With cheers or skepticism, the Upper Valley reacts to Biden’s victory

  • Dartmouth College senior David Velona, right, took to the streets in Hanover, N.H., after hearing of Joe Biden’s presidential election win playing Celebration by Kool and the Gang on a portable speaker and dancing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Karen Liot Hill, of Lebanon, left, cheers with Brian Glenney, of Hanover, back left, his wife Colleen Boggs, right, and their boys Noah Glenney, 14, obstructed, and Liam, 10, second from right, while celebrating the Joe Biden’s presidential election win in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. A planned rally calling on officials to count all votes split into a celebration at the corner of Wheelock and Main Streets and a gathering at the center of the Dartmouth Green with speakers from Rise! Upper Valley after Biden’s win became clear earlier in the day. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Shannon Hadlock, 15, left, and her sister Addison, 17, of Sharon, added their hand prints to a “Before I Die” wall in White River Junction, Vt., while out celebrating Joe Biden’s presidential election win Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Though they can not yet vote, the sisters have attended rallies for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and climate change awareness. “She’s a member of the LGBTQ community,” Shannon said of her sister and why they were happy about Biden’s win. “with the whole scare of their rights being taken away, she doesn’t have to worry about growing up in a world where you have to worry about who you love.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • El Gonzalez lowers the mask of fellow Rise! Upper Valley member Kalé, who only gave a first name, so they could be heard more clearly during a rally on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, following the presidential election win of Joe Biden. “I’m glad that someone less evil than Trump is in office, but I’m not glad,” said Kalé, who sees a continued struggle for racial and social justice coming. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News Photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Andrei Burnin, of West Lebanon, stops to photograph a sign commenting on the presidential election in Canaan, N.H., after Joe Biden was announced as the winner Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. “It’s just hilarious,” he said. “I like the play on words, it’s nothing about politics. I’m probably the most apolitical person in the world.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2020 10:48:04 PM
Modified: 11/7/2020 10:48:01 PM

Susan Zak stood in line Saturday afternoon outside Norwich Wine and Spirits, waiting to buy three bottles of Champagne, one for her parents, one to bring to friends and one for a toast at home to the new president-elect.

“Relief,” she said of how she felt about former Vice President Joe Biden’s defeat of President Donald Trump, a result called by news organizations at 11:30 Saturday morning. She has a son in college and another who recently graduated, and she feels more hopeful for their prospects now.

But uncertainty remains. “We’ll have to see if Trump’s advisers can get control of him,” said Zak, a Norwich resident who works in real estate. “Who knows what’s going to happen between now and then?”

There is cause for caution. The nation, and the Upper Valley, remain sharply divided. Trump, a Republican, cast doubt on the integrity of the election and refused to commit to the customary transfer of power.

While supporters of the Democratic ticket of Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, expressed relief and hope for the future on Saturday, Trump supporters saw the election results in the dark shadows of their candidate’s suspicion.

“I think it’s bulls---,” Amanda Isenor, of Enfield, said at Jake’s Market & Deli in town. “I’m a Trump supporter and I feel that this was not done fairly.”

Biden has pledged to seek unity, but trust is now in short supply, for a host of reasons.

“I don’t even think that he’s going to be the one running this country,” Isenor said. “He’s incompetent.”

“They think Biden’s going to turn this country around, but I don’t know how that’s even possible,” she said.

Not everyone who voted for Biden believes he’s likely to change the country’s course. Saturday afternoon saw a pair of demonstrations set up on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover. On the corner opposite the Hanover Inn, a group of 15-20 people held Biden-Harris signs, cheered and rang cowbells and urged motorists to honk their horns, which many did.

Former Lebanon Mayor Karen Liot Hill wore Harris’ favored footwear, Converse All-Stars, to honor the vice president-elect, who will become the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American in the job. Liot Hill, who now serves on the City Council, hooted and rang a cowbell with abandon.

“It kind of feels like we’ve been holding our breath for the last few days,” she said. “And the last four years.”

But even as she celebrated, she had pause. “The truth is, 70 million people voted for Donald Trump. That’s a lot of people.”

The country remains divided, the coronavirus pandemic has worsened in recent days and there’s an economic crisis. The nation is in need of healing, both literal and figurative, she said.

“Joe Biden has already talked about being a president for everyone, even people who didn’t vote for him,” Liot Hill said.

A stone’s throw away, in the center of the green, on a warm day that felt more like September, speakers aired their skepticism of Biden.

“This country has tried to convince us that we need police and that we need punitive measures to address the problems in our society,” Rights and Democracy NH activist Asma Elhuni shouted through a microphone.

“I don’t think Biden is the answer,” said Ramon Aguiraldo, a young activist based in the Upper Valley. “I believe that the reliance on the government has been too strong. We forget that people power is something that can be stronger.” For Aguiraldo, Biden’s victory is “bittersweet.”

At any given moment in the demonstration, as many as 75 people stood listening. People walked back and forth, from the noisy celebration on the corner, to the more somber statements of purpose at the center of the green, while nearby, students sat and socialized or studied.

A variety of speakers asserted that while Biden was a welcome change from Trump, he wasn’t necessarily an ally in their efforts to reform the police and to improve social, racial and economic justice for the majority of Americans.

“Many of us said, ‘We’re going to vote for Joe Biden and hold his feet to the fire,’ ” said Robbie Boody, an organizer with the Upper Valley chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. “This campaign is how we hold his feet to the fire.”

Biden’s win meant little, Boody said in an interview. “For us it’s the same. It’s ‘Fight.’ ”

The range of desired outcomes from the election at times seemed immense. While demonstrators chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, these border walls have got to go!” a woman looked on while holding a sign that read, “Let’s all be neighbors again.”

There are fences to cross, and some Upper Valley voters did so.

“Go Biden!” said Chris Bourgeois, of Enfield, who was also shopping at Jake’s. “I feel very relieved, and sad, because I voted for Trump in 2016.” He just didn’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton, and would have preferred to vote for Bernie Sanders.

“What I care about is less drama,” he said, referring to Trump’s social media habits. “I feel like we actually have a president again.”

Others have crossed the fence in the other direction.

Trump voter Ralph Simoneau Jr., of Claremont, had little faith in mail-in voting, the ballot counts, the mainstream media and his former party, the Democrats, whom he now considers “crooked.”

As he left American Legion Post 29 in the city’s downtown as dusk fell on his 75th birthday, he wasn’t convinced Trump actually lost.

“Whatever they decide, they decide, but I really think Trump should have had it easy,” said Simoneau, who turned Republican to vote for Trump in 2016.

He said mail-in voting makes sense for certain people, including the handicapped and elderly, but otherwise believes it’s ripe for fraud. He wants a recount in all or most of the states.

Whether people have faith in Biden or not, he has pledged to try to bring the country together.

Alonzo Sirmans, who was walking across the Dartmouth Green with his son Alex, supported Trump because he admired his business acumen.

“He just didn’t handle things from a character point of view,” said Sirmans, a consultant and Evangelical pastor from Florida who is in the Upper Valley with his family while his wife operates a COVID-19 testing site for Dartmouth College.

“Hopefully,” he said, “President-elect Biden does the right thing for the American people.”

Whatever that might be.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

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