Trump election night in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Mike’s Place bar has always been a Jerusalem staple, especially for Americans. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning it also became Trump country for a brief moment, as dozens of supporters gathered to watch returns come in throughout the night.
They had been there since the late hours of Tuesday. Time was wearing on some of them, but they vowed to soldier on into the morning to see if their candidate could pull off what most pundits thought impossible.
“It’s nerve wracking,” says one man wearing a Trump-Pence shirt. Florida returns showed the state at 49% to 47% with Trump in the lead. This was the state with the infamous “hanging chads” in 2000, when George W.
Bush had to wait more than a month for the results.
Many feared that Hispanic voters, who were turning out in high numbers early Tuesday, would swing the state to Hillary Clinton. But at 3:30am Jerusalem time, the nail biter was still in Trump’s court, and Republicans in Israel were happy.
Among the Republicans in the mostly male audience, there was the usual spectrum of conservatives who had considered Gary Johnson as a more rational candidate. One man claimed that even if Hitler were running on the Democratic ticket, people would vote for him because they can’t admit the flaws of their candidates.
“If Clinton said she murdered the guys in Benghazi they would still support her,” he shouted to no one in particular.
He was referring to the attack in Benghazi, Libya, by Islamists in which US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was murdered in 2012. Many Republicans seized on the assault at the time to claim Clinton had misled the media about the nature of the attack.
As results came in from Arkansas the Jerusalemites applauded. But people wondered why Trump wasn’t able to cut into Clinton’s blue states.
Marc Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas in Israel, was confident and modest.
“It’s amazing,” he said to those gathered at his table. The election was still anyone’s to win. Ohio and Pennsylvania returns were coming in. Key states for both parties, a Trump win in Ohio would bolster his chances and people felt they were on a roll toward victory.
At 4:30 a.m. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that she was “buoyant” based on the results so far. There seemed to be a feeling from her and those in Jerusalem that no one really expected Trump could win. “Better than expected,” Zell said as he left the bar around 5 in the morning.
Elishai Riley, a 19 year old from Wisconsin, said he had come to support Trump but didn’t agree with the candidate on everything. He noted that although Trump has said offensive things, Clinton has actually done the wrong thing, “I have chosen between two evils.” The young man said he was hopeful for a future in Israel where he had moved three months ago and was looking to go to the army soon.
Even as the dawn began to break more Trump supporters were coming in, including a few religious boys.
One of them posed for a photo with a bottle of Smirnoff. He was sure Trump would win. For these young men, there was “no chance he’s losing,” shouted the Smirnoff champion.
The few Clinton supporters in the crowd, perhaps at the event with friends or other journalists there to cover it, were nonplussed. The crowd of men seemed to symbolize all the disparities of this campaign, the stereotype of white men who feel disenfranchised up against what they see as a broken, corrupt, elitist system.
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