I Watched the Debate with a Bunch of Republicans

October 2016

Just ten feet below Manhattan’s taxi-hailing, left-leaning, Brooks Brothers-clad stampede of pedestrians in a perpetual hurry, an endangered species of New Yorkers congregates to watch each presidential debate: Republicans.

In the basement of Madison Square Tavern, a modern Midtown West restaurant and bar, the New York Young Republicans Club gathered approximately 100 people to freely cheer for their controversial candidate during the highly anticipated second presidential debate. The speakeasy-style lighting and narrowness of the room allowed for the conservative Trump supporters to easily camouflage themselves amongst the undecided voters in an attempt to avoid speaking to anyone with a notepad or a video camera.

Joey Steel, who runs the podcast, “Dispatches from the Underground,” was shooting a segment aimed to delve deep into the minds of the “deplorables.” Joey, who describes himself as, “so far to the left,” attended the watch party to uncover the answer to a few personally perplexing questions, including, “Are these people really monsters? Are they really this bad? Are they actually racists, misogynists openly?” However, he was having a difficult time finding Republicans who were willing to be filmed. “Good luck,” he replied, when I informed him of my similar mission. “These people don’t want to talk. They don’t want to be associated publicly with Trump anymore.”

When the debate began, the to-be-predicted boo-ing of Hillary and woo-ing of Trump as they entered the stage was promptly followed by one person’s attempt to calm the crowd, “Shut up,” and another’s attempt to exercise free speech, “Fuck you.”

The crowd, a 2:1 male to female ratio (not surprising), only contained two Make America Great Again hats (very surprising). One hat sporter, Tim, a real estate agent, (who asked that only his first name be used) has been a registered Republican in NYC for eight years. When explaining why he dislikes Hillary Clinton, he said, “A lot of her actions don’t follow up with what she says. She says she’s for inner-city black youth, but she lives in Chappaqua.”

“You mean, if she believed in what she says, she would live in an inner-city area?”

“Yeah, why not?”

“Would you live in an inner-city area?”

“I wouldn’t.”

When Tim, who was also wearing a Donald Trump t-shirt, was asked about Trump’s recent “grab her by the pussy” remarks, he stated, “It’s disgusting; I don’t think he’s proud of it.” When asked how he would explain said remarks to his daughter, he replied, “I would say ‘Don’t date someone who says stuff like that.’”

“You wouldn’t want her to date someone like Donald Trump?”

“No.”

“But you want him to be our president?”

“Yeah.”

Throughout the debate, an alternating behavioral pattern soon became evident: complete silence when Trump spoke and deafening chatter during Hillary’s turns. A few female-related profanities could be heard through the commotion at times, so much so that I began keeping a Curse Word Count (I lost track after Trump’s “because you’d be in jail” comment).

One eager-to-speak supporter, Sheba Mason-Worley, wants the Democrats and the Undecideds to know that “We’re not anti-Muslim. No one is anti-Muslim.” She followed these remarks by clarifying her biggest concern, and primary reason for voting Trump, “I really think we have a problem with ISIS and Muslisms coming into this country.”

Two women, who marked their seating territory at the beginning of the night, remained tucked in the back right corner of the bar, beers in hand. Kristen Tservranckz and her friend, who declined to give her name, describe themselves as being part of the “Trump Family.” Kristen, an upstate New York native, was Republican born and raised. She endorses The Donald because he is “clear, cut-throat, no bullshit.” Kristen justified Trump’s all-too-familiar misogyny with an interesting cliché, “Nice guys always lose.”

Elaborating on what “Make America Great Again” means to her, Kristen declared, “To me, it means bringing us back to our roots, like our grandparents’ era. I think it’s more of a fruitful comment for middle-aged Americans, but I also think it’s sweet, and I would love to see that era again.”

That “sweet” era of Jim Crow laws and the Great Depression.

Prior to the debate party, the PR Chair for the Young Republicans Club, Roger Sachar, expressed his concern that there might be a lower-than-normal headcount, “With this weekend’s events, I don’t know what type of crowd there will be,” he said. After speaking to a portion of supporters that showed, it seems only the return of the bubonic plague could prevent them from defending their Donald in this election that I like to call “Nothing Surprises Me Anymore.”

Divisive, vicious, sad, a mess, and bizarre are just a few of the words Trump supporters gave me to describe this 2016 presidential election; ironically enough, these words also applied to describing the environment at this debate party.

The final question, taken directly from an elementary school classroom, required the two candidates to say something nice about each other. After Hillary Clinton’s answer praised the parenting of Donald Trump’s three children, the camera focused on Ivanka Trump, drawing a wild response from the crowd. One man even shouted, “I’d like a piece of that.”

An official then had to direct the man to the nearest locker room, where he was lawfully free to degrade women until the end of time.

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