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Trump’s victory sends the city that doesn’t sleep to bed

Julien Peyron, FRANCE 24 | New York's Empire State building bearing the colours of the US flag as the city went to sleep.

Republican Donald Trump’s shock election victory in the early hours of Wednesday caught New York City, a Hillary Clinton bastion, by surprise, casting a rare pall on a metropolis that pulsates to a frenetic beat.

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The city that never sleeps stopped, shuddered and started turning in for the night shortly after the TV networks announced that Trump had won Florida. That was just before midnight local time and until then, there were still hopes in this Democratic bastion that their candidate would make history and America would finally have its first female president.

Election Night had kicked off at the Pourhouse bar in New York’s East Village with the sort of optimism and cheer that typically mark such occasions every four years. Jordan Hart arrived at the sports bar with a bunch of friends and a champagne bottle that she planned to uncork once Clinton had won the race. That’s how sure the 26-year-old TV comedy show producer was of a Clinton victory. Women’s issues were high on her priority list and she was sure her candidate would break the glass ceiling on Tuesday night.

But the evening did not get off to a good start, as far as Jordan was concerned, with traditionally Republican southeastern states such as Kentucky and Virginia going to Trump. “The early results were super depressing,” said the Virginia-born New Yorker. But the big states with their substantial electoral votes had yet to be called and there was no reason to despair since opinion polls had clearly indicated that Clinton would earn the magical 270 electoral votes needed to take the presidency.

There was still Florida of course. “Gotta’ get Florida,” muttered a real estate agent juggling graphs and maps on his iPhone. But his motto quickly became a plaintive, “Florida is going away from us.”

And yet, no one was prepared for the shocker to come. New Yorkers, known for their toughness, seemed almost incapable of handling it.

“I’m nervous, I’m leaving. It’s too noisy here, I can’t hear the details and this slow trickle of results is stressful,” said Dawn Weisent, a 51-year-old dog-walker, as she quit the bar.

A beautiful Election Day

Election Day dawned in the Big Apple with a sense of buoyancy as the iconic New York skyline adopted a pink glow, a sure sign of a mild autumnal day to come. The lines outside polling stations were long, but voting was proceeding at a rapid clip and New Yorkers seemed heartened by the high voter turnout.

Schoolchildren in Harlem wearing “I can’t vote…but you can” T-shirts shouted in unison when asked who they supported: “Hillary Clinton!”

But if New York is sometimes called the center of the universe, in truth it’s merely a bubble, albeit a very wealthy, influential one.

The so-called “rest of America” prevailed on Election Night, and it was a shocker for which few New Yorkers were prepared.

While the West Coast and Northeast went blue for the Democrats, the rest of America turned Republican red. Under the country’s complicated, much-criticised electoral college system, the "winner take all" system in all states but Maine and Nebraska means that a candidate can win the popular vote and yet still lose the election.

Women weep while men drink

As state after state went red, a paralyzing shock set in. Patrons began leaving in a zombie-like state. Young women wept. Their husbands and boyfriends ordered shots, got incoherently drunk and started talking about the world in inebriated, apocalyptic terms.

But the time Clinton campaign manager John Podesta took the podium at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, which was booked for a Clinton victory party, only the brave remained. They watched impassively as Podesta told the nation that the Democratic candidate had asked them to go home and go to bed. The votes were still being counted and morning would bring more clarity.

And so it was that the city that never sleeps followed Clinton’s advice and hit the sack.
By 2.30 am New York time, when Trump arrived at the Hilton Hotel to deliver his victory speech, downtown Manhattan was empty. Some inebriated patrons at the Pourhouse bar stared at the screen, booed, jeered and asked the barman to play rapper YG & Nipsey Hussle’s “Fuck Donald Trump,” a single they thoroughly enjoyed.

An hour later, downtown Manhattan was empty. At Union Square on 14th Street, the statue of founding father George Washington, seated on a horse, stared out gallantly into the distance as the Empire State Building shone in the colours of the American flag.

One wonders what Washington and the Founding Fathers would think of their nation as it enters an unchartered chapter in its brief but eventful history.

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