Hours before Donald Trump stunned tens of millions of Americans by winning the White House, Miguel was sitting quietly in Hudson River Park at the end Christopher Street. The 25-year-old lives in a congregate shelter in Brooklyn and has struggled to find work. He voted for Hillary Clinton after transferring his voter registration from Manhattan.
“My main focus was voting for Hillary,” he said. “I told them I’m going to vote. I don’t want Donald Trump in office… He’s not a proper candidate. He disrespects women, he gropes them.”
Going into the November 8 election, the expectation of many Americans, including many LGBT Americans, was that Clinton would win the race. Polling data, which turned out to be almost universally wrong, had her with multiple paths to reach the required 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, and Trump had a far narrower path. But a large turnout among white male voters over 45 without a college education in small cities, suburbs, or rural areas overcame Clinton’s lead among many other groups.
White evangelicals and conservatives abandoned all pretense of believing in traditional values and overwhelmingly backed a man who is in his third marriage and, in a tape that was made public during the campaign, openly boasted about sexually assaulting women and effectively cheating on his wife. Despite some party leaders refusing to back Trump, nine out of 10 Republicans voted for Trump.
While Trump voters were generally wealthier, they had a gloomier view of America’s future and thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. Clinton won voters with household incomes below $49,999, according to exit poll data compiled by Edison Research.
Clinton also won the LGBT vote 78 percent to Trump’s 14 percent. In prior presidential elections, the Republican candidate has typically won about 20 to 25 percent of the LGBT vote.
Clinton faced more than one challenge. After eight years with one party in the White House, some Americans vote reflexively against the candidate from the party that held the presidency for the prior two terms. Voters who wanted some unspecified change backed Trump by 83 percent to Clinton’s 14 percent. And what was little discussed during the campaign were those Americans who simply won’t vote for a woman.
“I think the misogyny is endemic, except for gay men,” said Roberta Degnore, 60, as she stood outside Henrietta Hudson, a West Village bar, several hours before the election results were known.
In 2008, after eight years of war and the wrecked economy produced by Republican George W. Bush, many Americans were excited to elect Barack Obama, first a little-known state senator from Illinois and then the nation’s first African-American president, who ran on a message of hope and change.
“I was in LA for that,” Degnore said. “You could hear the cheering in the streets when he won.”
Degnore was not alone in that view. Kevin, 53, who was enjoying a cigarette outside the Hangar on Christopher Street, agreed that the atmosphere was different in 2016 than in 2008, though he had gotten up early in the morning to stand in line to vote 15 minutes before his Manhattan polling place opened at 6 a.m.
“I think Barack has been her biggest fan in this whole process, but there’s not the same enthusiasm to elect her as there was to elect Barack,” he said about two hours before the first polls closed and the vote count began.
The excitement did seem reduced at the prospect of electing America’s first female president, though it may be that any decline was largely among men.
“I’m excited about this,” Degnore said. “It’s revolutionary, this is a big fucking deal. Women died for this… The right has dampened it, they have derogated it.”
Clinton won among women 54 percent to Trump’s 42 percent and lost among men 41 percent to Trump’s 53 percent, according to exit poll data.
Though Clinton would not concede the election until the early morning hours of November 9, it was apparent by 10 p.m. on Election Day that the hoped-for Clinton win was not quickly materializing. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida were too close to call, and some states that Clinton was expected to win were going to Trump.
Two patrons of Gym Sportsbar, Corey, 45, and James, 34, were standing outside the Chelsea bar waiting for a ride. The crowd inside had been cheering Clinton’s incremental gains in some states, but the overall picture was worrisome.
“It’s just tense,” Corey said and then added for reassurance, “You realize there’s actually more people to go out and vote.”
A few hours earlier, Kevin had expressed consternation at Trump’s popularity. His campaign was first marked by insults and petty remarks directed at his rivals during the Republican primary. He continued in that vein during the general election, directing his vitriol at Clinton. Trump offered few if any substantive promises on policy.
“As an educated man, I’m perplexed by the acceptance of Donald Trump’s message,” Kevin said.