In the seconds after major news networks called Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, New Yorkers exhaled loudly, in unison. The announcement came just before 11:30 a.m. on November 7, an abrupt end to a nail-biting, multiday presidential contest that kept much of the country in thrall to MSNBC anchor Steve Kornacki and his Big Board. As soon as the race was called, the sounds of honks and cheers and clanging pots erupted in New York City, quickly escalating to a cacophonous frenzy. New Yorkers threw open their windows to scream and ring cowbells — where did we get all these cowbells? — as the news sank in. The wait was over, Trump was out. Honk honk honk.
In some ways, the response felt surprising, given that — for many in the Democratic Party — Biden’s candidacy initially inspired lukewarm to begrudging acceptance, at best. Six months ago, few would have danced at the prospect of a Biden presidency. In the beginning, his bid felt like an Establishment inevitability forced upon the progressive left, his centrism billed as a promise of electability, even as enthusiasm lagged. Still, Biden, and his historic running mate Kamala Harris, framed their campaign as a referendum on the “soul of America” — a battle between darkness and light. After four years of watching fascism cement itself in American policy, many strained to imagine good coming out on top. But the majority of voters united against a common enemy, and when it arrived, Biden’s win felt better than many people expected. Less like an obligatory compromise than a rare glimmer of actual hope.
After the 2016 election, droves of New Yorkers marched through a cold drizzle to voice their dissent outside Trump Tower, a gloomy start to the months of protests that would follow in 2017. In 2020, the weather nailed the ambience once again: With unseasonably sunny 70-degree temps as a backdrop, New York became one big party. There were fireworks, there were flags, there were drums and horns and boom boxes. Parents hoisted tiny babies into the air, their infant ears padded by safety muffs, for the crowd’s appraisal and overwhelming approval. In Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, people poured Champagne for strangers; in Fort Greene Park, dancing continued well into the night.
Below, view photographer Cheryl Dunn’s pictures from the big parade.