Walking up Fifth Avenue on Election Night, midtown landmarks are awash in apolitical patriotism. The crown of the Empire State Building is lit up in red and white and blue. Not to be outdone, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home of NBCUniversal, is striped all along its facade in the same colors. Passersby talk of one thing: The election.
You don’t see the first hint of police activity until 53rd Street, a couple of cops standing alert but idle by a barricade. Their numbers increase gradually until they reach their full at 56th Street, blocked off from traffic by human bodies — police, for the most part — and trucks from the New York Department of Sanitation. This is the entrance to Trump Tower.
Just before 7 p.m. ET, and there are just three Trump supporters in a barricaded pen on the far side of Fifth Avenue. Gawkers stop for photos. No one yells anything obscene or angry on either side.
Even after a half hour, only one other supporter has arrived. Yvonne, a 48-year-old single mother from the Lower East Side who would prefer her last name not be used, tells Variety that this is unusual. “We’ve had rallies here all the time, there are thousands of us,” she says, showing photos on her phone of a large group of people bearing a “CHINESE FOR TRUMP” banner.
Yvonne clambered on board the Trump train after seeing him speak. “I was just so captivated,” she says. She is tired of the corruption she sees in the government; and she blames Obamacare for her employer not continuing to offer her insurance. Because she couldn’t afford a health plan, she had to pay the penalty for not being insured. Yvonne says her mother is Puerto Rican; her father, from Spain.
Yvonne is joined by Theresa Boul, a middle-aged black woman holding a “Drain the Swamp” sign. Boul says a couple hours earlier, there were about 60 people in the pen, but that about a third of them weren’t true Trump supporters. They led most of the rest on a walk around the surrounding area. She knew they weren’t true believers because they didn’t want to hold any of her “Drain the Swamp” signs or be photographed.
“It doesn’t matter how many bodies we have,” she says. “We have more voices.”
All the same, even though she’s out in front of Trump Tower, “I had to drag myself today to vote,” she says. “I’ve voted Democrat all my life.” Not only that, she was a staunch supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in his primary campaign. What changed?
She saw the reports on the Democratic National Committee e-mails unearthed by WikiLeaks, and then she saw how Sanders capitulated to his opponent. “It’s about corruption,” she says. “Trump is the only candidate that stands against corruption.”
Rob Nilsen, a Long Island resident, sees in Trump a businessman who helped build New York City into what it is today, on a micro level, and can do the same on a macro level for the country.
But if Trump loses on Tuesday night, unlike his candidate, Nilsen says he’ll accept the result. “I trust the system,” he says. Yvonne and Boul don’t share his trust, but they don’t see what else they can do.
These die-hard supporters felt compelled to come out to stand across the street from the gilded building that is home to the candidate they voted for today. Nilsen vows to stay there until the bitter end of Election Night. Boul will see how the evening goes. Yvonne may go to a party or two somewhere else. After all, it’s getting late, and it’s getting chilly.
(Pictured: Theresa Boul)