A big party to follow the US elections night in Groningen

By Anna Portella

Finally, the Oscar has gone to Donald Trump for “Make America Great Again.” Now it is time to decide whether he was prized for being the best director, for the best writing, the best actor in leading role or for the best makeup and hairstyling.

In Groningen the awards ceremony was hosted by the “Election Nigh USA” at the Groninger Forum on 8 November. The event, which expected 350 attendees, started at 9pm with a set of   lectures about American political culture as a prelude, since at the top floor bar a big screen awaited the guests to follow the recount with the CNN live broadcast after midnight.

It’s a beautiful tradition,” said Martijn Rorgers, the project manager, “we did it twice, in the 2008 and 2012 campaign,” he explains. “We are already a week sold out, we could have sold twice or maybe more tickets because so much people wanted to come.”

The US elections ceremony

The audience was mainly made up of university students, mostly Dutch, though there were representatives of different age ranges. They all were bound by their interest in American politics -some of the attendees had lived in the US, others’ studies were related to American politics (International Relations, History, and Amercian Studies, among others), or there were even Americans committed to their country.

The Groninger Forum lived up to the expectations. To begin with, a big inflated Statue of Liberty wellcomed the attendees at the Groninger Forum entrance.

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The main hall, the hall 1 and 2 -where the lectures took place-, and the top floor bar were decorated following the American national motifs -glittering stars hanging from the ceiling, American flags at every corner or pins with the candidates’ faces. Some members of the staff were dressed up in Uncle Sam and Amercan-flag costumes and a choir singing the American anthem officially opened the night. The event even counted on a cheer-leaders team and some Giant Groninger players, and a tray with donuts and muffins was served early in the morning.

IMG_1641.jpgIt was all in a blue-red-and-white hue and the feeling that more than choosing the following host of the White House, we were at a party to honour American politics. And American culture.

American politics fanatics

The 2016 US campaign turned out to be particularly attractive. “Entertaining,” “show,” and “game,” were some of the most repeated words to describe the 2016 race to the White House.

It’s the best entertainment in the world. Germany is much more important for Holland, but still we are attracted by this crazy country,” said one in a mock pro-Trump group of friends. They were sitting on a table taking beers at the back of the bar and wearing the Trump’s campaign hat. One of them was dressed up with a “Trump” shirt, another flaunting a fake cowboy moustache, and they were all joking and concluding their discussions agreeing on making “America great again.”

img_1705If I am really honest, one of the reasons I am here it is because it’s a Hollywood show,” said Ruben Braam, a Groninger. “If you organized the same with the Dutch elections you wouldn’t get this crowd. The elections in Holland are boring,” he explained, holding a beer and hanging on a red table in front of the big screen.

Two controversial candidates

The two candidates were who made the US elections interesting (again?). “I am very interested in American politics, but this campaign is even more extreme because of Trump,” said Noor Rodgers, a Groninger that lived in Texas many years ago.

img_1768The Groninger Forum mainly summoned people backing Hillary’s candidacy, most of them by default -Bernie Sanders was the big absence of the night and many confessed to be with Clinton just to avoid Trump-, though there were also Hillary firm supporters.

Those who confessed to be pro-Trumps were actually against-Hillaries. “He is less cynical, because he admits he is a criminal. I prefer an honest criminal than a dishonest democrat,” said a guy who refused to identify himself for The Spoke

I think American people who have voted Trump are really scared,” said Michael Rahbar, an American from Florida who worked for the Bernie Sanders’ campaign as a volunteer, in an attempt to guess why people voted for the Republican candidate.

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Many people agreed on the fear speech as the main cause of Trump’s rising support. But what they disregarded is that fear (of Trump) was a powerful engine for the pro-Hillaries-by-default. “I am very scared with Trump presidency in the US and the world. He has every characteristics of a narcissistic personality disorder,” explained Pieter Walstock, a Groninger.


The “Election Night USA” fading euphoria

The Groniner Forum mood was a candle burning as the night, or better said, the morning, came in. The initial hopes were on Hillary, and Florida was seen as the decisive state. In fact, most of the attendees were willing to stay at the Groninger Forum until the nominee was decided as Florida’s final results were expected to be released between 2am and 3am.

Some attendees arrived at the Groninger Forum with the electoral map and voting strategies already under control. Others had the chance to learn more about the US voting system through the scheduled conferences.

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The starting optimism, then, biased many attendees’ guesses – “Hillary will win for around 60%-40%,” said Linn Van Der Meij, a Dutch History student who attended the “Yes, he could? Obama’s legacy” lecture. “I hope there will be a landslide,” said Dennis Utermark, from Drende, flanked by his son and his daughter.

After midnight, when most of the conferences were over, people gathered to follow the voting recount at the top floor bar. There were red, blue and white tables scattered across the room to hold drinks and snacks. The bar was a coming-and-going of thirsty guests that needed refill their glasses (and energies), and the voice of John King and Anderson Cooper filled the air throughout the night.

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For Trump there are three big swinging states: Nevada, North Carolina and Florida,” explained Isa Pieters, an American Studies student, rising her voice to make it sound among cheers, claps and hollers when the first east states’ results favouring Clinton appeared on the screen.

Maybe Texas, Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina surprise us,” continued the 18-year-old Groninger, wearing a “Hillary for President” shirt among the crowd chatter, as if we were in a football final championship match.

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Florida is making me very anxious because if Trump wins there he has a likelihood to win the election,” said Rahbar, who customized his hat with the slogan “Make America England Again.”

Florida was the night’s turning point for the Groninger Forum’s mood and hope. “I was convinced that Hillary Clinton would win, but looking at this I am doubting. But I still believe in Clinton,” said Marteen Lemstra, member of the Student Association for International Relations (SIB) one of the organizers of the “Election Night”, looking at the results on the screen.

An unexpected movie end

It was almost 4:30am and at that point people’s initial euphoria was almost completely faded away. Meanwhile, the CNN hosts King and Cooper were eagerly zooming in and out the US maps to analyze what a few hours later would be considered the beginning of the change in the international politics scenario.

Most of the people had already gone and those who resisted to retire without a winner were lying or sitting on the floor discussing with each other.

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At that point, Martijn Rorgers caught a microphone to announce that the “Election Night USA” was over -the event was scheduled until 4:30, though it lasted until 5am. The waiters were emptying the tables flooded with donuts and muffins leftovers, empty coffee mugs and beer bottles.

The last guests had to leave the Groninger Forum with the feeling that instead of watching a Hollywood movie, they had attended to a 3D broadcast of a House of Cards episode.

And actually, this 2016 elections would be remembered for the series of episodes that brought the most unexpected candidate ever to power. They started with the pledge of bringing a wall along the US-Mexico border, and there have been episodes of insults, harassment accusations, and Wikileaks releases of hacked mails.

A few hours later, around 8am, the Net was flooded with data confirming that Trump was the President Elect. People throughout the world took off the 3D glasses and realized that overall it had been true.

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