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Chicago’s new, frightening reality: A blue city in the red nation

Chicago fears the worst as Trump sweeps the nation.

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As I write this, it's roughly 8 PM, the polls have closed in half the states, and it's pretty obvious that the electoral college firewall Hillary Clinton was banking on to prevent the Barbarian from crashing the gates and taking over our country has—

Actually, I can't tell you how the supposed firewall's working. The early results are all over the place. She's up. She's down. She's ahead in this state. Behind in that one. It's too close to call.

And suddenly, I'm flashing back to the seventh inning of game seven in the World Series in Cleveland last week, when the Cubs had a three-run lead.

It was then that Joe Maddon—for reasons I'll never understand—chose to bring in Aroldis Chapman, the closer, even though I'm screaming at the TV, "Don't bring him in. It's too early!" (Though in retrospect this was a waste of energy, because of course Maddon couldn't hear me, what with me being on a friend's sofa in Evanston. Not that Maddon would listen to me if he could have.)

The firewall, if you didn't already know, is made up of the states that have consistently backed Democratic candidates in past presidential elections, including President Obama in his 2012 race against Mitt Romney.

But now it seems that to win those states and preserve that firewall, there's a new breakdown that goes like this: whatever white voters Trump picks up—and as I write this it looks like he's getting a lot of them—have to be offset by a larger turnout from Latinos and white women and a strong turnout from black voters for Clinton. At least roughly the same turnout that Obama got.

That's the only way Clinton can eke out a win and save us from the Barbarian. (I'm not the first person who's called Trump that. The Sun-Times did, in a Sunday editorial headlined "Vote for Clinton against the Barbarian at the gate.")

Oh, no. It's around 9 PM now, and news outlets are projecting that Trump will win the congressional district in Maine that Obama won in 2012. Which shows that the firewall isn't holding.

It also shows that I've been dead wrong in my assumption that no voter who voted for Obama would vote for Trump, because (I thought) no one could be schizo enough to vote for a self-professed healer of our red/blue divide, then turn right around and vote for a guy caught on tape bragging about grabbing pussy.

More oh no. Now an update from Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight. "We're in something of a state of suspended animation right now . . . and so far no major state has fallen to Clinton."

In other words, things aren't going the way Silver predicted either. Interesting way of framing it, Nate. As if you weren't the one predicting up until today that Clinton had a 70 percent chance of winning.

"Uh-oh. I'm starting to feel a little panic set in."

This comes from my editor, Robin. She's pacing around the room we're sharing, and she's in her own suspended state of terror.

She's not alone. Texts are now pouring in from my friends and relatives along the lines of: "I'm nervous." Or "I'm feeling sick." Or "I may vomit." Or "What the fuck!" My wife texts: "Do you think Trump will win?"

This just in from Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight: "[I]f you aren't a Trump fan, you better start coming to terms with the fact he will probably be president."

Now everyone here is looking to me for some sort of insight to soothe their panic. But I have nothing to offer them, 'cause to tell you the truth, I'm freaking the fuck out myself.

I turn to my electoral cheat sheet, which I created weeks ago, though it now seems like another lifetime. Florida is key. But Clinton can win the election even if she loses Florida—if she holds on to Michigan. And Pennsylvania. And Wisconsin.

Oh, my God, she's down in Michigan. And Pennsylvania. And Wisconsin. And Virginia. I forgot about Virginia. That used to be a swing state. But she's been ahead in the polls for so long that I put it down in the firewall category.

Only Trump's ahead in Virginia. Shit.

So she needs another firewall. Like North Carolina. Only she's behind there too. And this just in: Pennsylvania's too close to call.

Though at this time four years ago, Obama had already won Pennsylvania. More shit.

Now the trash calls are coming in. A guy I know from the southwest side leaves a message on my voice mail.

"Hey, yo, Ben. Trump is doing really well in Ohio and Florida."

Just last week he told me he wasn't a Trump supporter. He was big for Bernie, but swears he voted for Hillary. But he's one of those Bernie voters who never really got over hating on Hillary. And now from the excitement in his voice, I'm starting to wonder if he actually did vote for Trump. Though he'd never admit it in a million years.

I think there may be a lot of guys like him out there.

Back to the results. Trump's up in New Hampshire, Florida, and North Carolina—the firewall is crumbling.

And now, around 10 PM, the New York Times projects that Trump has a 54 percent chance of winning.

Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight's website still shows there's a 73 percent chance for Clinton. Then in the next breath, Silver says to ignore that projection, 'cause it's not up to date.

Then why are you even showing it, doofus?

Sorry, Nate. I'm starting to become one of those guys who blames the messenger for the message. As an ancient journalist, I should know better.

Wait, breaking news! Clinton up in Virginia. Finally, some good news.

Robin sighs. Then she grunts. She calls it a stress grunt. I'm starting to be able to decipher which sighs are good news and which ones are bad. So far the bad outweighs the good.

She's obsessively following the results on at least three different websites. Like she hopes that one of those sites will tell a happier story.

It's not working.

Word breaks that the stock market is plunging as the news spreads that Trump may win this election.

Great. My retirement portfolio is now worthless.

I've got the words of Yeats running through my head: "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

My trash-talking friend sends a text: "NYT is forecasting Trump with 61 percent chance."

I'm starting to think that the Bernie bros went for the Donald.

Crain's sends out an update: "Rauner makes progress in war with Madigan."

Turns out a couple of the state reps that Governor Bruce Rauner supported have defeated the candidates backed by Illinois house speaker Mike Madigan.

Damn, I'd forgotten all about those two amid the horror of this pending national apocalypse. Suddenly Governor Rauner looks tame compared to what we're about to face.

Plus, there's no Madigan in Washington to hold Trump back.

Another sigh from Robin. More like an anguished cry.

She sits back in her chair and goes on an extended riff:

"America had the chance to elect its first woman president. And instead they elected the biggest misogynistic asshole there is. So this is doubly awful."

And to make it worse, the exit polls now say that more than 50 percent of white women voted for him.

I don't say that to Robin, though. She's already having a breakdown.

"Oh, shit!"

A cry from down the hall. Another editor working late has discovered that FiveThirtyEight has updated its projection to show that Trump has a 55 percent chance of winning.

Better late than never, huh, Nate?

Sorry, more messenger blaming.

And more gloom and doom from various friends:

The Republicans have held the House and the Senate.

They control everything. There are no checks and balances.

Trump will get to fill Scalia's Supreme Court vacancy. He'll get to fill all the judicial vacancies.

And what does this mean for the press? He despises the press. His supporters joke about lynching reporters. At least I hope they're joking.

I get a text from my Bernie bro telling me that Trump supporters are jubilant.

I can't think of a response. I'd like to crack a joke. But I can't think of any jokes right now. I haven't felt this much political gloom and doom since the Reagan landslide of 1980.

But this may be worse. Reagan at least offered hope. Told people that America could be a special place.

Trump is dark and mean and foreboding. Always talking about locking people up. Or beating them up. Or investigating his opponents and punishing his enemies.

Hold it. A break in the gloom and doom. This just in: Clinton takes Colorado. That was part of the firewall. But Ohio goes to Trump. And Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania are leaning his way.

If they fall, it could come down to Arizona and Alaska. That's right—fucking Arizona and Alaska. Home of John McCain and Sarah Palin—the 2008 ticket.

This is surreal.

"Oh, god."

Robin again. It sounds like she has a toothache. This can't be good.

"What is it?"

"According to Omarosa, the Trump campaign is keeping a list of enemies."

Omarosa Manigault is a former contestant on The Apprentice.

America's next president is a reality TV star.

I have a flashback to 40th Ward alderman Patrick O'Connor's warning a few days back. This was after the City Council voted to take down an honorary street sign outside Trump Tower.

You don't want to upset a guy like Trump, O'Connor cautioned.

"If you put a guy like Trump in the office, with whom we have an absolutely terrible relationship, any discretion that he could exercise that would hurt us I think he would," O'Connor said. "It will be a terrible thing for us personally in Chicago if he were to become president."

O'Connor continued: "That's something he understands: Getting even with people. Going after people he doesn't like. He understands that real well."

I think about the billions of federal dollars that supports mass transit, education, the environment.

Breaking news. I get an e-mail from activists in Chicago heralding the results of a nonbinding referendum in Humboldt Park, in which voters rejected any charter school expansion.

It seems like the distant echo of an old fight in a city that's cut off from the rest of the country.

Back to the big board. Trump just won North Carolina.

"President Trump closer to reality," reads an e-mail from Crain's.

So now we're at the point in game seven where Chapman gives up the two-run homer, which ties the game. And now the Cubs/ Clinton have to rally to pull it out.

Only in this case we don't have Schwarber and Bryant and Rizzo coming to the plate. Clinton has to come from behind to win Pennsylvania and Michigan. And then she has to win Alaska and New Hampshire. Or Arizona.

Yeah, right.

I would gladly exchange that Cubs triumph for a Clinton victory. Too bad it doesn't work that way.

Another miserable groan from Robin.

"Everything is fucked. Everything. All people who are not straight white men are fucked. And even they are fucked."

Which really sums it all up.

Clinton destroyed Trump in the debates. He was caught on tape bragging about assaulting women. He went through six bankruptcies. He's been praised and endorsed by white supremacists. He's never previously run for, much less served in, an elected office. Now he's about to be president.

The only guy I know who predicted this was a former Chicago alderman who told me Trump would win by bringing out the lumpenproletariat—people who had never believed in the system enough to vote.

But apparently they believed in Trump.

Now it's midnight, and the Chicago Board of Elections is just about finished counting the local votes. With 95 percent of the totals in, Clinton won roughly 84 percent of the city vote. About the same as Obama.

So don't blame me. I'm from Chicago. Our firewall held strong.

I don't think I've ever felt so alienated and isolated from the rest of the country. We're like a tiny island of blue in a sea of red.

"I knew we lived in a bubble," says the editor down the hall. "I didn't think it was on another planet."

Pennsylvania goes for Trump. Hillary's only hope is Alaska and Arizona, which means no hope at all.

I get a text from the ex-alderman who predicted the victory. But he's too upset to crow.

"Don't mourn," he says. "Organize."

He's right. I mean, really—it's not like we have a choice.   v

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