Postcard — November 15, 2016, 1:23 pm

Trump’s Party

Election night at the Midtown Hilton

New York City, Wednesday, November 9, 2016 © Alex Majoli/Magnum Photos

New York City, Wednesday, November 9, 2016 © Alex Majoli/Magnum Photos

Donald Trump held his election-night party at the Midtown Hilton, a forty-six-story slab of a building on the corner of 53rd Street and Avenue of the Americas. The Hilton’s ballroom is small by the standards of a political venue, and so the press had found it a curious choice of location. Earlier in the day, sources inside the Trump campaign explained to reporters that the candidate wanted to keep the party modest. The New York Times was saying he had only a 15 percent chance of defeating his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was throwing a much bigger party in a convention center on the West Side. But the Hilton had its own appeal to the real-estate billionaire. It was only a few blocks from his longtime home atop Trump Tower, and only a few more from the Grand Hyatt, his first major project in Manhattan. It was also the largest hotel in the city. In 1959, its boisterous developer had dubbed it the “greatest hotel ever built”; it was one of the first to feature a television in every room.

I arrived at the lobby a few hours before the party began. Upbeat, well-dressed white men and women were hard at work, unpacking campaign signs and stacking them on small round tables. Each sign bore a response to one of Trump’s past behaviors: Women for Trump answered accusations that he had groped women riding with him in an elevator in Trump Tower or seated next to him at clubs and on airplanes; Hispanics for Trump softened his recent comments that a Mexican-American judge was biased by his heritage in a class-action fraud suit against the now-shuttered Trump University; and Veterans for Trump assuaged concerns over the time he didn’t know what the nuclear triad was, the time he told a radio host that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his “personal Vietnam,” and the time he said that Arizona Senator John McCain, a veteran who was held and tortured in Vietnam for more than five years, was not a war hero because he had been captured. The signs flanked a table displaying five variations of Trump’s Make America Great Again hat, including an orange-on-camouflage design tailored for the hunters and other gun owners Trump had called on to stop Clinton from nominating Supreme Court justices. Across from the hats was a bar at which the major donors to Trump’s campaign could purchase mixed drinks for thirteen dollars. All prices include taxes read a sign on the bar. Cash only.

The guests began to arrive around six-thirty. There was Milo Yiannopoulos, who rose to prominence attacking people of color on Twitter, until the company banned him from the platform earlier this year. Omarosa Manigault, an early arrival, was a former contestant on Trump’s reality-television show and had recently been helping the candidate reach out to African Americans, for whom he had pledged his support at an almost all-white rally in Wisconsin. Katrina Pierson, a Trump spokesperson who insisted Barack Obama started the war in Afghanistan seven years before he took office, was also there. For the most part the guests separated themselves into the appropriate rooms. But occasionally Trump’s volunteers were compelled to assert the proper order of things. Early in the evening, a volunteer stopped a young man attempting to enter the V.I.P. section and informed him that he would need to remain in the reception area. He puzzled over this; the stage wasn’t visible from there. “We will be blocked the whole time?” he asked. “Quite possibly,” the volunteer replied. “Yes.”

There was very little to do in the hours before polls along the East Coast began to close. Journalists ate sandwiches and set up their cameras while police officers took selfies and a man in a cowboy hat strolled around the reception area. Fox News was airing in every room. The anchors had been finding it interesting that Clinton canceled a fireworks show along the Hudson that she had planned for later that evening. It hearkened back to election night four years ago, they said, when Mitt Romney canceled his fireworks over Boston Harbor. This evening, though, the map was in Clinton’s favor: she was ahead in the forecasts in Florida, and Trump all but needed the state to win. Her so-called blue wall of working-class counties in the rust belt also appeared to be holding.

Around seven-thirty, many reporters left the press section to photograph a bust of Trump made out of cake, which had been put on display near the cash bar. “They are reporting,” a journalist explained to his colleague. The cake was the lone food item presented to guests. There were no cheese plates or cured meats, none of the finger foods one might expect at a grand-ballroom event celebrating the potential election of the next president of the United States. The bust of Trump was about two feet tall, with a generous head of hair. But his face looked grim, as if he were worried that no one would want a piece of him. Journalists abandoned the cake only when the crowd began to cheer. Florida’s polls had closed, and early results showed the state was too close to call. A guy in the reception area told his friend that he had a feeling his American Express card was going to have a big night.

Still, the crowd remained subdued. There is a certain decorum to these events, well understood by those in the Hilton ballroom. Every Midtown hotel in New York is home to one annual white-tie fund-raiser or another. At the Hilton, it’s the Inner Circle dinner, which is held each spring by a group of journalists who roast the city’s political elite to benefit a handful of different causes. Some mayors are better sports than others. This year, Bill de Blasio told an offensive and unfunny joke that hung around the tabloids for days. On the other hand, Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s mayor in the 1990s, has gone to the dinner costumed as a horned beast, a disco star, and a mobster in high heels with no pants. In a sketch filmed for the dinner in 2000, he dressed up as a woman named Victoria whom Trump, playing himself, was attempting to seduce. The mayor slapped the billionaire after he buried his face in his fake breasts. “Oh, you dirty boy,” said Giuliani. The Hilton has hosted the dinner for decades, but next year it will move a few blocks south to the Sheraton. Trump’s relationship with the press has soured, too. Only a handful of papers endorsed his presidential run, among them the National Enquirer and the Crusader, the official publication of the Ku Klux Klan.

As the hours passed and Florida leaned toward Trump, the guests forsook their civility. Hats began appearing on heads in the donor section. Kisses went on longer and became more spontaneous. Guests without a drink grabbed one; those with a drink grabbed another. Those once eager to tell journalists they weren’t speaking began speaking. “It’s all about the Second Amendment,” a guest told an interviewer. A bearded man appeared at the entrance to the V.I.P. section and asked someone to take his photograph. “This is history,” he said. Around eleven-thirty, Fox declared Trump the winner of Wisconsin and Florida. “New York can suck it, France can suck it,” a man behind me shouted. “This is American exceptionalism.”

“I want the Muslims out,” said the man standing next to him.

Word came in that someone in Clinton’s advance team had whispered to another reporter, “We will lose.”

Now full of beer and tonics, the guests began to wander through the press section. A woman stole the seat of a reporter from Mediaite. “Yay!” she shouted, “we are gonna win!” She removed her boots and suggested to her friend that he take the seat of a CNN cameraman who had stood up to capture a shot of the crowd; he promptly did. A production assistant helped a hollow-eyed woman in an evening dress and a Make America Great Again cap negotiate the stairs leading down from the risers, where the television crews were stationed. A cherry-red older guy with slicked-back hair stumbled up to me with a beer in one hand and a mixed drink in the other. “Hold my drink!” he shouted, attempting to hand me his cup. I declined, and he placed it on a bundle of media cables on the floor. Guests noticed that Fox was showing scenes from the event on the televisions above the stage, and began to chant: “Call it, call it!” At one-thirty in the morning, the network did. Clinton won the popular vote, said the anchors, but Trump won the election. The crowd erupted in cheers. The Dow Jones plummeted.

Trump was watching the election in Trump Tower, where his presidential run began last year. The tower had seemed a proper venue for his campaign’s finale, but it presented a few too many difficulties. He’d already been fined $10,000 by the city for using the Tower’s atrium, as it is a public space where political gatherings were not permitted. His contractor had also underpaid hundreds of undocumented Polish immigrants to build the tower, which could seem incongruous with his pledge to deport all Syrian refugees and undocumented Mexican immigrants. And a federal investigation had discovered that he’d overpaid for the building’s concrete from companies controlled by Fat Tony Salerno and Big Paul Castellano, the bosses of two of New York’s mafia families. The bosses were sent to prison in the 1980s by Giuliani, the district attorney at the time, who was rumored to be under consideration for the job of attorney general.

Around two-forty-five, Trump walked out on the stage to announce that his opponent had conceded the election. “I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton,” he told the audience. Everyone chanted, “Lock her up,” a reference to a pledge Trump had made during his campaign to arrest Clinton if he was elected. “I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign. I mean, she fought very hard. Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.” The room cheered for Clinton. “I mean that very sincerely.” Trump then praised the mostly white audience for being a movement of “all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs” and pledged not to forget the “forgotten men and women of our country,” referring to the mostly white poor and working-class voters living in the rust belt who had buoyed his campaign. I was unable to locate any of them in the crowd.

A group of Trump surrogates lined up onstage, behind a glass-encased make america great again cap. “Look at all these people,” Trump said. “I want to give a very special thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. He traveled with us and he went through meetings. That Rudy never changes. Where’s Rudy here? Where is he?” The crowd began to chant the former mayor’s name, but he was nowhere to be found. Trump moved on to thank New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose approval rating in the state fell below 20 percent after two of his aides were sent to prison for closing the George Washington Bridge to snarl traffic in a town whose mayor did not support his reelection. “Chris Christie, folks, was unbelievable.” Soon, Trump noticed some commotion among his surrogates. “Who is that, is that the mayor that showed up?” Giuliani had gotten onto the stage. “Awww, Rudy got up here.” The former mayor grinned. The crowd cheered. The next president of the United States was feeling generous. He thanked Ben Carson, a retired neuroscientist who last year he had compared to a child molester and was now rumored to be considering appointing secretary of education. He thanked Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and now a possibility for secretary of commerce, who earlier in the night had tweeted that Clinton would appoint “her Filipino maid” to head the CIA. Finally, he thanked Reince Preibus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who recently won the position of chief of staff over Steve Bannon, who runs a pro-white-nationalist website from his basement in Washington, D.C.

“I love this country,” said Trump, before walking off stage.

After the speech was over, I wandered out into the reception area. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by the Rolling Stones, was playing from the speakers. It was past three o’clock and much of the older crowd had made for the escalators. The cocktail tables were littered with Trump’s campaign signs for women, Hispanics, and Muslims. They now served as placemats for the half-empty drinks discarded by guests who just did something even they had thought impossible. Over by the bar, the Trump cake had once again become the center of attention. Several young supporters were circled around it, jumping up and down and screaming for the cameramen. “Peace on earth!” they shouted. “The galaxy won.”

Share
Single Page

More from Joe Kloc:

From the May 2019 issue

Lost at Sea

Poverty and paradise at the edge of America

Weekly Review May 9, 2018, 4:25 pm

Weekly Review

Essential consultants

Weekly Review May 2, 2018, 3:40 pm

Weekly Review

The Count and the Candyman

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2020

The Old Normal

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Out of Africa

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Waiting for the End of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Harm’s Way

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Fifth Step

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A View to a Krill

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Old Normal·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

At the time Marshall spoke, mere months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces had sustained a string of painful setbacks and had yet to win a major battle. Eventual victory over Japan and Germany seemed anything but assured. Yet Marshall was already looking beyond the immediate challenges to define what that victory, when ultimately— and, in his view, inevitably—achieved, was going to signify.

This second world war of the twentieth century, Marshall understood, was going to be immense and immensely destructive. But if vast in scope, it would be limited in duration. The sun would set; the war would end. Today no such expectation exists. Marshall’s successors have come to view armed conflict as an open-ended proposition. The alarming turn in U.S.–Iranian relations is another reminder that war has become normal for the United States.

Article
More Than a Data Dump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

Article
The Fifth Step·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Harold Jamieson, once chief engineer of New York City’s sanitation department, enjoyed retirement. He knew from his small circle of friends that some didn’t, so he considered himself lucky. He had an acre of garden in Queens that he shared with several like-minded horticulturists, he had discovered Netflix, and he was making inroads in the books he’d always meant to read. He still missed his wife—a victim of breast cancer five years previous—but aside from that persistent ache, his life was quite full. Before rising every morning, he reminded himself to enjoy the day. At sixty-eight, he liked to think he had a fair amount of road left, but there was no denying it had begun to narrow.

The best part of those days—assuming it wasn’t raining, snowing, or too cold—was the nine-block walk to Central Park after breakfast. Although he carried a cell phone and used an electronic tablet (had grown dependent on it, in fact), he still preferred the print version of the Times. In the park, he would settle on his favorite bench and spend an hour with it, reading the sections back to front, telling himself he was progressing from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Article
Out of Africa·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

1. In 2014, Deepti Gurdasani, a genetic epidemiologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, coauthored a paper in Nature on human genetic variation in Africa, from which this image is taken. A recent study had found that DNA from people of European descent made up 96 percent of genetic samples worldwide, reflecting the historical tendency among scientists and doctors to view the male, European body as a global archetype. “There wasn’t very much data available from Africa at all,” Gurdasani told me. To help rectify the imbalance, her research team collected samples from eighteen African ethnolinguistic groups across the continent—such as the Kalenjin of Uganda and the Oromo of Ethiopia—most of whom had not previously been included in genomic research. They analyzed the data using an admixture algorithm, which visualizes the statistical genetic differences among groups by representing them as color clusters. The top chart shows genetic differences among the sampled African populations, in increasing degrees of granularity from top to bottom, and the bottom chart shows how they compare with ethnic groups in the rest of the world. The areas where the colors mix and overlap imply that groups commingled. The Yoruba, for instance, show remarkable homogeneity—their column is almost entirely green and purple—while the Kalenjin seem to have associated with many populations across the continent.

Article
In Harm’s Way·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Ten yards was the nearest we could get to the river. Any closer and the smell was too much to bear. The water was a milky gray color, as if mixed with ashes, and the passage of floating trash was ceaseless. Plastic bags and bottles, coffee lids, yogurt cups, flip-flops, and sodden stuffed animals drifted past, coated in yellow scum. Amid the old tires and mattresses dumped on the riverbank, mounds of rank green weeds gave refuge to birds and grasshoppers, which didn’t seem bothered by the fecal stench.

El Río de los Remedios, or the River of Remedies, runs through the city of Ecatepec, a densely populated satellite of Mexico City. Confined mostly to concrete channels, the river serves as the main drainage line for the vast monochrome barrios that surround the capital. That day, I was standing on a stretch of the canal just north of Ecatepec, with a twenty-three-year-old photographer named Reyna Leynez. Reyna was the one who’d told me about the place and what it represents. This ruined river, this open sewer, is said to be one of the largest mass graves in Mexico.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

An Iraqi man complaining on live television about the country’s health services died on air.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

Subscribe Today