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Liberals cheer Biden victory but reflect on work to come

NEW YORK, BERKELEY, Calif. (Reuters) - Stephanie Hill, a young Joe Biden supporter in New York City, celebrated major networks announcing his win of the U.S. presidency on Saturday with cheering strangers in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, marking the end of four “difficult” years for liberals.

Biden supporters banged pots, honked horns and cheered loudly in many cities after the long awaited news.

For Hill and many Democrats, however, joy was tempered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic after an agonizing election that dragged on for days and saw a larger number of votes cast for President Donald Trump than they had hoped.

“I think it’s more clear now than ever that we’re divided,” said Hill, 29, a film producer.

Democrat Biden prevailed after slowly overtaking the Republican president in key battleground state Pennsylvania in a nail-biting race that kept Americans on edge and sparked dueling demonstrations in some U.S. cities.

In Philadelphia, where late counted votes helped push the state in Biden’s favor, activists that gathered for the past few days outside the city’s Convention Center called for doubling down on working to advance a progressive agenda.

“It’s a time for joy, but also a time to recommit,” said Marshall Roy, 34, from South Philadelphia. “We also know the work is not over,” Roy, who works in the fitness industry, said on Friday.

The high-anxiety campaign that culminated in the past few days of hand-wringing across both sides of the political aisle pushed many progressive Americans to seek distraction away from their TV screens and the minute-by-minute coverage of the election.

Rachel Richardson, a 41-year-old native of Berkeley, a liberal enclave in California, took her two daughters camping on Tuesday to try and avoid election stress but found it impossible to escape.

Despite having no access to the internet, she ended up getting her election news from a fellow hiker at the campground.

“We could have kept away from it. But we realized that we didn’t totally want to not know,” said Richardson, who co-founded a literary community with husband David Roderick.

“I feel relief and happiness,” she said about Biden’s win. “But I think what we see is that a lot of this country is as polarized as we thought... And so we have a long way to go.”

A record number of Americans cast their ballot in the 2020 presidential election, with Biden winning the most popular votes of any other candidate. But Trump also had a strong showing, winning more ballots than he did in 2016 and consolidating his hold among his loyal base of supporters.

Republicans also picked up votes in the lower house of Congress, and Democrats have only claimed one additional seat so far in the U.S. Senate.

Trump escalated his baseless attacks on the results as his chances of winning the election faded over the three days since polls closed, appearing at the White House on Thursday evening to falsely claim the election was being “stolen” from him.

His campaign is pursuing a series of lawsuits across battleground states that legal experts described as unlikely to succeed in altering the election outcome.

The results further exacerbated deep divisions within the U.S. electorate, leaving some liberals with little reason to celebrate.

Sylvia Baer, a professor of American literature and a poet, said she had no plans to cheer Biden’s win.

“I don’t really know what the hell winning is anymore,” said Baer, 70. “I don’t see this as a celebration of anything other than the process of democracy and the voting.”

Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Jane Lanhee Lee in Berkeley, California; Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Diane Craft