ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – When Joan Martin heard that Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the presidential election, the retired nurse and avowed supporter of President Donald Trump was deeply unsettled. To steel herself, she thought about how her household weathered Hurricane Katrina when it battered her hometown of Picayune, Mississippi, in 2005.
As the storm blew toward the town, Martin rushed out into her yard to carry her 85 show chickens to safety. Outside, howling winds lashed her family’s barn, lifting the edges of the roof off its moorings.
“The next day they (the chickens) were very concerned about the changes in the yard — we had trees down,” said Martin, 79. “They were very eyes-wide. But within two days, they said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can deal with this,’ and they did. So I have to follow their lead.”
Across the country, many of the 71.9 million people who voted for Trump — especially his loyal, passionate base — are working through turbulent emotions in the wake of his loss. Grief, anger and shock are among the feelings expressed by supporters who assumed he would score a rock-solid victory — by a slim margin, maybe easily, perhaps even by a landslide.
There is also denial. Many are skeptical of the results, saying they don't trust the media's race call for Biden, the way election officials counted the ballots, the entire voting system in America. Their views echo the unsupported claims Trump has made since Election Day.
This despite the fact that state officials and election experts say the 2020 election unfolded smoothly across the country and without widespread irregularities. Trump and other Republicans have pointed to isolated problems, but many are explained by human error. Many of the Trump campaign's legal challenges have been dismissed in court. And with Biden leading Trump by solid margins in key battleground states, none of those issues would have any impact on the outcome of the election.
Still, any fragment of possibility is enough for some Trump supporters to reject reality, feel aggrieved and rebuff Biden's calls for unity. Their comments lay out the political challenge ahead for the president-elect: The longer Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of Biden’s win, the harder it will be for the new president to unite a riven country, as he has said he wants to do.
“I’m really not in a live and let live mood," said Daniel Echebarria, a 39-year-old school teacher who lives in Sparks, Nevada.