New York (AFP) – A stony silence cast a pall early Wednesday over what was meant to be Hillary Clinton’s presidential victory party as, one by one, states turned Republican red for Donald Trump.
The billionaire property mogul had not yet won the White House but for many, it was only a question of time.
No one was expecting such a violent slap in the face. Some were saying it would be close, and many Democrats said they were nervous as they arrived at Clinton’s event at the Javits Center on the west side of Midtown Manhattan.
But no one imagined the night would turn into a political funeral.
At the food court, located underneath the hall where Clinton had been expected to write her name in the history books, two young women sobbed, and the alcohol was free-flowing.
At a table, two other women stared blankly, their hands on their heads.
“It is surreal,” said one government employee who gave her first name Margarita, a beer in front of her.
She says she fears a new era in America — not just in terms of politics, but also from those who voted for the 70-year-old Trump.
“Our lives are not safe — as queer women, as brown women,” she told AFP, struggling to put her feelings into words.
Many spoke about what they felt was total ignorance among Trump supporters.
“I think these people probably flunked out of school — they don’t know history, they don’t understand the world,” said Elmy Bermejo, who traveled to the Big Apple from San Francisco for the occasion.
But Bermejo tried to see the bright side on a dark night.
“After I have a stiff drink of tequila, I’m going to get up, and since I’m a hopeful person, then I’ll do whatever I can to make sure we vote him out of office, because that’s what democracy is about,” she said.
– ‘We knew it would be close’ –
Shock was the dominant reaction, rather than anger at what looked like a stunning loss. New York is a Democratic bastion, one that voted for Clinton — and seems far from Trump’s America that disdains Washington insiders.
“We definitely knew it was close — not this close,” said 22-year-old Evynn Stengel, who started drinking before the disheartening results started trickling in.
“We feel like we live in a bubble — voting for Trump to me is so shocking.”
Next to Stengel, 25-year-old Yanni Trittas, a local elected official, said: “They’re people who hold on to racism and xenophobia,” an intolerance that stems from what he said the Republican Party had “ensured by underinvesting in education.”
– ‘We need a miracle’ –
Faces once bright with the hope of seeing America’s first female president elected started growing longer and longer at about 9:00 pm, when the results appeared to be leaning Trump’s way.
“Not great,” said Joan Divenuti, a retired rail worker who came from Massachusetts. “Florida was always a problem,” she said, shaking her head.
It was not long before the US television networks called the Sunshine State for Trump.
Then the Clinton supporters — initially quite talkative about the prospects for a Clinton presidency and many of them dressed in Clinton garb — clammed up as the hundreds of journalists on the scene began documenting the palpable anxiety.
Heads were shaking in front of the giant screens beaming the results to the crowd, and the voices of reporters echoed in the huge hall, which was otherwise silent.
Supporters manically refreshed their smartphones in search of better news.
But The New York Times only had bad news for them, with their forecast for Trump’s chances of winning rising as the night wore on.
In a desperate bid to motivate the crowd, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “We believe that Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president of the United States.”
At 10:44 pm, the Times gave Trump a 93 percent chance of winning.
Team Clinton vanished, avoiding reporters like the plague. She, her husband Bill and her entourage were holed up at a hotel not far from the venue.
After midnight, when The Times put Trump’s chance of winning at 95 percent, some started to leave the party-turned-funeral.
A few brave campaign volunteers kept reporters from going into a large hall where several thousand dejected supporters were gathered.
“I am praying — and I am not religious,” said Anabel Evora, a 51-year-old from Tennessee who works at a non-profit organization.
“We need a miracle. I am sad. I’m about to cry.”