Dispatches from the Popbitch US election night party
No amount of American street food could make up for a tough night for Hillary Clinton fans in London's east end.
Revellers descended on Street Feast Dinerama in Shoreditch for the Popbitch Election Party full of optimism. “Surely it must be Hillary?”, a man asked his partner while queuing outside Obamarama, the venue's wine bar. “After everything he’s done during this campaign, they couldn’t possible elect Trump. Right?”
Topped up on a free beer and shot of whiskey, the inclement weather did nothing to dampen the mood. The large downstairs hall was resplendent with rows of tables and bunting hanging from the makeshift roof, while stalls served brisket, chicken wings, sliders and wood oven pizza. A group of students walked around in red, white and blue onesies. Hundreds had turned up to the east London site, the majority of whom were backing the Democrat candidate for president.
By midnight, guests were full from the carb-heavy street food dinner, washed down with lashings of Budweiser and IPA. Trump was marginally ahead in Florida with only a fraction of the vote counted. Same too in Ohio, and North Carolina. After an American woman on my table yelped in disbelief, one man was quick to assuage any concern. “There is still around 90% of votes to be counted in these states. Urban areas haven’t declared yet, there is a hell of a long way to go,” he boomed.
People were now positioned in the upstairs area, some seated on the floor, others standing, arms folded. Eyes were fixed on the screen, with plastered on smiles as we moved into the early hours. It was just a matter of time before the tide began to turn for Clinton, their faces screamed. Just hang in there.
Impersonators of the candidates did the rounds looking to galvanise the mood. But as more projections came in, the laughter began to fade away, looks of optimism turning to grimaces, a once boisterous room sobering swiftly. My American friend was busily texting her grandmother in Virginia, both praying – literally - for Clinton to emerge victorious, and for her rival to be consigned to electoral abyss.
By 2am, Trump had secured the states of South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi. The key battle areas – bar Virginia – were leaning Republican, and hope among the predominantly left-wing crowd ebbed away. Some of the less hard-core began to head home, or succumbed to tiredness in a corner. “I will check the result when I wake up at 7,” a friend said as he left proceedings. “By then, this would have all sorted itself out”.
Markets were beginning to react as Ohio, Florida and North Carolina were still projected for Trump. The hosts deployed an emergency round of smoked salmon and creamed cheese bagels to galvanise an increasingly flagging atmosphere. No amount of treats could reanimate a spirit that had never been given the opportunity to flourish. Not even a subsequent deployment of bacon and sausage sandwiches.
But then, California! Fifty five electoral college votes for Clinton, putting her marginally ahead of Trump overall. The flash of Clinton’s face on the giant screens prompted the crowd to let out a yell of appreciation. Finally some good news. But they knew they were kidding themselves. California was always going to Clinton. Their sarcastic cheer typified the way this election was heading.
And then Trump monstered Ohio. Every candidate who has secured the state in the past 50 years has entered the White House, we thought to ourselves. Then Florida. CNN declared North Carolina for the Republican. Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania! – was projected for Trump.
The room thinned as people took stock of what was happening, cognisant to the fact they would be attending work, or lectures, in a matter of hours. The rain had infiltrated parts of the downstairs area, the tables dotted with soggy food packaging, while a screen projected Andrew Neil's face to the dwindling masses as staff began clearing the debris. By 5.30, the result was self-evident, even to those of a more sanguine disposition. London’s east end was being lacerated by rain, and Shoreditch's pro-Clinton supporters had been well and truly trumped.