Way back before the primaries, when the coming presidential election seemed like just another quadrennial exercise of our nation’s democratic ideals and not a referendum on our nation’s soul, Molly Rose Quinn decided she was going to give a party on Nov. 8.
Ms. Quinn is director of public programming at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Lower Manhattan, where she will host an election-night party, screening the TV coverage on a projector and serving beer and wine.
Recently, Ms. Quinn recalled her own election nights past, especially in 2008, the year Barack Obama was first elected president.
“There was such a sense of excitement,” she said. “I sought out a big group of friends and wanted to be in a celebratory place.”
And this year?
“I feel completely different about this election than I’ve ever felt about politics, and I think that’s true for many people,” Ms. Quinn said, adding that she can’t promise to be an effervescent host next Tuesday.
“I won’t lie,” she said. “I’d rather be at my house with a bottle of wine and a pillow to hide my eyes.”
The TV pundits and professional politicos keep saying this is a presidential race like no other we’ve seen. Indeed, it is perhaps the most toxic and certainly the most media-oversaturated one in modern history.
It has left many Americans feeling that the country is more divided than ever. It has caused Republicans and Democrats to charge that our political discourse has sunken to new lows, when Howard Stern is name-checked during a presidential debate.
And more than in recent elections, there is widespread belief, on both sides of the aisle, that if the opposing candidate should win, the result would represent not just a temporary loss of presidential power for one political party, but a terrifying omen for the country’s future. It all makes for a fraught election night.
Writing for the A.V. Club, Katie Rife captured the collective mood in pop-culture terms, saying that “by the time the polls have closed, we may be twitching and frantically picking at our skin from stress, kind of like Ashley Judd in that movie ‘Bug.’”
Kurt Andersen, the author and host of the public radio program “Studio 360,” said he plans to be at home on election night, and if not jabbing at his skin then at least hunkered down with his family and a few close friends.
“Completely familiar surrounds are necessary to my comfort this time around,” Mr. Andersen wrote in an email. “I couldn’t stand being somewhere else while watching Donald Trump being elected president.”
Jo Firestone, a New York-based comedian, expressed a similar desire to skip big parties this year and watch the returns with a few sympathetic pals. Although she viewed two of the debates in bars, with a mixed crowd of Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump supporters, she said election night will be different.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotions, a very dramatic outcome, no matter what,” said Ms. Firestone, a Clinton supporter. “An election-night party might be too much for me.”
Her friend and fellow comedian Chris Gethard is hosting a 12-hour election night special on the public access channel Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Ms. Firestone may drop by the studio, she said. Whatever she ends up doing, she plans to seek the company of at least two friends in case one bails, because, as Ms. Firestone put it, “If Donald Trump wins, I will feel so hopeless and very alone.”
Some Trump supporters are already feeling isolated, and planning similarly low-key evenings. That may be socially advantageous in liberal Manhattan, where it’s not easy being an outspoken Trump supporter, even in the candidate’s hometown.
“In New York, you don’t talk about Trump,” said Suebelle Robbins, a model who, like the candidate himself, divides her time between New York and Palm Beach, Fla. “I have a wonderful Trump hat that I’m afraid to wear.”
Ms. Robbins and her husband, Richard, a retired stockbroker, belong to the Doubles Club, a private social club in the basement of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel. Some of its wealthy members are gathering to watch the returns there, but, she said: “I couldn’t do that. I’d be too nervous. To me, it’s sort of a private thing.”
Instead, Ms. Robbins plans to watch the early coverage in a restaurant and then follow the final results at home on Fox News. She is optimistic her candidate will win, though if that happens, she knows she’s not likely to find a lot of fellow celebrants cheering in the streets.
“There was Reagan, and now I think there’s Trump,” Ms. Robbins said. “I’m probably just so alone in New York with the way I feel.”
Not entirely. The Metropolitan Republican Club, a bastion of conservatism in decidedly blue Manhattan, will host an election-night viewing event open to its members and the public. Despite the divisions over Trump within the Republican party, Jordan Haley, the club’s general manager, said he expects the place to be crowded — a safe space for pro-Trumpers.
“Our constituency and guests are excited,” Mr. Haley said. “They have a hometown boy on the ballot. I think a lot of Trump supporters will come.”
There is another way to appropriately view this election: as farce. That’s the spirit that the online magazine Slate will channel at the Gist and Trumpcast Election Night Extravaganza at the Bell House in Brooklyn.
North Coast, a musical improv group, will perform skits about minor political figures of the moment, like Karen Pence, the wife of the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Gov. Mike Pence. Mike Pesca, a radio journalist, and Jacob Weisberg, the editor in chief of the Slate Group, who host the respective podcasts that lend the event its name, will discuss up-to-the-minute results with guest writers and comedians.
“I don’t think the election itself will be a celebratory occasion,” Mr. Weisberg said. “It’s been a really dispiriting and degrading spectacle. But people will have a desire to be around friends and talk about it, so we came up with the idea for a cabaret variety show.”
Mr. Weisberg, a Clinton supporter, said jokingly that there will also be a licensed mental health professional on hand “in case of the unthinkable.”
Some people in other cities are also viewing this election as ripe for satire. At the Battery, the private social club in San Francisco founded by the tech entrepreneur Michael Birch and his wife, Xochi, a party will feature a life-size cutout of Hillary Clinton for picture-taking, pins that say “Nasty Woman” and “Bad Hombre” and, in the bathroom, toilet paper with Trump’s image on it.
In Washington, the hosts of the Hey Frase lifestyle podcast, Sarah Fraser and Samy K, are pulling out all the stops for their party. There will be a wall. There will be a booth to send emails. There will be an Anthony Weiner look-alike dressed in only his boxer shorts.
The duo even set up a Go Fund Me page to try to raise $37,000 to rent a suite at the new Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C. (The campaign is far short of that goal, so the hosts lined up another space, the D.C. Improv.)
It’s all part of their effort to “throw a party that’s just as asinine as this election has been,” said Samy K, whose real name is Samy Kobrosly.
Mr. Kobrosly said that he and his friends are depressed about the presidential race and the two major-party candidates running. Not for political reasons, though.
“As D.C. residents, we’re upset that the parties won’t be as good as years past,” he said. “When Obama got elected, that week of the election, you’d see Jay Z, Puff Daddy, Kanye West. Every celebrity wanted to be here.”
He sighed. “I don’t see that happening during a Hillary or Trump presidency. Now it’s, man, we’re going right back to politics.”
Whatever the outcome on election night, there is likely to be a big hangover for many partygoers the next day, given the high unfavorable ratings of both candidates and the months of mudslinging. Even a victory may not feel like one.
It makes you wish you could grab an absentee ballot, book a flight and leave the country, something James LaForce, the owner of the public relations firm that bears his name, and Stephen Henderson, a writer, were smart enough to do.
The couple, both Clinton supporters, will be on vacation in Japan on election night. They booked the trip a few months back, after discussing the prospect of experiencing a long day and night at home.
“We said: ‘Who are we kidding? We don’t even want to be around for this,’” Mr. LaForce said.
Summing up the feelings of many, he added, “If we were going to take a pass on election night, this seemed like the year.”