’ve also heard from the side, that it’s a waste of time, nothing changes, that politics is just show business for the unattractive, and sports for the unathletic. It’s easy to be cynical but when you’ve met the people we've met this past week, the poll workers who were mostly young people, volunteering in the face of a pandemic, or the first time voters who voted from their cars, the people who waited hours in line to cast their ballot. Democracy is hard but it works, when everyone gets involved. We just had the highest voter turnout ever, while our politics may divide us, it’s much harder to hate each other when you get to know each other, that we all see each other as having value and meaning. We all want a country that is equitable and fair for all. The motto of the United States is E Pluribus Unum means out of many, one, we all work towards and build one country. Is it perfect of course not, but that is why we are always working towards a more perfect union.
As the sun rises behind the Washington monument I begin to think about our journey through this project, how two Asian-Americans, sons of immigrant parents, could now explore this country and develop a book which showcases the American people and the democratic process. The individual stories that I wrote and Edi drew are unique but they are all bound by the basic principles that every man and woman are created equal and have certain unalienable rights. I grew up reciting the pledge of allegiance but I always felt like this perpetual foreigner, because I was the son of immigrants. To see Kamala Harris speaking tonight as the new Vice-President elect it made me realize that these principles have always been true, and if I just realized that today, what did that speech mean for the millions of young people with similar stories to ours.
As sunrise was finishing Edi layed all his paintings underneath the foot Lincoln and people stopped by and looked in amazement that he had done all of this in a weeks time, with one man saying:
‘I want to say Thank You for so beautifully capturing the American Experiment through your art. This election was as mesmerizing as it was difficult and divisive. You were able to capture the argument on both sides and then bring it back full circle to our grandest ideals...in painting a young man looking up and contemplating in awe, the past savior of our grant republic’
President-Elect Biden projected to win the Election 2020!
White House (Nov. 7th 2020)
The speakers were blaring: ‘Fuck Donald Trump, Fuck Donald Trump’ the song is called FDT by YG and Nipsy Hustle.
Alex: I’ve never heard of this song before, until this week.
Edi: They’ve been playing this all summer, at every protest in the Bay.
Alex: I’ve never seen people show so much joy, in cursing out another person.
This was not just any other person thou, this was President Donald Trump, the most powerful man in the world, for these past four years, he has split apart friendships, families, given rise to white supremist and just outright lied to the American people. Every American remembers where they were when Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the same can be said for when he was finally defeated in 2020.
We got word from Wolf Blitzer on CNN around noon, that it was now official Joe Biden would be our 46th president. This election had gripped this city and pretty soon every car was honking their horn like it was rush hour, except there was no traffic. Black Lives Plaza was a sea of people. It was like a parade had descended onto the White House, the usual cast of characters were there except now they were swarmed by others in masks bobbing their heads to the beats of YG and Nipsey. Lauren was finally able to pass out her hundreds of signs, she had made for just this day. They said everything from ‘Trump is over’ to ‘Love is power’
Random woman: I’ll take three signs, how much?
Lauren: They are free, because it’s freedom of speech!!
Don the speaker guy was still sitting in his usual spot but bouncing his sign ‘Stop hating each other because you disagree’ up and down like he just don't care, in a sea of people. The pink hair lady DJ, now had a crowd dancing to her every song. Edi had taken his place alongside the fence of the White House, the pictures of dead black men and women at the hands of police, RBG and John Lewis had more significance today, while he drew the celebration.
People had come from the neighboring states New York, Virginia, Maryland to get in on the celebration, Nataliae took a bus, a train and then a scooter to the White House, people didn’t just want to celebrate they wanted to be a part of history.
Pablo: I came here from LA, and made this sign, I’ve been here since election day holding this up, because this president has made it so hard to be an immigrant in the states. I hold this sign till midnight every night while just eating chips and water but it’s all worth it because I fly out tomorrow and I didn’t miss this!!!
With my back towards the fence of the White House, I could see the endless crowd in front of me, the streets were filled with people of all ethnicities, young and old, holding signs, waving flags of the USA, Puerto Rico, Rainbows, all with masks on. I know we're in the midst of a global pandemic, after a divisive and long election, everyone there wasn’t celebrating Mardi Gras or spring break, they were celebrating the fact that democracy worked. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and yes it was worth the risk, to see all these Americans shouting ‘U-S-A’, ‘This is what democracy looks like’ and of course ‘Fuck Donald Trump’.
President-Elect Biden and Vice President Harris were to speak tonight, we found a place to sit and watched it on my phone as fireworks went off in the background. Kamala Harris went to Howard University in D.C. and had many firsts, first woman vice-president, first vice-president of color, first vice-president born from immigrants, like they say you can’t be what you can’t see.
Alex: What do you like best about going to Howard?
Sidney: I’m from Alabama and I just like that in Howard, you see all types of black people, that we are not a monolith, that were from the West Indies, to Africa, all over the place and were all different, plus I love my roommates.
Alex: Now you're a senior, what do you want to pursue afterwards?
Sidney: Well I interned for Kamala Harris last year and just seeing her become vice-president made me believe I could do anything, I want to get into the political field.
Alex: So what’s Kamala really like?
Sidney: She is so cool and down to earth, she treated all her interns well and we even talked in the elevator a couple of times.
The party continued through the night, we knew the president was in the White House, and if he didn’t want to accept the loss we would at least make him hear about it. Champagne was flowing, fireworks were exploding, you would have thought we had rung in the new year but this was better, we may have salvaged it. Edi was painting the crowd in front of the White House, when all of the sudden the White House exterior lights all turned off, we knew this doesn’t normally happen, since we’ve seen the lights on past midnight the entire week. They might have turned off the lights but they couldn’t turn down the noise tonight, as they shot another roman candle into the sky.
As the night went on the crowd slowly began to thin but more people still came to the White House to be a part of history. I even saw was a married couple dressed in there wedding outfits, walking towards the fence of the White House, and just as the ‘FDT’ song came on the bride shouted ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ at the top of her lungs, while giving the white house the number one salute. They had decided to renew their vows at Black Live Matter Plaza, I guess this really was the most important day of their lives.
Still Awaiting Results - Election 2020 by Alex Chiu
White House (Nov. 5th 2020)
The ultimate test of patience, as Americans age by the minutes staring into their phones, waiting to see who the next president elect will be, Biden was narrowing the gap in GA and PA of the Presidents lead, with mail in ballots going overwhelmingly to Biden. A nation waits but people made this best of their time by the white house. A music video was being filmed, the international media was urging patients as votes trickled in, while kids on their bikes were popping wheelies in the background, everyone wanted their 15 minutes of fame.
Throughout this project Edi has been drawing the people of D.C. and I’ve seen how happy it makes people whether you're a Biden fan or Trump supporter, people have enjoyed his art. It brings a moment of levity and joy in this divisive time, and that matters. People are appreciative of the art and they take pictures of it, they post about it, they literally see themselves in the art. So once we found out that the election would still not be over tonight, I saw him spreading all his art on the street by the White House and I’m freaking out thinking someone might steal a strip or step on it, but it brought joy to people and that was worth it.
Random Guy seeing the art: I recognize that guy (about an aggressive and flashy Trump supporter who has been frequenting the area), he came up to me talking shit, so I punched him in the face.
That guy had a little too much joy seeing it...
White House (Nov. 6th)
I was glued to the phone for much of the day. I could sense the end was near, Biden had just overtaken the lead in PA, NV and AZ, surely two out of the three states would be called for Biden and we can get the party started this Friday night. We had become regulars by now at Black Lives Matter plaza, after coming everyday for a week, it was always the same cast of characters. Lauren the sign lady, Don the speaker guy, the guy screaming Jesus loves you, Drumline elite, the pink hair lady DJ who was right next to the fence and of course Edi with his watercolors and notebook. Some of them showed up early in the morning, some came after work, regardless the resistance to this administration was strong.
There were definitely more people today then the previous five days at the White House, more international media were all here in hopes of covering history, people were bringing their kids to be a part of history. Biden had already scheduled a new conference tonight and surely he knew something that regular citizens didn’t. The people in D.C. had hoped Biden would become president and now they were expecting it. Edi was still drawing people, while I was still watching my phone every 10 minutes, hoping for something to develop, as the night went on it became clear that there would be no celebration as the PA vote count was slowly coming in. Frustration and anxiety had settled in, after a historic election that won’t end, but what was echoed the past week by most of the regulars were, we’ve waited four years for this, we can wait another day.
The day after Election 2020 by Alex Chiu :
Home (Nov. 4th 2020)
After an exhaustive night a nation stood on edge as ballots continue to be counted. Biden had pulled ahead in MI, WI, NV and AZ with many more votes to be counted. Every American was glued to their phone, laptop or tv this morning trying to find clarity but instead were told to be more patient. Productivity in America may have slowed to a crawl because of election anxiety but our nation's poll workers were continuing to show what democracy looks like, to get an accurate count.
White House (Nov. 4th 2020)
After WI and MI were declared to Biden we headed towards the White House expecting impending celebration, to our surprise people were already celebrating. The tension and stress of this election had gotten to people, and the only way to let loose was to dance in the Black Lives Matter plaza. A DJ booth was set up playing hip-hop songs from the likes of Jay-Z, Ludacris, Nas but the song that got people to move the most was Los Del Rio’s hit 90’s song the Macarena. It was great to see all types of people dancing, chatting and getting along. You wouldn’t know we live in a divided country in front of 1600 Pennsylvania ave tonight.
Hand made signs were abundant, everything from ‘Fire Trump’ to ‘Jesus will save you’. One woman had printed hundreds of signs which read ‘Take Trump Down’ to pass out tonight and another hundred different signs for when they actually declared Biden the winner. Photographers from all over the world had descended to the White House to capture their iconic images, and if you wanted to feel famous just bring a cool sign tonight, or wear a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap, the paparazzi were waiting.
The major TV networks such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX news, broadcast inside the White House lawn while all the international press were outside the fences on the Black Lives Matter plaza broadcasting. We saw everything from high end camera and audio equipment to just a smart phone on a selfie stick. Everyone wanted to broadcast that they were in front of the most important office in the world, waiting for what may be the most historic celebration of the year.
It became more apparent that several more swing states would not declare a winner so we decided to save our energy for the next day to celebrate. A Lot has been made of our safety when doing this project but the media makes it more dangerous than it seems after a summer of unrest it's understandable but until you are in a place you never truly know what it's like till you're there. Just take it from Myra, a college student from New York.
Myra: "I participated in several Black Lives Matter protests this summer and it was nothing like what the media portrayed it to be. I wanted to see what it would be like in D.C. for the election, I eventually want to get into politics and this would be a good experience."
Well Myra if this hasn’t scared you off nothing will…
Election Day by Alex Chiu
White House (Night of Nov. 3th 2020)
We decided to go to the White House and see if people were gathering in an election that was too close to call. Throngs of media had arrived hoping to break any news using the White House as a backdrop. People were gathered and the nervous energy was palpable, you could tell people wanted to celebrate but exhaustion was started setting in at the 1AM hour. The temperature started dropping, as reporters' teeth were chattering as they spoke into the camera, to finish up their final report. Every language was spoken but always included the same three english words Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Hour by hour one camera crew after another would start packing their gear, knowing that they’ll live to report for another day, and then maybe another. We knew it was time to go when even the anti-facism group decided to leave at 3am from boredom.
Boys and Girls Club (Nov. 3rd 2020)
Election day in D.C. brought us a crisps cool day, our first stop was at the Boys and Girls club, where we were greeted by Lauren who was doing curbside voting. Voting during a pandemic has caused some voters to vote by car. Lauren would hand an iPad to them to register and then give them a ballot in the comforts of their own car.
Lauren: I was a waitress at a bar 4 years ago and we basically stopped charging for drinks after he won. I don’t want to go through that tonight and the thought of not having enough poll workers during this pandemic didn't sit well with me so I decided to do something about it.
As we walked in we were greeted by Mr. Henry who was 73 years young. Escorting voters up and down the stairwell to the gymnasium.
Alex: Why are you doing this? Aren't you scared about the pandemic at your age?
Mr. Henry: ‘Hell yeah, I’m scared to death, but I’m patriotic and I’m bored as hell’
Chanel the Site coordinator is a proud Howard Alum and Oakland, CA Native, just like our vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris. Chanel easily had the best outfit to the polls, with her silver encrusted Nike Air Max’s, with Black Power White sweater and a Howard embroidered fanny pack.
Charles Drew Elementary School (Nov. 3rd 2020)
Our next polling place was the one part of D.C. where gentrification had not taken place ward 7. We met Jesse who had just been laid off from his job because of the pandemic.
Alex: Do you like volunteering?
Jesse: Volunteer? I need to get paid!
Alex: Did you vote today?
Jesse: Why would I vote? My vote doesn't matter, it’s about the electoral college!
Alex: You're not wrong…
Jesse: I don’t care for either of them, I just need my stimulus check, that congress (senate) still has not passed.
Alex: So is this the real Chocolate city?
Jesse: Yeah this is it, you see any white people here?
Jesse: You see any bike lanes, with shared bikes here?
Jesse: The only shared bike here is stolen.
We could see that this was a part of town that was struggling and residents needed help, regardless of which side of the aisle you're on, it doesn’t change the fact that real people are still struggling with the effects of the pandemic.
Frank Ballou High School (Nov. 3rd 2020)
Our last polling station would be ward 8 at Frank Ballou High school. They were blasting reggae music outside the school, cheering on first time voters, it was certainly the most festive polling site we’ve been to and the nicest. Art work was being done outside the school by local artists painting about democracy.
We used to trick the freshman in H.S. about buying a pool pass to an imaginary pool, well this school actually had one. The school was brand new and was a predominately African-American H.S. Ashley, who graduated a few years ago summed it up best.
Ashley: They built this school a few years ago and people started wanting to go to school and not just hanging outside of school. I would get my A’s, B’s and C’s
Who would have thought, you build it, and the kids will come.
Edi : I really liked How they invited artists to come paint outside the voting center!!
Mission Bar (Nov. 3rd 2020)
9PM: One step into the Mission bar and you can’t help but notice the red lights all around the room, I had just thought it was because the Nationals team colors were red but in fact it was a Republican bar. I was wondering why fox news was blaring throughout the bar, we found out only because our waitress whispered it to us. We shared a laugh and quickly realized we were on the same team when I told her I loved her cap, which said ‘Don’t call your ex, call your senator’. She had worked for Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.
In cities such as the Bay area, tech is the thing everyone talks about, in New York it is finance and in D.C. it’s Politics. 95% of the town is Democratic leaving little room for Republican staffers on the hill to socialize, so this bar was it. When Joe Biden won the state of Delaware at 9:54PM only one other person cheered, while I elbow pumped our waitress. The two sides are so divisive these days they can not even drink together. We found the bar too somber for our liking so we asked our waitress where the democratic bars were and she mentioned the Red Derby.
Red Derby (Nov. 3rd 2020)
11PM: Is it just a coincidence that the bloods and crips share the same colors as the Democrats and Republican. Both groups hate each other and we went across town for another drink with the blue team. One foot into the Red Derby and there is even more despair, as votes from the midwest were coming in. Biden was losing in PA, WI and MI while FL had already turned red. Making the Democratic landslide a thing of the past, you could see people crying at their tables and people holding their loved ones. Emotions run high on election night with the pandemic bringing record numbers of infections, a record number of mail-in ballots would have to be counted as well and that could take days, patients would be a virtue for both sides…
Election Eve by Alex Chiu
Columbia Heights Community Center (Nov. 2 2020)
The day before election day and the last day of early voting. The country has been voting in unprecedented numbers. Some states had already surpassed their total votes in 2016, while the candidates criss-cross the country to rally their base.
Tony (Site Leader): I’ve been doing this for years and this election is different then all the others, people are nervous, anxious and concerned. They fear their vote won’t count because of mail in ballots and the courts. We're trying to alleviate all those fears.
White House (Nov. 2nd 2020)
I remember visiting the white house as a kid, there was always a fence surrounding the lawn but not two fences, with one of them being a chain link fence plastered with signs. You step foot on the Black Lives Matter plaza and you can hear the clanging and the banging of Drumline Elite! People want to be heard, either by voting, playing music to make you move, drawing to amaze you, or just yelling at the top of your lungs that Jesus loves you!
We met two girls in HS who were not even old enough to vote, holding a Biden and Harris sign, in the middle of all this ruckus, trying to get their voice heard. They felt the hostility but yet they persisted through the night, until their mom came to pick them up.
The media from all over the world descended on our state capital. They know that who runs the most powerful country in the world has a direct correlation on what will happen in their homes. Reporters speaking in their native languages are all around the White House this evening.
A Japanese woman from the small island of Okinawa, Japan flew into D.C. during a global pandemic to report on this election for her local paper.
Alex: You picked a hell of a time to visit.
Miyo: I’m a little scared and nervous but this is the most important election in my lifetime, everyone on the island wants to know what will happen.
An older African-American gentleman walks past me with a grandma cart with a huge speaker blaring Bob Marley’s hit song ‘One Love’ and a sign saying ‘Stop hating each other because you disagree’. He proceeds to take out a folding chair and props it up on the street across from the White House and next to the secret service police force. The music blaring, people screaming, drums banging, the whole world is watching.
Don: “I’ve been out here since 11am, I just want people to know, Let's all agree that we disagree and move on, let's stop talking at each other and start talking with each other.”
This is Alex's account of what it was like to walk into a Voting Center here in Washington D.C. and to talk to the election workers. (We weren't allowed to talk to the voters, understandably) :
"We walk into this sprawling warehouse, where we met Wanda the site coordinator who’s been volunteering at the poles for over 10 years. Wanda made it fun to go to the polls, all the volunteers cheered when a first-time voter, a new resident to the D.C. area, or a child came into the polling station. It made the room festive and fun and that’s what democracy should be about, voting should be easy, it should be celebrated and it should be fun. I asked Wanda who is African-American, what do you think Election Day will be like and she told me the African-American and Latino community tends to wait till the last minute to vote, I told her that’s what they say about all the minorities and we shared a laugh.
"I started talking to Hossein who was at the foreign language booth, all across the room you could see signs in English, Chinese and Spanish. I asked Hossein what language he spoke and he told me sign language, he showed us how to sign the word ‘vote’. Both his parents were deaf but he could speak so we just talked about the beauty of democracy, how we’re fortunate to be able to vote, and let our voices be heard in any language. Hossein's father was from Iran so he knew how fortunate we are to be living in America, but the work still persists to make this a more perfect union.
"Melvin was going to every electronic and paper booth, wiping down every pixie glass and the machine he could get his hands on. The global pandemic made voting different than any other year, everyone should feel safe voting and he took his job seriously because in the year 2020 it could mean the difference between life and death."
Early polling stations!
USA Supreme Court!