“This is crazy.”
The words of 10-year-old Elena Hoffman seemed to echo the sentiment of many of the partygoers at Ragtag Cinema’s election night watch party on November 8.
The party, which was billed as a bi-partisan gathering, drew mostly Clinton-supporters. Attendees could spend their evening waiting for results at either the bar, the large theater that aired CNN coverage or the small theater that aired the PBS telecast.
Tracy Lane, the executive director of Ragtag, estimated that nearly 200 people were in attendance by 8 p.m.
As the night began, the mood seemed to reflect the polls leading into Election Day – many people at the watch party were excited and clearly expected Hillary Clinton to be the Present-elect by the end of the night.
People drank, laughed and talked while results began to trickle in.
Pack Matthews is a Columbia resident and he said he didn’t want to be anywhere but Ragtag.
“Ragtag's the place to be if you ever want to see the future coming at you. So, this is where we're going to watch the future show up,” Matthews said.
Matthews had shifted his support from Senator Bernie Sanders to Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the democratic primaries, and said he was looking forward to a Clinton presidency – and for the US to have it’s first female president.
“Let's see what women get inspired after Hillary,” Matthews said. “That's what I'm looking forward to - all the young, really powerful women that are going to say, 'We're going to join you.' That's what's really exciting to me."
The mood was overwhelmingly positive early in the night and clearly most of the partygoers favored Clinton. And much of the attention was focused on the Presidential race – both theaters showed only national coverage. So even as local and state races came to a close, many attendees remained unaware of those results.
Elaine Martin, another Columbia resident, said that her main focus was the national race because of the incredible impact this specific race could have on the country.
“I do care about local [races] a lot, but the national has biggest impact,” Martin added. “I think because I worry about our world presence.”
Martin said she expected a Clinton win, but shared her hope that following a bitter Presidential campaign, all Americans could come together in the future - regardless who ended up President-elect at the end of the night.
“I hope that everybody puts on their big girl panties tomorrow and tries to work to make our country function as a unit again,” Martin said.
Both theaters, as well as the bar and dining area, were packed as the night went on. Nearly all seats were filled and people lined the walls.
But the mood began to shift when Ohio was called. That was at 9:38 p.m. according to NPR. After that, the atmosphere quickly became tense.
Results continued to roll in, and as the path to victory narrowed for Clinton, people became visibly agitated and, for a period of time, election coverage was replaced on the big screens with Stephen Colbert’s Election Special on Showtime.
11 p.m. loomed near and the crowd was clearly thinning. The entire Lancaster family had shown up at Ragtag to watch results – including parents and kids, aged 14, eight and six. David, the father, said it was important for the kids to be at the watch party because they want their kids to be politically aware and come in contact with diverse viewpoints.
“It is a historic election like it was two elections ago and I want my kids to be there to see it,” Lancaster said.
The kids had some thoughts of their own.
14-year-old Gillian said that many of her friends were fans of Bernie Sanders, and were now for Clinton. She said the unexpected momentum for Trump surprised her.
“It’s honestly not what I expected to see,” said Gillian.
8-year-old Leo, on the other hand, said simply many of his friends disliked Trump, and he added that he was ready for a break from politics.
“I’m kinda just glad we’re going to be done with politics for a little bit,” Leo said.
Emotions continued to rise as Trump’s electoral vote count drew closer to 270 votes. Some people were visibly upset, even crying, and many were seen hugging friends.
Caroline Sanner is a Columbia resident, and she said she was struggling to even process what was taking place.
“Literally there are no words that I can really… it’s so crazy. It’s literally crazy. It’s insane,” Sanner said. “We are crying one second and laughing another second about the insanity of what’s going on.
She said she began her day by voting “with tears in my eyes” as she cast her ballot for whom she believed would be the first female president of the United States.
“We did not adequately prepare ourselves for the possibility that the outcome would be anything else than we expected,” Sanner said. “And having to come to terms with that now… I literally can’t process what I’m feeling right now.”
Sanner was joined by her friend Sarah Mitchell. The two of them were sitting watching a computer screen near the bar in the main room – monitoring the electoral vote count very closely.
Mitchell said she had not really considered the reality that Trump could be elected President. She echoed the sentiment that all day – even when walking into the watch party at eight – she had expected the night to end on a historic note for women.
“I kind of compared it to – and maybe this is being a little flippant – but compared it to a sporting event. Thinking that maybe things would be a little tense, and we would have ups and downs, but ultimately your team would come out on top and it would be kind of a happy, celebratory event,” Mitchell said.
But as it approached midnight and it became clear that Donald Trump would more than likely be the President-elect, she said that despite her concerns and fears, she wants to focus on what’s next.
“The only think I can do is think about where we go from here,” Mitchell said. “ Either way - what is the next step? What can I do as an individual to ensure that everyone feels safe and valued in this country no matter who becomes president? So that is what I am going to focus on.”
Around 1:30 a.m. on November 9th, it became clear that Donald J. Trump had the necessary electoral votes to become President-elect of the United States. He will take office on January 20, 2017.