Before President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, when then first lady Hillary Clinton was undergoing one of her worst – until then – periods during her husband's administration, when she was so besieged by investigations and rumor-mongering that Henry Louis Gates had to write in The New Yorker of the phenomenon of "Hating Hillary," this magazine asked of its readers: Is Hillary Clinton a campaign asset or liability?
"No one can deny the First Lady has a knack for getting under people's skin...she knows her real political face is unelectable," the writer said, adding: "But the smart money says the real Hillary Clinton will be back with a vengeance — when the campaign venue and timing are right."
On Tuesday night, the campaign venue and the timing seemed right. Pundits and pollsters were no longer asking if Clinton would win, but by how much? And yet, during an election season when she weathered a challenge from the far left, an ultimately pointless FBI investigation, intervention from the Russian government, an embarrassing WikiLeaks leak, not to mention, relentless attack from the right and powerful interest groups, she could break ultimately break that hardest, highest glass ceiling.
To her strong and loyal base of supporters – indeed, she won the popular vote if not the Electoral College on Tuesday – the news was devastating. They had come to cheer her historic triumph at a victory party home to New York's highest glass ceiling, but it was a victory party that never was.
Around 4 p.m. the sunset and Clinton supporters gathered outside the Jacob Javits Convention Center. More than 4,000 attendees were already in attendance and the main hall — nearly two-football fields long — was already packed. By 8 p.m. a panoply of Clinton surrogates serenaded the crowd with near-fawning endorsements. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded Clinton for her continued commitment to progressive ideals. Representatives from Moms Demand Action exalted her, expressing gratitude for her work in highlighting gun violence. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo extolled Clinton, voters and the movement more broadly, telling goers: "Most elections are about who we vote for — this election is about who we are."
Jinji Nicole, works in fashion
"Are you kidding me? I am feeling fabulous tonight. I am on my way to the White House in January. [If Trump is elected] I will shut down. Because I truly believe she is the one. I truly believe he is not the one. So if he won, I would be very sad."
Nicholas, 24, works at a university
"I'm a Bernie supporter. I came 'cause a homie hooked it up with a ticket...I don't know what I would do if Trump won. I think all the early predictions are just that. The issues I care about most are Native American issues, so I would be worried about that."
Dana, 23, account executive
"I'm a little nervous [about the election]. This will be one of the most controversial elections ever. [If Trump wins], it will set our country back fifty years with all the racism and the way he views human beings. This election hasn't made me feel different about America, because it honestly doesn't surprise me that uneducated people would vote for Donald Trump because they just don't know what's going on and they just don't know who else to turn to."
Tinima, 24, account executive
"I think the reality of Trump winning seems so far away right now that I haven't even had time to digest it, but if he won, I don't know what I would do. Either history's going to be made or the country's going to lose its position as the world superpower and it's going to go to s--t."
Jeffrey Hancock Shonert, 66, tour guide and actor
“I’ve always been with her. I’ve felt that they were after her even in Arkansas. And most of them I think is men who are threatened by a woman who’s much smarter than they are, and with that power, she’s always been a star. And now tonight, she’s going to be a shining star.”
Siri Chilukuri, 18, environmental science student
“I have a five-year-old sister, and I just think it’s important for her to see [a woman in office]."
By 9:30 pm, after hours of holding out, major broadcast networks were beginning to accept the possibility of a President Trump as red overlaid large swaths of middle America.
Mahdee Jackson, 22, part of the clean-up crew
“It is what it is. Hopefully it'll be good, but the way Trump was talking, it ain't looking that way.”
Jill Spooner, 60, social worker from Chicago
“I early voted two weekends ago, and when I actually put down ‘Hillary,’ I cried.”
Brian Hassett, 55, music business retiree
“I got here at 3:00 p.m., and was in here at 5:30 p.m.. But I waited six hours for a Bernie rally in Bloomington, Indiana over the summer, so it felt like half the time.”
With the math getting tighter and the possible paths to the Presidency narrowing, a Trump victory looked all but certain by 11 p.m.
Jennifer Fisher, 56, writer
“I used to be a reporter; I worked for U.S. News & World Report over in London during the Bosnian war. It was a holiday destination, and then it was the main site of genocide like that. People in America are so sure we have this for good that they’re willing to throw in behind a reality star, but things can turn bad fast. This is not to be taken for granted, and Trump is a dangerous person to have in charge of the country.”
Around 1 a.m. a young woman picks up a Hillary Clinton memorabilia from off a New York City sidewalk. "I'll be fine, I'm from Canada," she says.
Michele Mueller, 66, retired Clinton volunteer from Cincinnati
“I'm worried about the whole nation. We always knew we were a divided nation, but this, to me, is quite a shocking division.”