NEW YORK – “It’s a f***ing funeral!” an angry Clinton staffer shouted into her phone. It was an unusual sight as Clinton staffers spent most of Tuesday night in hiding, walking away from prying journalists as fast as they could, attempting to conceal the concerned creases in their foreheads.
The official Clinton campaign party at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan was supposed to be the triumphant endnote to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; the culmination of a lifelong quest to reach the highest office in the land. Lots of celebrities were present at the event, held under a literal giant glass ceiling.
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But in the end, Donald Trump won the race, becoming the 45th president of the United States, and the star-studded gala that was originally supposed to include a fireworks show ended on a sour note.
Instead of a victorious Hillary Clinton ascending the stage and giving the speech of her life, campaign chairman John Podesta went on stage and said: “We have nothing more to say tonight. Everyone should go home, and we’ll have more to say tomorrow.”
By that point, most attendees had already left the Javits Center, where, as the Clinton staffer noted, the atmosphere resembled a cemetery. The evening began with a sense of nervous optimism as supporters, journalists and famous people filed into the Javits Center, thinking they were going to witness history: the first woman to be elected as president of the United States.
Instead, what they got was a different history, one that should feel familiar to left-wing supporters in Israel, but felt decidedly off for Americans. “I’ve never been part of a losing party before,” said a young Clinton supporter.
As more and more people realized this was not going to be a celebration, the nervous optimism that characterized the beginning of the evening had been replaced by a kind of shocked, sustained silence. People started leaving as early as 10:30 P.M., with looks of profound disappointment on their faces and “I voted” buttons still attached to their clothes.
With Trump’s presidency looking increasingly likely, an eerie silence started to fill the center. “President Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, President Donald Trump,” a TV pundit could be heard saying, with thousands of people staring at the screen with what could only be described as looks of profound disbelief.
Before the cheers died out, they had became louder than ever any time good news came in – including deafening roars when Clinton won Virginia. But then Trump took Florida and the applause quieted down. Gradually, the party started breaking apart at the seams: some of the gates that previously blocked journalists from interacting with regular attendees had been lifted, with the adjacent Clinton staffers who previously guarded them suddenly missing in action.
Across the floor, women could be seen barefoot, sitting on the floor. Most people had their faces glued to the nearest TV or cellphone. It had visibly caught everyone present by surprise: just a few hours earlier, Clinton was considered the overwhelming favorite to win this race. None of this was supposed to happen, as far as those here were concerned. Except it did.
“This was supposed to a celebration, which has turned into commiseration,” said Monique Brigham, a young health-care lobbyist from Washington who volunteered and donated to Clinton. “I am disappointed and feel profound sadness,” she said. “I think that every person in this room wanted equality and togetherness. When the TV shows Trump’s headquarters, it’s all white men. I am sad about that.”
As results continued to pour in, the end result became starky clear. “It’s not over yet, but the silence and grim faces say it all,” said Brigham. “I guess I shouldn’t be shocked: Trump’s whole candidacy, from primary to now, has been shocking. It’s crazy. I am not happy. It will be a sad train ride back to D.C.”
Yet despite the dark mood, there were fewer tears than might have been expected at such a devastating upset – one that for over a year has been repeatedly called, only half-jokingly, “the series finale of the United States.”
There was nervous laughs, long silences and looks of shocked disbelief. At the end, minutes before Podesta came on stage, the sound system played Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’," as the camera panned across faces in the audience – as often happens in hockey games. People cheered, laughed, danced and sang along with the song most famous from its inclusion in the final scene of "The Sopranos."
The atmosphere was surreal, fitting for a night which began with Hillary Clinton as overwhelming favorite and ended with Donald Trump, president-elect.
Minutes before Podesta's speech, Prince Obie, a sales rep from Manhattan, was sitting alone in one of the center's halls. He had been canvassing for Clinton, and looked more shocked than disturbed. “It’s very surprising," he said. "We came down here thinking we were going to hear an acceptance speech.”
By then, the huge space had been largely empty, its halls silent and resembling a hospital ward, in both looks and lighting.
The enormous glass ceiling of the Javits Center would have to be shattered by someone else, on another day. (Asher Schechter)
Democrats' despair in Dallas
DALLAS — Hillary Clinton’s supporters at the Democratic election night party were expecting a light, entertaining evening. The large ballroom in the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Dallas was bedecked with balloons and Clinton signs, and attendees happily sat down at the tables to watch the results come in – which they considered a sure thing.
But then the results and predictions began streaming in, and the atmosphere changed. When the TV networks declared that Trump had won Ohio and was leading in electoral votes, a deep sense of unease descended on the room. Some of those present left the room to find the bar, while others sat down on the floor near the screen broadcasting CNN.
Alan Arismendez, a medical student, stared with concern at the screen. “We thought they’d declare her the winner within an hour, and now it’s 50-50,” he said. “There was even a minute at the beginning when they delayed the results from Texas because they thought maybe Texas would turn blue [Democratic] – but that didn’t happen.
“I’m worried,” he added, “but Ohio [claimed by Trump] was always the swing state where Clinton had the smallest chance.”
Elaine Sacks, secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust in Texas, was sitting quietly next to a friend, watching the screen from afar. “I’m worried about the electoral vote, but we’re making slow progress,” she said, adding that the Democrats were ahead in Colorado.
The funereal atmosphere was briefly broken with chants of “Hillary” when the Democratic presidential candidate was proclaimed the winner in California.
Teisha Hood, who works with the Dallas Animal Services program, was almost crying with joy and could barely catch her breath.
“I can’t describe what I’m feeling: happiness, joy, gratitude – all the feelings are mixed up,” she said. “Only a moment ago, I felt totally frozen with concern for the future of our country, and the atmosphere here was so difficult. Now I’m starting to recover.”
At that moment, Republican candidate Donald Trump was declared the winner in North Carolina.
“Oh, shit,” said Hood, leaning on a wall for support. (Taly Krupkin)
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