A Just Visiting Electorate

I was just visiting Ohio for six weeks, and have no say in their electoral votes towards the next president, yet I experienced all four of the debates of this election in arguably one of the biggest swing states in the union. Of course it affected my thinking, my political experience. How could it not? But sometimes what I really wanted to do was pull the covers over my head like Maggie Dog.

On every other street corner a poster resides thanking Cleveland for hosting the RNC (while locals tell stories of massive protests that happened during that week). The political ads on television are nauseating, playing multiple ones every time programming halts for thirty seconds or more, and new ones come out every two to three days. The news discusses which candidate was in which city almost daily, with both Obama and Clinton visiting Cleveland during our stay. When I drive outside of downtown, rolling through neighborhoods to get to dog parks or river hiking paths or Lake Erie beaches, the number of Trump or Hillary signs in yards is even, many times across the street from each other. I find myself wondering, “Do the neighbors still wave to each other as they get the paper from the driveway or set up the sprinkler to water the lawn? Are they able to be at peace with each other’s opinions, with such vastly differing views of our country’s needs? Does the suburban woman secretly loathe or love the position of power that she has in this election, and does the older man across the street feel marginalized?”

I am from Georgia and have familial awareness regarding the polarized politics of south GA farmland versus the northern metro Atlanta area. Many refer to Atlanta as a “blue island in a sea of red,” and that is mostly correct. However, for over a century, Georgia was largely democratic in its local governments, and only within the last forty to fifty years has the political tides turned. Georgia elected its first republican governor in 131 years in 2003. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The only time the state was a “red” state was in presidential elections. Essentially, the majority believed in more government on the state level and less government on the federal level, demonstrating a true independent electorate. So to say that Georgia is just becoming a swing state, well, that’s just not the case. Its constituents favored farm aid and agricultural legislature that the democrats were supporting (you know, like that Jimmy Carter guy). This “island of blue” stuff is still a strange concept to an old Georgian peanut farmer like my dad. The state even went blue in ’92 for Bill Clinton’s first term because people were tired of the same old song. In the final days of this year’s historical election, Georgia finds itself becoming a swing state once again, making my Facebook feed fill with political frenzy from friends and family, expressing all sides of the spectrum.

The state where I now reside and will vote is Colorado, oddly finding itself in an interesting position of being a possible swing state as well. In the last ten years, Denver has nearly doubled its population, as well as other cities in the state. With such a large influx of people, the political map is naturally changing. Then there is the question of the Bernie Sanders supporters. Those supporters seemed to feel lost, saddened, and angered by the ultimate result of the nomination. The state overwhelmingly went for Bernie in the primary, and when he was no longer in the race, they waited, but Hillary didn’t show up. She took them for granted. Now it seems that Trump has swooped in and stirred up the place. I was planning on voting anyway, but it is strange to realize that my absentee ballot might actually play a role in this election. When I hit the road back in September, there was not a single campaign poster in a yard of our large southwest Denver neighborhood. It just didn’t seem as though it was what people wanted to do, almost like we knew that action or choice had the ability to tear us apart. That is something that I do love about Colorado: the people who live there are diverse in racial, religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds, and given that statement, there is a tremendous respect for the human experience, and quite simply, your neighbor. I hope that the same civility remains through November.

Between my visitor status in Ohio, my Georgian Facebook feed, and my Coloradan residence, my head and my heart feel a little too full of political banter. My stress level is oddly high, and any time someone even mentions this campaign, I start wringing my hands. As I drive northwest into Michigan this week, through the Rust Belt, I know that tensions will continue to be high. But as I sit in my hotel room in Grand Rapids, Michigan tonight, enjoying a night in on the first evening of the season with freezing temps, I am also enjoying the political ad free television playing in the background (and the second game of the World Series!).

All of these state’s stories aside, we must realize that the name of our country in its entirety is indeed the UNITED States of America. We will all get our chance to exercise our right and express our opinions in a voting booth, but once the final announcement is made, we still must find a way to heal this divisive and pain-filled country so that we can stand united as one. We must find a way to wave hello to our neighbors, and maybe even listen to them (yes, even if they had that other candidate’s sign in their yard).

The hubby and I will be in Chicago, a typically democratic leaning populous, when the winner of this long, drawn out process is finally announced. I have no idea what to expect, but one thing is certain, the city’s reaction will be dramatic. Cheers to more experiences? Maybe. Or maybe we will just hide like Maggs and stay in that night, hoping that we will all be able to breathe a sigh of relief the next morning, expressing our mutual appreciation for it being over. But sadly, I’m fearful that instead we are only at the beginning of this long, tiresome era.

http://www.nga.org National Governor’s Association