2 Shades of Blue for Local Americans on Election Night
November 20, 2016, 3:25 pm
By James Rogers
BRUSSELS, 9 November 2016 —The evening began in high spirits as hundreds of well-dressed guests crowded around the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Denise Bauer, as she performed a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at 9 p.m. to kick off the American Club’s quadrennial election-night party at the downtown Marriott.
Nearly 1,000 were in attendance, including journalists from 60 news outlets (including L’Anglophone) who milled through the crowd to ask Americans about the election. Predictions varied widely, but the guests were all for Hillary Clinton. Mike Kulbickas, chair of Republicans Overseas Belgium, was on the program for an 11 p.m. debate, but the television reporters and their camera crews faced earlier deadlines to spot the (G.O.P.) elephant in the room.
Belgian leaders of Democrats Abroad (left) and Republicans Overseas (right) debated the issues at the Brussels Marriott on election night. PHOTO: L'Anglophone
3:38am: When Florida changed from blue to red as Mr. Trump's lead widened. PHOTO: L'Anglophone
A busy booth sold buttons to raise money for Democrats Abroad Belgium. PHOTO: L'Anglophone
Pauline Manos, chair of Democrats Abroad Belgium, represented Mrs. Clinton in the debate. “For eight years we’ve had clear policies,” she stated in the event program. “Now voters have to decide if they want to continue them.” On stage in the debate, she drew cheers from the evening’s largest crowd as she lauded the accomplishments of both Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration. Her second chance to speak came earlier than expected: When Mr. Kulbickas was booed and heckled during his opening statement. Ms. Manos interrupted to admonish the partisan audience, reminding them that “this is a debate” with two sides.
“Mr. Trump is not a traditional Republican,” said Mr. Kulbickas (“…we would have liked to have seen almost anyone else as our candidate,” he later told BRUZZ) as the crowd calmed down. Sidestepping questions about Mr. Trump’s personal qualities, he focused instead on criticising the current administration’s policies, stating that “a vocal part of the population isn’t happy with internationalization and globalization.”.
Closing the debate, Ms. Manos forecasted a strong victory for Mrs. Clinton, while her opponent hedged his bets, predicting either a narrow victory for Mrs. Clinton or a poll-defying landslide for Mr. Trump.
In a panel discussion preceding the debate, NATO’s Jamie Shea and the British Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Parker discussed the differing potential impacts on Europe of a Trump or Clinton presidency.
As the party wore on, all eyes were on CNN. The returns started coming in from America’s east coast. The probable hour at which Mrs. Clinton would be declared the winner was a popular topic of conjecture, and many were hopeful that moment would come before 3 a.m. with key swing state victories. It was when Florida flipped from blue to red on the screen, and Mr. Trump’s lead there began to widen, that the mood changed considerably and mobile phones morphed from party-night selfie takers into intense texting machines.
The 2016 election may have been the most contentious in recent American history, but last night’s party was business as usual for Brian Dunhill, president of the American Club of Brussels, which has sponsored the event for decades. “We always see these kind of numbers for this event, regardless of who the candidates are,” he told L’Anglophone, noting that the attendance figures are limited by the size of the venue, and that tickets were sold out weeks in advance.
When the party wrapped up, more than 5 hours remained before a winner would be declared. Many attendees were preparing to be panel members, lobbyists and journalists at a number of morning-after events at embassies, think tanks and conference rooms around Belgium’s capital – but not all were editing their talking points. “Whatever the outcome, the legacy of Trump won’t die,” Mr. Parker told L’Anglophone. “The way we do politics has changed forever. Europe will have to deal with its own forms of Trumpism, as we will see in the upcoming elections. We have a lot of work to do together.”
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