On Staten Island, Pantsuit Natiоn Met Its Match

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Janene Lombardo, 37, at the Bella Chic boutique on Staten Island on Wednesday. “In the beginning I thought it was just funny,” she said of Donald J. Trump’s candidacy. “But as crazy as he sounded, I believed in what he was saying.”

Ángel Franco/Newspaper Post

For a certain kind of woman in Manhattan or Brooklyn, or Santa Monica or Minneapolis, for that matter, Tuesday began with a bright spirit, a pantsuit — a popular show of sartorial support for Hillary Clinton — and a promise to children brought into voting booths that the next morning they would wake up in a country that had elected its first female president.

That this sort of woman didn’t know anyone with a fondness for Donald J. Trump, or at any rate couldn’t fathom how any woman, in particular, could develop such a thing, only served to affirm the conclusions of big data that had put Mrs. Clinton ahead.

In December 1972, the film critic Pauline Kael, famously acknowledging her urbane parochialism, said that in her corner of the world she knew only one person who had voted for Richard M. Nixon. In the days leading up to this presidential election, many women in New York City would not have been able to name a single person they had ever met — not at Eataly or Barneys or Naral fund-raisers — who was voting for Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, or even considering it.

But excitement over Mr. Trump’s election was confined not merely to the distant, vast American territory of the Waffle House. In New York State’s 62nd Assembly District on Staten Island, Mr. Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton, his Democratic counterpart, by a rate of three to one. According to preliminary exit poll data from CNN, Mr. Trump held a considerable lead over Mrs. Clinton among white women nationally. In Tottenville, a prosperous area on the southern tip of Staten Island, nearly every white woman I approached on Wednesday was eager to tell me how thrilled she was about his victory.

Janene Lombardo, a 37-year-old divorced single mother about to remarry, said she had never been political. And in fact, before this election, she had not been registered to vote. Like nearly everyone I spoke to in Tottenville, she took issue with the Affordable Care Act, in her case, having listened to the criticisms of her father, a Democrat and a substance-abuse counselor on addiction-plagued Staten Island. Ms. Lombardo works two jobs, one in a women’s clothing store called Bella Chic, where I met her wearing a Trump T-shirt.

“In the beginning I thought it was just funny,” she said of Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “But as crazy as he sounded, I believed in what he was saying.” His treatment of women didn’t bother her, she said, adding that the accusations of assault and harassment leveled against him by other women were simply expressions of opportunism by women seeking the spotlight.

“Even Clinton,” Ms. Lombardo said referring to former President Bill Clinton, “when they made a big deal about his affairs, I didn’t care. Find me one person who has never said or thought or done anything off-color.”

Foreground, from left, Susan Fischman, Margaret Bonilla and and Amelia Talerico. The women, retired school teachers, get together once a month, and had made a pact not to talk about the election all year because of the conflicting opinions among them.

Ángel Franco/Newspaper Post

At a nearby shop also with the word Bella in it — this one called Lu Bella Boutique — the owner, Kim Capone, said that on election night she got down on her knees with her 4-month-old Yorkie and prayed for a Trump victory, in part because he is “one of us.” When a man in the store challenged her assertion, claiming that as a billionaire Mr. Trump was certainly not “one of us,” Ms. Capone countered that he wasn’t a politician, and that that went a long way.

I asked her if she bought into the narrative that the very wealthy were the enemy. No, Ms. Capone said: “ISIS is the enemy.”

Her colleague Nicole Appugliese said fireworks had erupted near where she lives in the Annadale section of Staten Island at 2:40 a.m. on Wednesday, after Mrs. Clinton conceded. She argued for Mr. Trump’s essential goodness. More than once, she said: “He’s 70 years old. He doesn’t have to do this. He is doing this because he wants to help us.”

Many of the women I spoke to conformed to none of the clichés of the Trump voter; they held graduate degrees and consumed news from multiple sources affiliated with varying points of view. Sandra Pallante, a lawyer and compliance officer at Wolfe Research, said she was undecided until the last minute, but ultimately could not get past the issues involving Mrs. Clinton’s private email server. It was hard for her to imagine breaching cyber security in her own work, she said, and winding up with a promotion.

Still, Ms. Pallante felt that many in her corner of the world were casting reflexive votes against Mrs. Clinton. “People here will use buzzwords,” she said. “They will say ‘Benghazi,’ but they don’t really know what that is.”

One of the fiercest Clinton antagonists I met in Tottenville was Margaret Bonilla, who was eating lunch with a group of women, all of whom had worked as middle-school teachers on Staten Island and all of them extremely knowledgeable and informed. They get together once a month, and had made a pact not to talk about the election all year because there were conflicting opinions among them. But when I walked over to their table to ask what they thought of the outcome, they began a heated debate. One told me that she listened to Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” as much as she listened to Fox News, and that as a transplant to New Jersey she had been a supporter of Senator Cory A. Booker, a Democrat.

Ms. Bonilla had been an activist in the 1960s, part of the takeover of the Columbia University campus, she said. Her animosity toward Mrs. Clinton began in the 1990s when she famously claimed there was a vast right-wing conspiracy against her and her husband. Ms. Bonilla thought that was misguided and horrible. During this campaign, she said, she was enraged by Mr. Clinton’s encounter on a tarmac with Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general, and equally undone by Donna Brazile’s feeding the Clinton campaign questions from CNN.

“Every day of this election I hated Trump,” Ms. Bonilla said. “But I hated Hillary more.”


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