BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | “We’re on a highwaaay to hell!”
Bon Scott blared over the speakers at Niagara bar Tuesday night, as Donald Trump — yes, it was incredibly true — was starting to build his lead against Hillary Clinton.
It was around 9:20 p.m. and the TV screens at the Avenue A watering hole showed Trump leading Clinton in electoral college votes 130 to 100. Connecticut had just gone for the former secretary of state, but Louisiana went for the bombastic billionaire.
“Ohhh we’re halfway there! Ohhh, livin’ on a prayer!” a guy had sung out earlier in between sullen swigs of his beer. But the rock-lite tune by Bon Jovi — who actively supported Clinton in the race — didn’t fully express the moment. Something darker, more extreme was needed.
“Wrong song!” another twentysomething dude wearing a beanie shouted, then called out, “Highway to Hell!”
Bartender Morgann Daniels promptly cued up the AC/DC anthem.
As the song ended, Scott rasped the chillingly self-destructive lyrics, “And we’re going dowwwwn…all the waaay!”
Scott, who drank himself to death, was singing about booze and drugs. And for the young bargoers, it was dawning on them that we are in for, well…one strange trip. Are we, too, on course for self-destruction?
Daniels followed that right up with R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World (As We Know It).”
You could call it The Donald Doomsday Mix.
As the night wore on, key battleground states, like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, went red as Trump only further piled up his lead. He beat Clinton soundly, with 275 to 218 electoral votes, though lost the popular vote by around 200,000 ballots.
If Downtown Manhattan were the only place that mattered, Clinton would have crushed Trump. There were long lines at most of the polls, as people turned out to cast their vote for Clinton — and, equally, if not more importantly, against Trump.
Election workers reported record numbers — topping even the two previous presidential elections won by Barack Obama.
At the polling place at P.S. 41, at W. 11th St. and Sixth Ave., the line started forming shortly after 5 a.m. and stretched around the corner all the way to W. 10th St.
“Oh, my God, it was over the top,” said Marjorie Kouns, the site’s information clerk.
The long river of voters flowed unbroken throughout the day, as people came in droves to weigh in on what most felt was one of the most critical elections of our lives. Local stars felt that way, too.
“We had our celebrities show up,” Kouns said. “Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Michael Kors, Marisa Tomei — and that says a lot to me.”
At around 2 p.m., Village District Keen Berger had just completed her first round of checking all 15 poll sites in her part of the 66th Assembly District.
“There were very long lines everywhere,” she reported. “The Palladium, they had lines down the street,” she said of New York University’s dorm on the former Palladium nightclub site on E. 14th St.
Berger said that, according to Teresa Hommel, the P.S. 41 poll site coordinator, people had been voting there at a brisk clip of 1,000 per hour.
A problem at P.S. 41 and also at P.S. 63, on E. Third St., and likely at many other poll sites, was that some optical scanners filled up with the flood of paper ballots that had been fed into them.
Berger said Hommel earlier had been trying to figure out what to do with a machine packed full of the paper ballots. One idea was to remove the scanned ballots from the machine and put them in a “lock box,” so that the scanner could be put back into action. In the end, though, the problem was solved when a fresh, empty scanner was brought in.
Each scanner can hold somewhere 1,000 ballots.
At P.S. 63, as the voting was wrapping up around 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Saran Thrasher, the poll site coordinator, said they chose to keep the unscanned ballots until after the poll closed, after which they would scan them.
“We can’t leave here until we do it,” she said.
Also on the ballot for re-election at P.S. 41 were Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who ran unopposed, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Congressmember Chuck Schumer.
Entry / exit polling at the Greenwich Village School yielded many similar descriptions when voters were asked why they were supporting Clinton and not Trump. No one seemed to be backing Trump — except possibly two guys who said they would talk after voting.
Trump was described as “a disaster,” “insane,” “maniacal,” “frightening,” “a loose cannon,” “unpredictable,” “hideous,” “likely to get us into wars,” “psychopath” and “cuckoo.”
In contrast, Clinton was called “experienced,” “rational,” “logical,” “sane,” “strategic” and “career politician.”
As one voter, Judith Levin, who teaches at N.Y.U., explaining her choice, put it, “It’s a no-brainer.”
But others, though supporting Clinton, were less than enthusiastic.
“She just doesn’t stand for anything,” said one man, who didn’t give his name. He had thought of backing Green candidate Jill Stein as “the ultimate protest vote,” but made up his mind by the time he entered the school’s door.
Another man, Kevin Spina, however, who said he actually was a Green, said he was voting for Stein because of her environmental positions and her pacifism.
“Nothing the major candidates said made me feel that, if they were elected, the war in the Middle East would end,” he said.
Berger has a political pedigree. Her father, Harold Stassen, was Minnesota’s governor and a perennial Republican candidate for president, unsuccessfully seeking the party’s nomination nine times. Meanwhile, Trump, in his first-ever run for office, won the whole enchilada — oops, no Mexican references allowed!
Asked for her own feelings on the election, Berger said, “Oh, I think it’s crucial. The country has to take a stand against all the things that divide us.”
As for her thoughts on Clinton, she said, “You know, she’s not perfect — but neither am I.”
She was then off to do a second sweep of her district’s poll sites, making sure everything was functioning well — and also distributing cookies to election workers.
Glick was dressed for the occasion in a blue pantsuit and blue shoes — “a not-too-subtle” message, she quipped. She had to wait for an hour to cast her ballot.
“I got on line at 12:30 and voted at 1:30,” she noted.
Eight years ago, when Clinton was running for president for the first time, Glick had expressed to The Villager how happy she was finally to be able to vote for a woman for president. She had voted for far too many “mediocre men” over the years, she said back then.
Reminded of that comment on Tuesday, Glick noted, “I voted for Gore [in 2000]. That was a good guy.”
Trump, on the other hand, is more than just mediocre, in her view and in the view of most of the others who were on line.
“What I find incredible is that the man is obviously unhinged and a significant portion of the country is voting for him,” she marveled. “The Republicans are the victim of their own gridlock,” she said, of how Trump came to be the G.O.P. candidate.
As for people like actress Susan Sarandon who said Clinton was actually worse than Trump, Glick scoffed, “They have to have their heads examined. I was a Hillary supporter, but I voted for Obama in 2008. This is not a time to have a fit of pique.”
Karen, a young mother cradling her daughter on her breast and discretely nursing her through a flap in her shirt, had just voted. She said she didn’t want to give her last name because the election was causing “a family dispute.”
“I voted for the person who has not expressed social prejudices,” she said. “I don’t want my daughter growing up in that environment.”
At the same time, she said she wasn’t particularly inspired by Clinton. She works in finance and actually saw one of the “secret” Wall Street talks Clinton gave that the candidate was pressured to release the transcripts of.
“I don’t think she stated more dramatic views than what she’s stated in public,” she shrugged of the talk she attended.
Salah Murshad, manning a convenience store counter on Avenue A as oud music played behind him on Tuesday night, said Trump is dangerous — not just to Muslims, but the world.
“He’s not good dealing with people, because he’s got a big mouth — no one can deal with that,” he said. “We make more enemies for the United States, for no reason.”
A Muslim, he said he’s not afraid of Trump’s tough talk against people of his faith.
“America, they go by law,” Murshad said. “He can’t do whatever he wants because he is the president. I am a United States citizen.”
He added that the reason America is so great is because of its diversity from immigrants, who add their diverse talents and vitality into the fertile mix.
“Who ‘makes America great’? All the people that come here from all over the world,” he said. “Everybody from all the different countries. That is why the United States is on top,” he said, proudly.
Daniel Stone was one of the last voters at P.S. 63 on E. Third St. before the poll closed for the night.
A culinary instructor, he called the election a “disaster, shameful. All my European friends…it’s so embarrassing.
“I blame Bravo television for everything!” he said. “It’s ‘Real Housewives’ — no one cares about the issues.”
Yes, hard to believe, but we now have a reality-TV president. As Trump would say, believe it.