ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — With the presidency all but decided, Donald Trump supporter Hillary Green held her “Keep America Great” flag aloft as it whipped in the wind.
Hooded and zipped tight in a winter coat, Green stood in Huntington Beach in the rain on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Long after 50 or so fellow supporters left, cars rushed by in a whoosh of rainwater, some honking in support, some arguing over her flag. One car, a black Lexus with a “Biden 2020” bumper sticker, slowed enough for the passenger to lean out the window and flip her the middle finger.
“It was important for me to come out here and have our voices heard," said Green, a Huntington Beach resident. "There are a lot of countries out there where you're not allowed to do this. I'm exercising my right as an American."
Fears that election results would fuel a clash between celebrating Biden supporters and distraught Trump voters cooled as rain clouds chased away large gatherings.
“We feel like that Trump has a lot more to do, a lot more to get done," she said. "We were heading in the right direction. I'm worried about the direction our country is going in now."
Her quiet protest reflects a stark political division in Orange County — and the nation. Vote tallies suggest Biden is on track to win the county by a larger percentage than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. But Democrats are in danger of losing valuable seats gained in 2018.
Republicans Young Kim and Michelle Steel lead their races over Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda in two crucial congressional contests. In an election that saw historic support for both presidential candidates, Democrats have seen their advantage in the House of Representatives tighten.
Disparate strains of Republicanism remain at odds in Orange County as low tax, small government Republicans grapple with the politics of Trump. While many GOP candidates in the county attempted to distance themselves from Trump, others embraced him.
In the Huntington Beach city council race, former mixed martial arts fighter Tito Ortiz, a supporter of Trump, is expected to win one of three open seats.
The county will have to go through its own political reckoning, said Anthony Smith, a UC Irvine professor of political science and the law.
“I think the Democrats know who they are in Orange County," he said. "There isn’t a far left progessive wing. I think you’re going to see a reckoning. What does the Republican party stand for? Is it Trumpism?”
Polls across the country projected comfortable wins for Biden in what became a tight election. With those polling errors, Smith explained, come questions about why voters turned out and what message Biden has to send to win their support.
“You have to wonder what polling is going to do to be better because, if anything, it was worse than it was four years ago,” Smith said.
While Democrats have the White House back, they still have to convince a substantial number of voters that Biden can be their president too. Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, feels that all that will come.
“I’m feeling fabulous," she said. "I’m elated. I cried. I can’t tell you all of the emotions that I’m feeling. This is so historic. Finally, we start healing of our country.”