NEW YORK – As one of the greatest political upsets of our times was announced, at 2:43 A.M. early Wednesday morning, the crowds at Republican candidate turned President-elect Donald Trump’s official victory party in New York went crazy.
“This is a historic night – the American people have spoken and the American people have elected their new champion,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence said to wild "U.S.A., U.S.A." cheers as he introduced Trump.
"Amazing, incredible. God Bless America,” called out the crowds as the president-elect took the stage, surrounded by his family.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business, complicated business,” Trump said, though it was unclear what businesses he was referring to.
The crowd stopped cheering as the president-elect, flanked by Pence and Trump's youngest son, Barron, began to speak about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“It is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump began, speaking in a more measured and calm tone than arguably ever before and describing how “Secretary Clinton” had called him to concede. He then turned his attention to others who had not supported him in his campaign. “There were a few people,” he joked, to laughs from the crowd. “I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
"Ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family," Trump continued, addressing a very well-heeled and carefully coiffed crowd, many dressed in expensive designer clothes that did not, at least on the surface, necessarily mesh with any such image.
“It is going to be a beautiful thing.” he promised, adding that not only were things going to be “great” for America, but that this country would also “get along” with other nations.
“We will,” he promised, have “great, great relationships” with the world, offering no details whatsoever. America, he added, "will no longer settle for anything less than the best."
The evening had begun over 10 hours earlier when long lines of exuberant Trump supporters flooded the New York Hilton in Midtown, cramming into the third-floor ballroom for the official victory party and overflowing into the bars and public spaces downstairs to drink, eat pizzas and mixed nuts, and cheer as their candidate began to take the lead in the election.
“Make America great again!” went one classic cheer. “Hillary for jail!” went another. Women, almost all of them in high heels and tight party dresses – red being the color of the night – hugged each other as one state after another went their way. “Call it already!” they yelled at the TV screens. “Screw you, CNN,” shouted others.
At 2 A.M., Trump himself had yet to make it to the party from Trump Tower around the corner. A big cake of his likeness – furrowed brows, snarl on his face – was wheeled out. The stage had been set and ready for hours, and perky volunteers had already handed out all the red baseball caps emblazoned with the letters MAGA (an acronym of “Make America Great Again”).
“She is so corrupt! No one can stand her. Down with the Clintons,” one man in blue loafers toasted, raising his glass of vodka on the rocks. As Texas was called for Trump, people stood up and started clapping. When Ohio went to Trump, they began high-fiving. The result for North Carolina had people throwing their baseball caps in the air.
“What I want to see now is [comedian and well-known Trump detractor] Rosie O’Donnell and all the rest of those left-wing lesbians make right on their promise and leave the country,” yelled one bald man. “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” chanted the crowds. “Lock her up,” called out a group of supporters wearing Mardi Gras beads.
As Clinton campaign chief John Podesta got on stage at the nearby Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to say the elections were still too close to call and that the Democratic candidate would make no further comment tonight, those watching on TVs in Trumpland jeered. Dozens gave the screen the finger. One person threw a handful of a slice of goat cheese pizza.
Three women snapped selfies by the TV monitors and with anyone who wanted to get in the frame. An Orthodox Jewish family with three young boys in tow, all in velvet kippot, rushed in late, excited and with handmade Trump signs.
A Hispanic bartender whistled. “Are you for Trump?” the man in the loafers quizzed him. The man shrugged.
Shouts of “Go Florida,” “Go Trump,” and “It’s O-V-E-R,” rang out as Florida went to Trump.
Actor Stephen Baldwin, one of the few celebrities at the party, and who broke with the rest of the Baldwin brothers to support Trump [older brother Alec Baldwin famously played – and mocked – Trump on Saturday Night Live], leaned against a wall outside the main ballroom, a smile playing on his face. “Hellooooooo POTUS,” he said, laughing as he used the acronym for President of the United States.
“It’s a private party” and “Space is very limited” were the stock replies received by the hundreds of supporters and journalists, especially those writing for foreign publications, who asked to enter the ballroom. Le Monde was turned away, as was Der Spiegel, while Al Arabiya news channel was barred from even coming into the hotel lobby and was forced to report from down the block.
Mitch Pilcer, a Trump supporter visiting New York this week from Tzippori, Israel, was conspicuous in his red hoodie, jeans and sneakers in a sea of dark suits and shiny shoes. He came along to the party with a big Israel flag – but was also refused entry. “I was told by the Republicans in Israel that I should just come here and they would let me in,” he explained, “and I felt we needed a big Israeli flag because Trump is great for Israel too.”
"Your Prime Minister Netanyahu loves Trump because he is strong, and he understands that that is what is needed in this world today,” a jeweler from Florida offered, upon seeing the flag.
As the night turned into early morning, supporters bonded, helped along not only by the unexpected Trump victory but also by the flowing alcohol. “This is our country. Ours,” they sang, running out into nearby 53rd Street as the event wrapped up.
“U.S.A., U.S.A.,” they called out into the street. “Lock her up, Lock her up,” they chanted.
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