CNN was the first of the networks to call the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, declaring at 11:24 a.m. that Joe Biden had won Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes, more than enough to give the former vice president an insurmountable lead over Donald Trump.
Shortly afterward, something unexpected happened: Van Jones, one of the panelists asked to reflect on this victory, broke down in tears.
The CNN anchor Anderson Cooper had asked Jones what this moment meant to him. Jones took a few seconds to answer, the tears clearly beginning to well up behind his glasses, before saying, “Well, it’s easier to be a parent this morning. It’s easier to be a dad. It’s easier to tell your kids that character matters.”
Then, trying unsuccessfully to choke back his tears, he delivered an emotional message, at times struggling to get the words out. “If you’re Muslim in this country, you don’t have to worry if the president doesn’t want you here,” he said. “If you’re an immigrant, you don’t have to worry if the president is going to be happier to have babies snatched away or send Dreamers back for no reason.” He added that Joe Biden’s victory was “vindication for a lot of people who have really suffered. You know ‘I can’t breathe’? That wasn’t just George Floyd. That was a lot of people who felt that they couldn’t breathe.”
The moment went viral on social media, with even a former first lady weighing in.
Jones wasn’t the only network commentator to be overcome with emotion after the Biden/Harris victory was announced (though some, like Roxane Gay, questioned his sincerity, tweeting, “Van Jones would not know a genuine emotion if it smacked him in the face. I shall never forget who he is. I hope you all don’t either”). Donna Brazile, the campaign manager for Al Gore’s failed 2000 bid for the presidency and now an analyst for Fox News, also struggled to get out her words when asked to reflect on the day’s election results, which also meant that Kamala Harris would not only be the first woman but also the first Black woman to win the office of the vice presidency.
“As a woman of color, as a Democrat, your thoughts on this day?” the anchor Bret Baier asked Brazile, who then took a few seconds before answering. “It’s been a long time coming,” an emotional Brazile said, before pausing again to compose herself. “To be the last to get voting rights, to be those who just waited and waited for our turn, it’s been a long time coming.”
Brazile then added: “I thought about my mom and my grandmother this morning—they didn’t have the right to vote, but I did. I spent all my life believing that the right to vote was key to our future. And because of the America people … those who did not see color, gender, those who believed it was about competence and just giving everyone a seat at the table … I’m so grateful that this moment has come.”
It’s not hard to imagine that there were also tears being shed by the viewers at home.