Tennessee State Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, reacts to voting returns during an election night watch party Tuesday at Biden headquarters at Loflin Yard. Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50.

Progressives allowed themselves a tiny bit of optimism Wednesday as Vice President Joe Biden picked up Wisconsin and Michigan while other swing states – including Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona — remained too close to call.

While it appeared clear that Biden would win the popular vote, the electoral college vote tally stood at 264-214 Wednesday afternoon, in the Democrat’s favor but still shy of the 270 needed to win. 

“I can’t feel like I’m out of the woods yet,” said Venita Doggett, a fundraiser for the University of Memphis. She began the day by letting her boss know she’d be taking a mental health day and then toggled between NPR, MSNBC, some CNN  – no Fox, thank you.

Related: “Angry… for having a little bit of hope.” Progressive Memphians’ fears materialize in somber election night

In between binging on the news, she talked to friends in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes late Wednesday appeared to be going in Trump’s column.

“I’m holding out hope, but just a little glimmer.”

In the hours after the polls closed, Doggett was downright dejected. “I’m really angry at myself for having a little bit of hope, quite honestly,” she told MLK50.

The next day, she was slightly less so.

On Wednesday, Trump’s team announced it had filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Michigan, demanding that the ballot counts be halted until the campaign is given “meaningful” access to all ballots. Trump was ahead in Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon, but his margin was shrinking as mail-in ballots were being counted.

“Trump has shown time and time again he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it means destroying this country,” Doggett said. “That’s sad to me and I wish we were better than that.”

Aimee Lewis made it into work Wednesday. On a scale of 1 to 10, she put her personal anxiety level at about 7. 

“When our legislature and government should have been focused on the needs of the people in the middle of the pandemic, what they chose to do was push through these horrific barriers” to abortion access, she said.

“All that is frightening, and I think it goes hand in glove with what we’re seeing about the erosion of just basic human rights (such as) the Black Lives Matter Movement, criminal justice reform, immigration, putting children in cages and not hearing the pleas of people who are fleeing for really legitimate and valid reasons.”

But professionally, she was at a 4 or 5. Lewis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, said she is encouraged by the solidarity among progressive activists and organizers.    

“There is plenty to be concerned about, but I will take heart in the fact that I think, over the past four years, we have started to work more together, to look out for each other, and to lift each other’s voices and our issues up,” Lewis said.

“I really do believe at the end of the day, that when we all speak together with one voice, we can make real change happen. And I can’t let go of that. If I let go of that, there wouldn’t be any point to getting up the next day.”

Among those with the most at stake if Biden wins are Dreamers, the estimated 650,000 undocumented residents who were brought to the U.S. as children. The Obama administration’s  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provided some protection from deportation, but Trump has repeatedly tried to end the program. In June, the Supreme Court upheld DACA with a 5-4 vote; it’s unclear what the program’s fate would be now that the court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Christian Brothers University students with the group Voices United, in collaboration with Mariposas Collective, unveiled a series of murals in front of First Congregational Church in Memphis on Wednesday. Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50

Christian Brothers University is home to many of those Dreamers, some of whom belong to the student group Voices United.

The group initially wanted to hold a public demonstration before the election, but Edith Ornelas, organizing founder of Mariposas Collective, a grassroots immigrant rights organization, encouraged the students to choose a form of resistance less likely to draw police attention, which could put them at risk of deportation.

And so on Wednesday afternoon, in the side lawn at First Congregational Church in Cooper Young, Voices United unveiled a mural that will stand and speak for them. 

Students with Voices United talk about their murals on Wednesday in the side lawn at First Congregational Church in Cooper Young . Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50

Painted on five tall panels, the mural captured the immigration story, beginning with travelers walking under clouds across bare expanses of land, following a handful of butterflies, and ending with a rainbow beaming behind a parent, graduate, elder and doctor, explained Lucero Amador, a sophomore at CBU majoring in elementary education.

Amador, 19, came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 3 and like many at the mural’s unveiling, was anxiously waiting to learn the election results.

“It’s a very stressful time,” she said from behind a polka dot mask. “I’m just hoping for the best because it’s our future in the balance.”

Said Ornelas: “This is about equity.

“They deserve the same hope of having a better education and a better future.”

Doggett will cling to her skepticism until Inauguration Day, when she hopes Trump will exit as is customary for all departing presidents.

“I can’t get excited until Jan. 20 when I see him get on Marine One.” 


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