It could only be the party of the century. Time: November 2016. Place: The Javits Conference Center, New York City.
After joining a long line of Hillary Clinton supporters looking forward to a victory party, it took an hour to reach the entrance, followed by 20 minutes to clear security in this post-9/11 city which, 15 years after the trauma, continued to demand constant vigilance. Still, we were in for a great night, were we not?
Then, for me at least, came the first sign things were possibly not quite as they should have been. We were ushered into a vast car park that had been given over to the crowds. It was dominated by a big screen running heartwarming TV ads of the soon-to-be first woman president. A few staffers stood around handing out flags to cheer the victor on. One or two managed strained smiles, otherwise they seemed downbeat. The normally chirpy young men and women on Hillary’s campaign team were looking sombre. Just exhausted, I was told, when I raised the matter.
Once inside, we bumped into a friend who said the firework display planned for Jersey Shore, just across the river, had been cancelled “for environmental reasons”.
I was almost touched by the eagerness with which they grasped at this less than convincing explanation, but decided it would be bad form to say something as silly as “Might they, by any chance, have been checking the exit polls”.
The celebration at which Hillary would be a no-show had been booked into the building with America’s biggest glass ceiling – geddit? But there had been a few straws in the wind, not the least of them being a complacent liberal establishment persuading itself that it couldn’t lose.
At times I felt I’d entered a time warp, complete with flashbacks of Neil Kinnock’s disastrous Sheffield rally; at other times I was trapped in a revivalist meeting, especially when Governor Andrew Cuomo told the gathered multitude he was sure the spirit of his late father, Governor Mario, had entered his soul, so everything would be just fine.
Florida was the moment of truth. Could the big screen lie? Might they not have got all the results in from liberal(ish) Dade county? Nope. Just as Florida had been the anvil of the Democrat electoral hopes in the Bush-Gore contest in 2000, here it was again. Hillary had been hammered, the floodgates opened, and the tears began.
Could it happen again? Perhaps not but, on the other hand, who can tell?
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