MASON, Texas — The change at the Sunday prayer service was so subtle it went unnoticed by several congregants. Tucked in between calls for divine health and wisdom, the Rev. Fred Krebs of St. Paul Lutheran Church, who rarely brings up politics, fleetingly mentioned this month’s presidential election.
“We pray for a peaceful transition,” he told his congregation of 50 people. The carefully chosen words underscored the political reality in Mason, a rural, conservative town of roughly 2,000 people, after Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over President Trump. Not everyone thought the election was over, and not everyone said they would respect the results.
“My Democratic friends think Biden is going to heal everything and unify everyone,” said Jeanie Smith, who attends the more conservative Spring Street Gospel Church in Mason, which is about 100 miles west of Austin. “They are deceived.”
Now you want healing,” she added. “Now you want to come together. You have not earned it.”
That is the hard reality Mr. Biden is facing, even after winning a race in which he secured a larger share of the popular vote than any challenger since 1932. Towering before him is a wall of Republican resistance, starting with Mr. Trump’srefusal to concede extending to G.O.P. lawmakers’ reluctance to acknowledge his victory and stretching, perhaps most significantly for American politics in the long term, to ordinary voters who steadfastly deny the election’s outcome.
It is all a far cry from how Mr. Biden framed this election from the Democratic primary race through his victory speech last weekend. He cast the moment as a chance for the country to excise the political division Mr. Trump has stoked, promising to repair the ideological, racial and geographic fissures that have grown into chasms since 2016. Announcing his campaign, he called it an opportunity to restore “the soul of the nation.” Last week-end, he declared “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now.”
But on Election Day, Republican turnout surged across the country — particularly in rural areas like Mason, which along with its surrounding county had among the largest percentage increases in voter participation in Texas. Democratic dreams of a landslide were thwarted as Republicans notched surprise victories in the House an demerged as the favorite to retain control of the Senate. In the days since, thousands of Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters have gathered across the country, including in Texas, to protest Mr. Biden’s triumph as illegitimate.
“We’re willing to accept the results, as long as it’s fair and done correctly and certified correctly,” said Sherrie Strong, another supporter of the president’s. She, like others, took Mr. Trump’s position that it was strange that he had been leading in numerous places because of in-person votes on Election Day, only to be overtaken once mail-in ballots were counted on election night and over the days that followed. (The delay in counting mail-in ballots in several states was because of restrictions imposed by Republican state legislatures.)