Seemed a little quiet today, didn’t it?
The rain made a difference, obviously. So did the cold. This was one of those slate gray November days Philadelphia endures year after year. But something else was in the air, lending to the city a funereal vibe. It was noticeable while biking on the way to work, notably because nobody even seemed to be honking their horns at the peak of the morning commute. It was like Philly was just going through the motions. Or, as one Barnes and Noble employee at Drexel described the atmosphere, staring at a nearly empty store later in the afternoon, “Everyone’s just kind of defeated.”
Welcome to Philadelphia the morning after Trump’s unforeseen win. Enough people in the United States liked him enough to make him the President-elect, but for the most part they do not live here. Our city contains just over 100,000 Trump voters. That means less than 7 percent of Philadelphia is happy right now. With 550,000-plus people voting for Clinton or a third-party candidate and the rest of the city either choosing not to vote or not of age, that means roughly 93 percent of Philadelphia is feeling something different. Maybe it’s the opposite, maybe something awful enough that they need to heed Mayor Jim Kenney’s advice and “take your time to mourn.”
And it seems we have, which is why you experienced the eerie quiet today. It was similar, actually, to the time the city shut down for the pope. The difference is everybody — and every car — was still here, and there won’t be any party hosted by Mark Wahlberg on Saturday night. Instead Philadelphia gets four years of Trump.
Remember the 2008 election? Now that was a party for Philadelphia. Barack Obama defeated John McCain about a week after the Phillies won the World Series, and spontaneous celebrations erupted throughout Philadelphia that night. Penn and Drexel students were among the liveliest. They converged into a group of about 400 and crossed the Schuylkill together, heading into Center City.
Today they were subdued. George Lippincott, a computer science junior at Drexel, said the campus felt quieter than normal. Many conversations steered toward Trump, with students quick to joke about making America great again and getting $1 million starter loans from their parents.
“You kind of have this smirk when you walk up to people,” says Chris Cox, a senior biomedical engineering student “and you’re like, ‘did this really happen?’”
Walk toward Penn and some of the same humor was apparent. Two women along 34th Street discussed the election of 2020 with one suggesting Michelle Obama should run against Trump. The other had a grander plan.
“No,” says the friend, “Kanye. If he sees him in the White House he’s going to run.”
But not everybody wanted to make light of the situation. Some professors canceled exams and classes. Amy Gutmann, the university president, attended a University Council meeting. Minority students spoke about their grievances with Trump. Tears fell. At one point, as Daily Penn reporter Caroline Simon reported, Gutmann comforted a woman Muslim student expressing concern about the country’s future. But Gutmann didn’t speak of Trump. When she released an anticipated about the election, it didn’t even include the name of the famous Wharton grad.
Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor at Mother Bethel AME Church in Society Hill, spent the morning talking to his children. He had witnessed firsthand one of Clinton’s most memorable moments of the election. She addressed members of his church in July, days after five police officers were killed in Dallas, saying “we are better than this.” Today his daughters were “crying their eyes out” as he explained to them that girls elsewhere were feeling as excited about Trump as they did about Obama eight years ago.
“There’s a chant that has been said in a lot of the protest marches for Black Lives Matter or marches that we’ve led with POWER,” Tyler says. “The chant is said ‘this is what democracy looks like.’ And so one of the things I’ve been reflecting on is this, too, is what democracy looks like.”
Tyler asks for Philadelphia to not spend time trying to change something they can’t, but to focus on the future. Like Tyler, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., the only Muslim at the highest levels of Philly city government, wants to give Trump a chance.
“We’ve had presidents that have come from stranger places,” he says. “We had an actor come and become a fairly good president, history suggests. And we can only hope for my grandchildren that [Trump] can do that, too. And that he can find a better version of himself to be president of these United States.”
The mood of others was far less optimistic in City Hall. As reporters and others were filing into City Hall to hear Mayor Jim Kenney address the city, a woman was working security and taking identifications of people entering. She was wearing a hijab, and said “Donald Trump, what am I going to do?” in the general direction of her coworker.
“What do you mean?” the coworker asked.
“My daughter,” the woman replied, “is crying at school.”
On the second floor, Kenney sat at his desk watching Clinton deliver her concession speech. He was set to deliver remarks of his own as soon as she was finished. And as soon as Clinton wrapped, members of the mayor’s administration, as well as City Council members and their staffs, filed into the Mayor’s Reception Room. Some had tears in their eyes. Others hugged each other.
Kenney gave a brief statement and went off-script for a moment to give his message about mourning and then offered this: “If we stick together even with the unknown that’s coming, we will be stronger and a better city.”
The mayor took no questions, and as the room was clapping for him, he quickly exited, to run a city that never saw this coming.