The SohoistIssue 19

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand

 

A hot groundswell of red and white and navy. They resemble a slack-jawed glee club in their jackets and button-downs. Red hats bobbing with their arms raised at familiar and unfortunate angles. The ballroom shakes. The supporters fall into one another like dominoes on infinite loop. One screams himself hoarse. He looks more like a prep-school prefect than the frat-boy he’d aspire to: “We fucking won.”

This is the scene telescoped into the house in Cambridge, MA: The Midtown Manhattan Hilton seeping up the coast and into the sitting room. Most of our party have gone to bed, before it became certain but after it became clear. One guest sits shocked; she drains a wine glass, insensible as she watches the new First Family being shuffled along a balcony to be presented to the crowd. “Trump” she whispers, “Trump.”

 

I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was footloose man

 

The warnings came when liberal voters had actually to travel to the polling places. Several friends of mine made the American pilgrimage from Europe to vote, a curious homecoming this close to Thanksgiving. People were, for the first time, confronted by the staked Trump signs planted like gravestones in front lawns. It was then the fear should have metastasized, but it set only a few on alert at the time.

The morning after, American friends I spoke to were in grief and shock. Several were skipping grimly through the Kübler-Ross model. One claimed he hadn’t felt this way since the planes went into the Twin Towers. Most people in the Democratic heartland of Boston looked shaken, as if they had just been mugged of demographic eternity. They couldn’t understand, Trump’s was a campaign with no ground game, no real party apparatus, poor fundraising, poor ad spend, bad politicking: ‘They didn’t even bus people to the polls for Christssake’. They missed the crucial fact that those who voted for Trump drove themselves to the polls.
The complacency of earlier days had gone. The good old days of musing how large Clinton’s sweep would be were over – likewise the satisfied murmurs that she might win back the Senate and the House. A man, compelled by emotion, engages me in the coffee shop, ‘He’s been a Democrat most his life, a businessman, everything’s up for a deal, he probably didn’t mean it, any of it’. The barista focuses on
the steam.

 

I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”

 

The demonstrations outside Trump Tower started almost immediately and haven’t let up. At this stage, his branded skyscraper on 56th and 5th is locked down. The FAA has declared a no-fly zone and residents of the building are required to show ID to get past the quarantine policed by the Secret Service. Additional protests were reported in cities as diverse as Dallas and Oakland and included marches in Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Washington and at college campuses in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

The optimist in me would point out that most of the demonstrations were peaceful – both before and after the result. The pessimist would point to everything else. The protesters linked arms and carried signs – the best of which read ‘Not Usually
A Sign Guy But Geez’. They walked and chanted “Not our president”. But, of course, now he is.

 

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill

 

Even the natural direction of hope has seemingly been inverted. All those who voted for Clinton can now only hope fervently for political continuity – for gridlock and torpor. They hope that Trump fails to deliver his campaign promises. He has already basically retired his campaign pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) and seems to be taking policy stances based on mood and caprice. He will no longer ‘lock her up’ and seems to be changing his mind about climate change. For the campaign, Trump assumed the role of a disenfranchised everyman, channelling the laid off and those voters who were sick of being ‘flown over’. The fact that he accomplished this from a rococo apartment in a golden tower makes it all the more outrageous to his opponents. He was chosen in part because he was seen as no one’s man, accountable to no interests but his own. And so it has come to pass. Whether his interests and theirs overlap, it remains to be seen.

 

I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands

 

After Trump’s victory speech, he played You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones. The band had repeatedly asked him when he was merely a candidate to stop using the track at his rallies. As you can imagine, he refused. (Interestingly, the highly experienced Charlie Watts – the Stones’ drummer – was passed over on this track for the much less experienced Jimmy Miller – the Stones’ producer – to provide percussion. I’m not sure Mr Trump knows this.)

The choir-drenched song is a seven minute reflection on Swinging London burning out, the close of a chapter. I do not know what this presidency holds. I can only counsel understanding for those who felt compelled to vote the way they did. I do not know what to tell you. For now, the hopeful tone of the closing lyrics will have to do:

 

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need