The Night Before Donald Trump Became Leader of the Free World

The Night Before Donald Trump Became Leader of the Free World

They say New York City never sleeps. Well, here it is, eyes wider than ever, awaiting the conclusion for the 2016 Presidential Election, to the outcome of a real life nightmare. Sat in the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, a crowd awaits the results. The crowd is obviously Democratic, and if the location of a Downtown Manhattan bookstore did not give it away, the cheering and clapping each time Clinton won a state definitely did.

At the beginning of the night, the atmosphere was one I cannot quite explain. The type that weirdly blurs nerves and excitement. The moment when you can feel the intersection between the old and the new physically manifest in your stomach.

It has been an… interesting one. A political campaign or a reality TV contest, it was often hard to tell. It has been a time that has made “fact-checking” a national chore, because it was abundantly clear that name-calling, making things up and bullying was to come before, you know, political debate.

Amongst all the time and media coverage devoted to ruining each other’s reputations – if they had not already done it themselves – it was hard to make sense of what a Hillary’s America or a Trump’s America would really mean. Or what it would mean for the rest of the world. If we know anything for sure, America is in a destructive relationship with scandal, then apology, then scandal, then apology. The policies came as a mere afterthought. Sometimes they never came at all.

I got talking to Mary, a New Yorker who told me about her thirties during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. She started the conversation by saying to me, “I just can’t wait for this all to be over.” (Sadly, I think it is just beginning). From there, we talked about Reagan and tuition fees, Obama and racism, Trump and Clinton, Brexit and Europe, and finally, before her husband, Phil, came over to say he was heading home, she told me, “The only thing I like about Trump is his old Bronx accent.”

I loved her. I loved that she loved New York. I loved that she acknowledged that Reagan was not a fair president, even though, in her words, “I made a lot of money during that time.” I loved that she voted Obama and that she acknowledged some of her friends were most definitely racist. I loved that she voted for Hillary, even though she thought she was a “terrible choice” to lead the democratic party. I loved that her husband asked if she wanted to leave with him or stay and talk to me. A simple act of decency and respect towards a woman, that acts as a light in the horrendous dark tunnel of Trumps’ breeding misogyny.

As the evening went on, things became more and more unsettling. Trump was leading and the atmosphere in the bookstore was dwindling. When Clinton won California, a small bit of hope was restored, but the cheers were much less enthusiastic. It was a short-lived moment, as Trump took the third key state, North Carolina, after Florida and Ohio. Most people seemed to give in from there and the crowd, like the cheers, was thinning.

I left the bookstore, with Trump leading, but no certainty on who was to become America’s next president. New York City, lit up in red, blue and white for the occasion, felt different. I just wanted to get back to my apartment. On the subway home, I overheard a woman say, “I cannot believe this. Trump. This makes me want to be a polar bear.” I am not exactly sure what she was getting at, but I interpreted it as directly facing climate change in the form of melting ice caps ruining your natural habitat being better than directly facing Trump’s presidency.

I got off at my stop, after what felt like the longest twenty minutes of my life. As I usually do if I am walking alone at night, I kept up my speed. A woman who walked past said to me, “Get home safe, baby girl”. And it hit me. Trump’s going to be president and I had never felt further away from home.


Written by Michelle Houlston,

New York Junior Editor

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