Trump v Clinton: Whoever wins, there won't be the same euphoria

Like everyone else, I can't actually say for certain who will win the US Presidential election.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 6th November 2016, 6:04 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:48 pm

But in the race between two candidates who’ve both managed to be dubbed the most unpopular in history, I’m sure of one thing: either way, the result will not be greeted with anything like the same genuine euphoria that greeted Barack Obama’s historic triumph.

I witnessed it first-hand when, in November 2008, an American road trip took my wife south towards New Orleans.

We arrived in the Big Easy on the day of the election and, it’s fair to say, the joint was pretty much jumping.

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After a week of traversing the back roads of rural Louisiana and spotting plenty of McCain/Palin posters sported outside the homes of Republican folk, we realised on arrival in New Orleans itself that we were very much more in Democrat territory.

But before coming into earshot of the jazz-filled celebration of impending success, we had a raw introduction to the great city dealt such a savage blow three years earlier.

Our guide was the taxi driver who gave us a ride from Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Alfred Johnson was a tall, proud African-American whose deportment belied his seventy-plus years on this earth.

He gave us a running commentary as he took us past the urban wastelands left by Hurricane Katrina.

That people had been left with no option but to move out of town was, he said, tragic.

But the real hammer blow, said Alfred, was that a lack of proper government help meant that the rebuilt infrastructure that would enable people to return to their homes - businesses, schools, jobs - had not materialised.

So the people remained trapped in temporary homes that were proving far too permanent without any real glimmer of hope.

Hope - that single word on the iconic poster of Obama, the man who Alfred and millions like him saw as not just a new President but as a man who would change history, would triumph despite centuries of wrong in the land of the free.

‘All my life, I never imagined a man like me would get to the White House’ he told us as we drove past another empty, weeded apartment block. ‘Tonight it’s going to happen - it’s GOT to happen!’

We bade farewell to Alfred at our guest house on Bourbon Street. I often imagine what was his reaction when a few hours later Obama’s victory was confirmed. I’d like to think he allowed himself a small smile of contentment.

As for us, we saw the official result flash onto a TV screen in a Cajun bar in which a trio had been entertaining punters to some good old zydeco music.

At the moment of Obama’s triumph, those gents from upstate Louisiana began to pack up their instruments as one glumly announced ‘that’s it.’ (I was never sure whether he meant that night’s performance or, in his eyes, the future of the country.)

The mood inside that bar was nothing like that which greeted us as we stepped back out onto the street.

Immediately before us was a huge group of maybe 20 or so musicians of all ages, blowing trumpets and trombones, bashing drums and rattles, and laying their hands on anything else that would add a note to the celebration of a turning point in America’s story.

It was a long and loud night, yet for me perhaps the surest sign that something monumental had happened came early the next morning during a stroll along Bourbon Street.

Obama’s rallying cry for the campaign had been ‘Yes we can!’ In a bar window, someone had pinned the front page of The New Orleans Times-Picayune reporting the election result, having first scrawled across it in felt tip pen ‘Yes we DID!’

Whatever history tells us about the legacy of Obama’s presidency, that night in New Orleans was a shining moment in his tenure of the world’s greatest office.

Whether it’s Trump or Clinton who wins this time I have a sneaking feeling that, away from the artificial hollering at rallies or in front of TV cameras, few will have the same euphoria this time around.