How do you gown to declare faux victory? How do you convey the picture of popping out on high when the highest itself is shrouded in clouds and fog?
In the small hours of Wednesday morning, as information organizations warned that it may very well be days earlier than the election outcomes have been identified, President Donald J. Trump walked onto a makeshift stage within the East Room of the White House for his second within the highlight and introduced, primarily, that, so far as he was involved, it seemed like they’d received, and so they didn’t perceive why vote counting was nonetheless happening. He did so by stripping down a few of his typical stagecraft, turning what may need been a coronation extravaganza into one thing that seemed much more like a warfare room.
Against what looks like the now requisite military of American flags — not even one full row, however two — he arrived together with his spouse, Melania, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and his spouse, Karen.
They have been preceded by the flotilla of Trump youngsters, who took their locations on the entrance of the viewers. They nearly all went darkish: Ivanka wore a black double-breasted pantsuit; Kimberly Guilfoyle, black capri pants and a high; Lara Trump, a navy pantsuit. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, wore a black gown. The solely punctuation marks have been Tiffany, who wore a Republican purple pantsuit, and Don Jr., who was in vivid blue, to match the flags.
The first girl, who earlier on Tuesday had gone to forged her vote in Palm Beach sporting a sleeveless Gucci chain-print silk gown, had additionally became her sartorial safety blanket: a black no-nonsense Dolce & Gabbana pantsuit, with a crisp white shirt (the identical form of look she had worn for her official portrait). Mrs. Pence also wore black. The president wore his usual dark suit. So did the vice president. Mr. Trump’s tie was blue; Mr. Pence’s red.
Viewed as a whole, through the screen, the picture was business as usual. It was startling to remember the asymmetric white jumpsuit with ruffle Mrs. Trump had worn on the same night four years ago, and the little blue-sky dresses Ivanka and Tiffany had chosen as they took their places flanking their father after his surprise victory.
That had been a scene of somewhat shellshocked brightness, and not-quite coordination. This was more like a gold-chandeliered, stars and stripes bunker. It was accessorized with the implicit suggestion: We’re not going anywhere. We’re hunkering down and digging in. Take this thing to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Black is a complicated political color, with its associations of elitism and funerals, doom and threat. It tends to be avoided by family members whose role it is to show the softer, human side of a candidate or leader; to surround him (or her), literally, in a hazy glow. But the creeping darkness mirrored the mood of the country and President Trump’s own dark accusations: of voter fraud and election thievery.
It’s a battle, no question. Neither side is denying that one. Monday night, in her final rally in Philadelphia, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, wore a heavy steel-toned military greatcoat as protection against the elements, even as she exhorted voters with a big smile. (It was from MaxMara, the brand that made Nancy Pelosi’s famous burnt orange flame-throwing coat, which may or may not have been a coincidence.) Yet Jill Biden, standing with her husband as he addressed his supporters just after midnight on Wednesday morning — outdoors, against a mere sprinkling of flags, just a gesture to the idea of props — wore a rose-colored swing coat: a light spot in the darkness.
That’s an old presidential tradition, hearkening back to Eisenhower, who shed his coat at his second inauguration to stand unshielded (at least by wool) in front of the world. Kennedy did the same, as did almost every President after him, until Obama. It’s a little visual sleight of hand, a nod to old traditions and stereotypes of virility and strength and a certain internal heat. That guy doesn’t need a coat: He makes his own warmth.
Certainly, Mr. Biden has tried. Whether it catches fire as the last votes are counted, or is doused by the cold water of this divided country, remains to be seen.