Thousands of Hillary Clinton supporters lined 11th Avenue on Tuesday afternoon expecting to celebrate the first woman president in United States history at Clinton's official election night party inside the Jacob Javits Center, New York City's main exposition space.
"We are observing history and we are living history tonight," said Teresa Perez-Frangie, a 70-year-old New Yorker who volunteered for the campaign by rallying voters in Pennsylvania. "I wanted to be here to experience the first woman president of the United States and since I have worked so hard this is rewarding."
Flag-waving women dressed in pantsuits mingled with a crew of young men wearing red sweaters -- an homage to debate questioner and internet sensation Ken Bone -- to foster a street fair-like atmosphere outside.
As the night progressed, initial excitement turned to disappointment then to fear and, finally, to disbelief as Donald Trump surged toward victory. Here are seven takeaways from a night that will change the course of history.
1. Disappointment turns to fear
Only a few hundred special ticket holders made it inside the Javits Center and police officers filtered thousands of other confused attendees into a corral outside the building. Food trucks served empanadas and pizza, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and electronic pop blared from the sound system and New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio joined state and city leaders in addressing the crowd.
When the speeches ended and event organizers cut the music, the excitement evaporated as a giant television screen, the spectacle centerpiece, broadcast real-time election results on several news stations. The crowd grew silent as Donald Trump accumulated votes.
2. A sense of doom
While the spectators tilted their heads back to watch the screens, the scene was reminiscent of Independence Day where confused urbanites flood the streets of major cities to stare up at the ominous UFOs that will ultimately destroy them. Later, a group of young people on the subway likened the election to a final scene in the film Titanic. "And America is the boat," one of them deadpanned.
3. The Insularity Deception
Throughout the campaign, chronic anxiety seemed to wriggle into the minds of liberals throughout New York City where, in many neighborhoods, one can go weeks without interacting with a Republican. Such insularity -- everyone within your social network supporting the same liberal presidential candidate and the same progressive policies -- can engender a false feeling of confidence. At other times, however, it fosters mystery, insecurity and pessimism. "What is going on outside our liberal bubble?" we wondered. Though we received dispatches from friends and family out in Trumpland -- the rural and suburban communities that fed the nativist Republican's ascent -- no one seemed prepared for defeat.
4. Debunking "make America great again."
"The world would be less united with Trump. Only worrying about your own self-interest is not possible with globalism," said Amrit Singh, a New Zealand citizen who traveled to New York two months ago to volunteer at a Clinton campaign phone bank in Lower Manhattan. "Other countries are scared of him. In New Zealand, Trump is a joke."
Singh, 26, wore pajama-style pants featuring a collage of Hillary faces and attended the event with two British friends who took a leave of absence from their jobs in the London financial sector to canvass for Clinton. Puja Parmar, 24, and Krishna Raval, 23, said they met while studying at the University of Warwick, where they planned to someday get involved in a US political campaign.
"Brexit could have been stopped with a campaign like this," Parmar said. "[In Britain] there is not the passion that there is here [in the United States]." "I never got a phone call about Brexit," Raval said. "Here I'm making phone calls [everyday].
Like Singh, they agreed that Trump would diminish the United States' standing in the world.
"He will be really bad for relations," Raval said. "Countries will lose respect for the United States."
5. The fight for a female president continues
Before Hillary Clinton, a woman had never earned a major party's presidential nomination. Women could not even vote nationally until 1920. Even in 2015, a CBS News poll reported that just 45% of men surveyed said they would feel "very comfortable with a woman president."
When Clinton finally did capture the Democratic nomination this year, she faced off against a cartoonish male chauvinist who brags about sexually assaulting women. It seemed a truly symbolic opportunity.
Friends Leslie deGiere, 46, and Karen Dimit, 61, attended the event wearing "Nasty Women" sashes in reference to Trump's name-calling during the final debate.
"When the election campaign began, the misogyny really hit home for me in a way that I had no idea would hit me this hard," said deGiere. "[Clinton's] experiences in her life of people trying to stop her and her dealing with it, for her to say, [as a woman] I've been going through [obstruction] my whole life, would be a valuable trait in a president." Other women hoped to bask in the historic moment.
"A woman president means everything," said Desiree Fitzgerald, who said she traveled from Baltimore, Maryland with her daughter. "Two-hundred forty years and coming." Now it looks like we will have to wait at least four more years.
6. Realising that an entire generation of liberals have never voted for a white man for president
The crowd was notable diverse. Asian twentysomethings, African American senior citizens, Latino schoolchildren, white men in "Make America Gay Again" hats and individuals representing countless other identities all crammed together to celebrate and then to comfort one another. Yet, the crowd skewed young, embodying the huge swath of Democrats under 30 who have never voted for a white man for president.
7. Dealing with disbelief
And now those same young liberals know defeat and disbelief. Post-result hundreds of spectators streamed out of the gates. We all expected a joyous coronation. Instead, we got pain. Eventually, my wife and I headed home to Brooklyn, accompanied by a few seemingly shocked Hillary supporters. As we walked through a nearly empty subway station at 8th Avenue and 14th Street, my wife broke the silence."I've never gone from so much optimism to so much dread in so few hours," she said.
8. Wondering if the election was rigged?
After several weeks in which Donald Trump and his supporters justified a seemingly inevitable loss by claiming a rigged election, Democrats are the ones left grasping at straws. When Tim Kaine finally took the stage to address supporters, he opened his statements by congratulating Clinton for winning the popular vote by about 200,000 voters. It was the first time since George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 that the candidate who won the popular vote lost the election. Little consolation for Clinton and her stunned supporters.
9. Twitter and social media erupt.
People want to blame something or someone. Twitter has served as an outlet for venting that anger, especially toward media outlets that enabled Trump's ascent for the sake ratings, third-party voters who diminished Clinton's vote total and Republicans who stuck their heads in the sand and refused to confront Trump's racism, sexism and nativism.
10. "Never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it."
Late on Wednesday morning, Clinton addressed her supporters and conceded the election with steady grace."This is painful and it will be for a long time," Clinton said. "Our democracy demands our participation. Not just every four years, but all the time."Perhaps Americans upset by this stunning election result will, moving forward, call upon their current pain and disbelief as motivation to work for a more equitable and inclusive society.
Text David F Brand
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