As Joe Biden supporters across America celebrated his 2020 presidential election victory, his Hawaii backers shared the same optimism for the future while opponents insisted it’s too early to declare a winner.
The suspense since Tuesday night ended about 6:25 a.m. Hawaii time today when national news outlets, including the Associated Press, projected Biden, the former vice president, as the winner over Republican President Donald Trump.
Americans from across the country took to the streets to celebrate or — in smaller numbers — to protest the results.
Elected officials and Biden supporters in Hawaii are ecstatic that the Democrat was able to prevent Trump from a second term and are hopeful about addressing ongoing problems in Hawaii — the most immediate being the state’s ability to respond to its COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s a huge, huge sigh of relief, because believe me, four years of President Trump has been nothing but chaos, corruption and divisiveness,” U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said. “(Biden’s) already hit the ground running, because the first thing he wants to do is to get this pandemic under control, because of course our economy is very much tied to getting this pandemic under control. … He’s already putting together a commission, and they will listen to the scientists and the medical people, and we will have someone who will bring responsibility to the office.”
Even before being declared president-elect, Biden said he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have held briefings to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., which is reporting record-breaking numbers of new cases more than seven months into the outbreak.
Two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia are still up for grabs, so the makeup of the Senate — and the fate of important legislative measures like another COVID-19 stimulus package — remains uncertain, but Hirono said Biden could still do a lot as president.
That includes selecting the appropriate people to run federal agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to properly handle the pandemic.
“He should select people to head our agencies, our departments, who have a commitment to the mission of the departments, including somebody at the CDC … who would listen to science,” she said.
Talks in Congress for another stimulus package have been stalled for months, and Americans around the country have been left with dwindling federal aid. In May, Hawaii’s budget shortfall, caused by an economy stalled by COVID-19, was projected to be $2.3 billion.
Newly elected U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele said he is excited for the future of the U.S. and is hopeful about states getting the necessary federal help to get through the pandemic.
“Local county governments, local municipalities, state governments, do not have the adequate revenue to weather this storm,” he said. “We need sustained, federal support … It’s going to take increasing the national debt. It is going to require, probably, more than just one stimulus package. But what we need to do is make sure that we can get people the adequate financial support that they need.”
Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, laid out several reasons why Hawaii would benefit from the Biden presidency.
“The first is that we will have a well-thought out, coordinated federal response and plan to deal with COVID,” said Dos Santos-Tam. “The second is Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan … which is going to be key for a state like us, which has huge infrastructure needs.”
Dos Santos-Tam named Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan as being helpful to Hawaii. He also said he believes Biden’s “foreign policy expertise” would benefit the state.
But, like Trump himself, many of his Hawaii supporters have yet to concede the election and question its legitimacy.
Edwin Boyette, the Hawaii Republican Party’s vice chairman for communications, said it is premature to declare Biden victorious.
“I probably talked to over 1,000 Republicans in Hawaii (on Friday), and I can’t think of one I phoned that thought this election was even close to being resolved,” he said.
For months leading up to the election, Trump has made unsubstantiated allegations that mail-in voting would result in widespread voter fraud. And after Election Day, as votes were being counted and Biden kept gaining ground, his campaign filed lawsuits in several states, including in swing states Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Law experts and election officials have overwhelmingly said there has been no sign of widespread or even sporadic voter fraud.
Boyette said it’s important to make sure the legal issues have been resolved in order for the public to trust in the election process.
“We want all Americans to have faith in the electoral process,” Boyette said. “We want to know that, win or lose, the candidate who received the majority of the vote, in confirmation with state and federal election law, was properly designated the winner. Once we degrade faith in the veracity of our elections, we lose something as Americans.”
Today, scores of pro-Trump demonstrators — between 100 and 350, according to participants — waved Trump and American flags in front of the state Capitol to protest the election result.
Some feared that their rights would be taken away under the Biden presidency, while others berated the media.
One demonstrator, who identified himself as Isaac KM, said Biden has not proved himself to be helpful to Hawaii.
“Biden has been in government for nearly 50 years. … I have not seen anything good happen here,” he said. “I’m not going to say Trump represented Hawaii well, but he’s making people work. It doesn’t make sense to me to work, and my money is going to people who aren’t working but can work.”
Some passersby honked in support, while others heckled demonstrators.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.