Searching for America Outside of Trump Tower in New York City

Trump Tower
Pants were optional outside of Trump Tower the day after its owner was elected president. Newsweek

Prior to Tuesday's election, more than 5,000 New Yorkers had noted on Facebook that they planned to attend an event called "Point and Laugh at Trump Tower" on Wednesday morning. The idea was to celebrate what was expected to be Hillary Clinton's victory in the presidential race by mocking Donald Trump the way he had mocked so many others throughout the course of his campaign. The idea for the event is one of many that liberals will look back on as a deeply embarrassing example of their arrogance in an election that was widely misinterpreted.

The event page was deleted from Facebook after Trump won the election, but the black monolith at Fifth Avenue and East 56th Street remained, standing as resolutely as ever on a gray, drizzly Wednesday morning in New York City. A diverse mass of people congregated on the sidewalk across the street from the building's entrance, which was still guarded by a barrier of sand trucks deployed by the city on Election Day. A barricade had also been erected to corrale protesters who held florescent posterboard featuring progressive slogans hastily written in black marker—"Black Lives Matter," "Spread Love Not Hate" and "My Body My Choice," among them. They started to chant, attracting content-hungry members of the press and selfie-hungry tourists like moths to a flame.

"DONALD TRUMP, GO AWAY, RACIST, SEXIST, ANTI-GAY!" they yelled in unison. None of them looked older than 21 or 22.

Trump Tower
Anti-Trump demonstrators were confined to a barricaded area outside of Trump Tower on Wednesday. Newsweek

Others demonstrated on behalf of Trump. A guitar-playing man in nothing but a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and white briefs with "TRUMP" written on his backside in alternating red and blue lettering sang ballads about the ills of corporate regulations. He was swarmed by the media as soon as he arrived on the scene.

Less ostentatious was a man who identified himself only as Joseph, who proudly held a sign that read "Jews for Trump." Born in Israel but living in Brooklyn, he made his way to Trump Tower immediately after the election was called in the early hours of the morning. "I knew he was going to win," he said. "It feels good. I'm glad that he became president. He has the power to bring jobs back and to lower taxes, like he promises."

Anyone who happened to walk along that part of Fifth Avenue Wednesday morning would have noted the smattering of blissfully content Trump supporters decked out in their new president's merchandise; they would have seen the chanting protesters and their signs; and they would have been aware that members of the media were waiting eagerly for something—anything—to happen. But they would have been less likely to notice the dozens upon dozens of people who made up the majority of the crowd across the street from the building's black-and-gold facade. They weren't making noise, but they were there, standing and watching with their phones at the ready. The cops tried and failed to clear them from the sidewalk. The media tried and failed to remove them from their camera shots. As soon as some were shooed away, others took their place.

I talked to several of these uncredentialed plainclothespeople in an effort to put together a well-rounded profile of the type of person who might be compelled to hang out on a wet sidewalk across from Trump Tower the day after the election. I expected a good portion of the totally normal-looking crowd to be dismayed about what happened the previous night, as for many dismay seemed to be a totally normal way to respond to the reality of a Trump presidency.

Trump Tower
Members of the press appraise a scantily clad, guitar-playing Trump supporter. Newsweek

But most of them said they were not feeling that way, which I guess shouldn't have been surprising given the unusual election that had just concluded. Jeremy, a Republican visiting from Texas, was shocked that Trump won. "He's terrible," he said of the president-elect. "He doesn't know anything about foreign policy, he doesn't know anything about economics."

But this didn't keep Jeremy from voting for him. "I was vehemently #NeverTrump until about August or September, when the stuff with Hillary got so bad," he said. In particular, he said he was irked by her comment about Trump's "deplorable" supporters, which he feels was genuine. If the Democrats had produced a better candidate, he said, he wouldn't have voted for him or her, but he also wouldn't have voted for Trump. He did so only because it would help keep Clinton out of office.

"I think there are a lot of people like me who are free-market conservatives who were afraid to vocalize that we were going to vote for Trump because to do that is tantamount to saying, 'I'm racist, I'm xenophobic,'" he said. "I wasn't going to say a word. I still won't. You're not going to see me wearing a Make America Great Again hat. If you do that, you're attacked. Then I'd have to explain that, 'No, I'm OK with gay marriage. No, I'm OK with minorities. No, I'm OK with freedom.'"

"I think there are a lot of people like me who are free market conservatives who were afraid to vocalize that we were going to vote for Trump because to do that is tantamount to saying, 'I'm racist, I'm xenophobic,'"

Julieanne from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, said she didn't vote for Trump, but almost did. "I was impressed by the possibility that we might have a president who knew how to run a business correctly, who was not a politician and who might actually make a difference in the very dysfunctional political system that we have," she said. "Then when he became a racist and misogynist I decided that I couldn't in good conscience vote for him."

Throughout the election, liberal America was largely ignorant of the complex set of reasons why someone might vote for Trump. If you voted for this racist, sexist bigot, it was decided, you must be a thoroughly terrible person. It wasn't this simple, of course, and liberals ultimately weren't willing to acknowledge that the issues they prioritized might not be as important to the rest of the country. Millions and millions of decent Americans just wanted change above all else, and they saw it in Trump, whose most powerful intoxicant was his populist, anti-establishment rhetoric. He was the antidote to a corrupt system, one that Hillary Clinton happened to epitomize.

"Now that he is our president I will stand behind him as an American citizen because I think that's what makes democracy great." Julieanne continued. "The fact that 50 percent of us don't agree with him doesn't change the fact that I get to walk through New York City, I get to have free speech and I get to watch free speech and I get to enjoy the beauty of what this great country is. We were not rioting and killing each other over this change. I believe we have to give this guy a chance. I believe we have to give this guy some hope."

When she mentioned the freedom to watch free speech, she was referring to the protesters corralled in front of us. They had started chanting again. A few of them hopped over the barricade to implore onlookers to join them instead of standing around and taking pictures. No one did. They hopped back over the rail to join the others. This time they were passionately yelling, "NOT OUR PRESIDENT!" over and over again.

A man in a sweatsuit walked briskly through the crowd.

"Yes he is!" he announced with a contented laugh, never even turning his head to acknowledge the demonstrators before making his way to the intersection and disappearing down 56th Street.

Searching for America Outside of Trump Tower in New York City | Culture