Former Ninth District Judge Nancy Guthrie was one of the first people to arrive at Town Square on Saturday morning. She bounced around the wood-planked sidewalk in her American flag leggings. Red, white and blue streamers dangled from her silver hair. It was roughly one hour after the Associated Press had declared Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the winners in a presidential election that smashed turnout records.
“I have two granddaughters. One called from Texas and I said, ‘This is a memorable day— remember it!’ I never thought I would live to see the day that a biracial woman was elected,” Guthrie said referencing Harris, the first woman, first Asian American, and first Black person elected to the office of vice president.
Until recently, Guthrie was a longtime Republican. She registered as a conservative back in 1964 and switched parties just two years ago. The election of Donald Trump precipitated a shift in the Republican Party that Guthrie says she couldn’t reconcile. She says she longs for the days of moderate conservatism vis-à-vis former Wyoming U.S. Senator Alan Simpson.
“The Republican Party I know is gone. It’s now the party of Trump and I could not tolerate that so I’m a Democrat,” she said.
Guthrie lamented the president’s anti-science agenda and how that has played out during the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed to Trump’s politicization of face masks. Mounting research continues to show the effectiveness of face masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but Trump has not embraced this message.
Roughly 67 percent of Teton County voters checked the box for Biden and Harris this election. The celebration on Town Square Saturday yielded just a few dozen people but there was no shortage of jubilation.
“Hallelujah!” yelled Jackson Town Councilor Jim Stanford. He traced the Biden/Harris victory to people like Stacey Abrams. Georgia’s former gubernatorial candidate has been credited with turning Georgia blue for her work getting out the vote and fighting voter suppression. And before that, he says, the 2017 women’s march set the tone for so-called “resistors.”
“I’m overcome with gratitude for all the work, perseverance and inspiration that people have put in for four years and it gives me hope going forward,” he said.
Scores of motorists showed their support by honking their horns and raising their fists. Passersby, meanwhile, stopped to pick up Biden stickers and signs that a representative from the Wyoming Democratic party was handing out. But there was at least one group of passersby that didn’t like what they saw. They told Jackson Town Councilor-elect Jessica Sell Chambers that the flag she was holding should be upside down. In other words, celebrating the Biden/Harris win was unpatriotic in their eyes. Chambers quickly shut them down. “Welcome to Jackson!” she yelled. “We welcome you!”
Shattering norms once again, Trump has yet to concede. He has made baseless claims about the integrity of the election and his supporters seem to be listening.
Karyn Schiller and her daughter Gabriella didn’t witness the interaction between Chambers and the group of Trump supporters. They were delighted by the smiling faces and supportive motorists. Schiller, an immigration attorney, says from her professional perch, the last four years have been “a nightmare.” And she wasn’t just talking about so-called illegal immigration.
“I have come into the office every single day, turning on my computer to find out what rule changed today, what evidentiary standard was heightened, what things that were acceptable yesterday that are not acceptable today,” she said.
This chaotic policy, she said, has “virtually ground immigration to a halt in our country. And so all the talk of, ‘Well, get online and do the right thing and come in legally,’ has all been one big lie.”
Schiller says she’s looking forward to the United States once again becoming a country where immigrants are welcome. It is a sentiment that infused Victor Esquivel with relief. Esquivel was brought to the U.S. at the age of four—America is home. But life has felt uncertain under the Trump administration.
“I’m a DACA recipient so it feels like I can finally breathe again and it feels amazing,” Esquivel said through tears.
In 2017, President Trump tried to end the immigration program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has allowed Esquivel to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. The Supreme Court rejected that attempt in June. But Trump has vowed to challenge the program again. President-elect Biden, on the other hand, has promised a path to citizenship for Esquivel and the more than 650,000 Dreamers in the U.S.
Ivan Jimenez, for his part, says he is relieved that a far-right populist leader was defeated. But he’s not dancing in the street or opening bottles of champagne.
“I hope people don’t get complacent,” Jimenez said. “Complacency got us to where we were in 2016. Trump is one person, but half the country voted for him. We need people to organize, mobilize and take down the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, for-profit health care. All these things are still going to exist. And unfortunately, Biden is still pretty supportive of all these institutions.”
Jimenez was holding a sign that read “No time for brunch.” It referenced a 2016 sign he saw: “If Hilary had won, we’d be going to brunch.” Thus, for Jimenez and progressives like him, they’re gearing up to hold Biden accountable. For them, the fight has just begun.