Manitoba

In Fargo, 2 political gatherings held mere blocks and a universe apart

Democrats sat stunned, staring at their smartphones. Republicans issued muted, almost disbelieving cheers every time they claimed another state. That's how a shocking U.S. election night unfolded in Fargo, N.D., where Democrats and Republicans held a pair of "victory parties" about five blocks and an emotional universe away from each other.

North Dakota Democrats and Republicans both shocked by the Donald Trump victory

North Dakota governor-elect Doug Burgum (R) poses with supporters after his victory address - but before the presidential race was called. (Bartley Kives/CBC News)

Democrats sat stunned, staring at their smartphones. Republicans issued muted, almost disbelieving cheers every time they claimed another state.

That's how a shocking U.S. election night unfolded in Fargo, N.D., where Democrats and Republicans held a pair of "victory parties" about five blocks and an emotional universe away from each other.

The Democratic-NPL — that's the name of the party in North Dakota — held a gathering in the Radisson Hotel's third-floor ballroom, where floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto a pedestrian-devoid stretch of downtown Fargo.

The mood was optimistic until states won by Barack Obama in 2012 started flipping over to Donald Trump. The boos finally materialized when the bellwether state of Florida fell to the Republicans, a defeat that signalled there would not be a Hillary Clinton victory of any sort on Tuesday.

Democrats hug at a Fargo victory party that never was. (Leif Larsen/CBC News)
"The failure of the American educational system is profound and this Trump thing proves it," said Marc Decelle, a middle-aged marketer dressed in a cream-coloured blazer.

"You hear the racism. You hear the bigotry. It appeals to the base instincts of people," added Marvin Nelson, the failed Democratic-NPL candidate in North Dakota's gubernatorial race.

Nelson lost by a large margin to Republican Doug Burgum, a software magnate and philanthropist, in a governor's race left wide open by the retirement of six-year GOP governor Jack Dalrymple.

His supporters gathered inside Fargo's Sanctuary Events Centre, where Republicans laughed and shared drinks and confided they really didn't expect the night to end with Trump poised to succeed Obama as U.S. president.​

"I was hoping he would, but I just thought the odds were against him," said Steve Varty, a Williston, N.D. resident wearing an American-flag T-shirt.

Sara Rose, a Perham, Minn. Republican, said she expects Trump to moderate his approach now that he's been elected and suggested it may have been something of an act.

"I think some of his tone may have been to get viewers, to get, you know, the public's interest and attention. The  media obviously fed off his persona — negative, positive, what have you," she said.

These Democrats and Republicans made their comments late in the evening, hours before Clinton's early-morning concession to Trump.

The Republicans had something to cheer about much earlier in North Dakota, as Burgum defeated Nelson in a lopsided gubernatorial that was called 25 minutes after the polls closed in North Dakota.

Burgum walked on stage to the strains of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business and promptly addressed the divisive "craziness" of the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

"Frustration has drowned out civil discourse and respectful dialogue," he said, urging all Americans to come together and look forward in the weeks and months to come. "We can choose to let fear fall away and imagine our very best selves."

A billboard along the I-29 in Fargo pokes fun at U.S. dissatisfaction with this year's presidential candidates. (Bartley Kives/CBC News)
Burgum declined interview requests but promised a Wednesday press conference. Manitobans may be curious to learn how he intends to continue to promote cross-border trade while the president-elect has pledged to cancel NAFTA.

"That could happen. I don't know that I agree with all of his plans as far as trade or foreign policy," said Trump supporter Rose. "But I think he potentially has some great ideas that could definitely work. So, sorry Canadians." 

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.