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An election night like no other

Updated November 10, 2016
Supporters for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as results come in at a Republican election night party.—AP/File
Supporters for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as results come in at a Republican election night party.—AP/File

IT was so stunning as to be incomprehensible, even to some Donald Trump supporters. At 7pm, the Republican nominee was the universal underdog; by 10pm, Trump had become the odds-on favourite to win a transformational election.

“The silent majority is no longer silent,” William, a euphoric Trump supporter who identified himself only by his first name, told Dawn outside the Hilton Hotel, the Manhattan venue where Trump would finally deliver his victory speech at 3am on Wednesday.

Another Trump supporter, wearing a trademark red ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap, could only marvel at the scale of the victory. “We won the House (of Representatives), Senate and the White House. Wow,” he said before disappearing into a small crowd of jubilant, flag-waving, slogan-chanting supporters.

Tuesday was also a quintessentially New York drama. After casting her vote, Hillary Clinton took up residence for the day in a hotel near the flagship Trump Tower, the home and campaign headquarters of Trump. The Democratic nominee had also picked a venue just 20 city blocks away from Trump’s for her own election night event.

And squeezed in between the two venues are the Manhattan headquarters of all the major TV news networks in the country, where crowds gathered on Tuesday to watch live coverage of the election results. As the evening progressed and the results began to swing inexorably towards Trump, Clinton supporters began to melt away and Trump supporters swelled in number.

“Lock her up, lock her up,” supporters would break out in a favourite chant, a nod to the Republican nominee’s demand that Clinton ought to be prosecuted for alleged crimes committed in office.

“Drain the swamp,” others yelled, a conservative slogan that Trump adopted late in his campaign and that is meant to project Republican opposition to corruption and big government. ‘Women for Trump’ and ‘Blacks for Trump’ placards were waved by supporters outside the Trump venues.

While Trump’s victory was built on the disproportionate support of white voters, he also captured a higher-than-expected percentage of the non-white vote. Glenn D’Abreo, a Karachi-born resident of California who runs a Conservative blog (hangright.us), explained why he has been a fierce supporter of the Republican nominee:

“With Obama, I watched our president apologise to many countries for what America was. We watched as third-rate military powers cowed America on the high seas and in the mid-Asian high desert. Donald promised us that we would never lose again. He promised we would win again, consistently, and the feeling was heady.”

D’Abreo continued: “It didn’t matter that (Trump) was short on detail. We didn’t care. The prospect of winning again and never having to apologise for our country again had a euphoric effect on us. This is a white, male attitude. I suppose I identify, although I am an Asian immigrant, as one of these Trump supporters. They are under-educated and thereby have been spared the indoctrination that all college students are subjected to in the process of higher education.”

In obvious contrast to the elation of Trump supporters, there was the desolation of Clinton backers.

Before polling opened on Tuesday, Mary Mulligan, a New York resident who is registered to vote in Pennsylvania, explained why she believed the election was critical: “I’m supporting the most qualified and experienced candidate. She’s a woman. I was raised to believe that America is a meritocracy. I was raised to believe that my country was on a long march towards freedom and equality. I was raised to believe that bullies don’t win. This election tests my core values. It’s the most important election in my lifetime.”

Late on Tuesday, with a Trump victory within sight, Mulligan remarked, “New Yorkers are reaching for their phones to call their therapists.”

But outside the Hilton Hotel there was only joyous celebration. William, the Trump supporter, was exultant, “Donald Trump is the only one who stands for America.”

A stone’s throw from Broadway, a drama of epic proportions was being played out live in the streets of Manhattan.

Published in Dawn November 10th, 2016