ATLANTA – Masks, when used, can muffle the dueling chants of a live partisan clash. But the messages of this election season still have a bearing.
“More years!” Anti-Trump residents shouted at his supporters last week in Atlanta, where an appearance by Joe Biden drew both camps to a patch of grass between a gas station and a creek.
“Four more years!” supporters for the outgoing operator screamed even louder, largely free of facial covers.
“Black Lives Matter!”
“Black Lives MAGA! “
“Lock him up!”
During human events that should probably take place practically this year, in a house so divided that talking about jailing opponents is considered typical tariff, in a country not asking what can be done, exactly, but if whatever may at this point an election takes place on Tuesday.
It is not a year of hope and change. Now is not the time to grow up again.
Instead, a visit to these last days of furious campaigning makes it clear that the ongoing theme of 2020 is something like survival: getting to 2021 in one piece, individually and collectively.
“At this point, the Civil War is far from happening,” said Jorge Puertas, 21, avoiding the rain outside an early voting site in Hialeah, Florida. “A misunderstanding.
By dismal standards at the time, the very arrival of the election might seem like an achievement: here is a date that goes as planned, unresponsive to a president who threw delays he had no power to ‘impose. Here is a national meeting held.
It’s just everything else that looks different, especially for the few comparisons that absorb everything up close.
On the one hand, electoral rallies have often been reduced to car horns, for epidemiological reasons. On the other hand, they are not mitigated – and discouraged by public health authorities.
Taken together, these final campaign snapshots can double as a sort of rolling testament to national contradiction, often rendered in dizzying succession: swagger and nihilism, faith and infidelity (“Jesus 2020: Our Only Hope” is a popular sign choice), the joyful invocation of the fracture outright.
Another sign posted on a West Philadelphia porch, among wind chimes and planters, recently read “Guillotine 2020”. “No more presidents.”
Mr Puertas, who said he worked for a local Democratic group and voted for President Trump anyway to avoid disappointing his grandfather, described his inaugural presidential voting experience as follows: “It’s almost like choose your first alcohol. You know it’s not good for you, you know you’re going to feel bad in the morning. But you still have to make that choice at one point or another.
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Most conversations across the ideological expanse tended towards such fatalism almost immediately.
There is the virus to survive, the adversary to survive, the threats that must be overcome, many say – the erosion of freedoms, police violence, institutional decay – if the whole enterprise is to endure in any recognizable form.
At stake, in their accumulated narrative:
“Freedom,” said Anays Garcia, 55, wearing an oversized cutout of Mr. Trump’s face on his at the polling station in Hialeah.
“Our liberation,” said Jasmine Keith, 33, an organizer of the 4 Black Lives Atlanta Movement, petitioning with a “Defund Police” mask up the road from a John Lewis mural.
“Kind of like everything,” said Elizabeth Miller, 29, cradling a French Bulldog named Adelaide outside the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
She had come one October evening to take stock of a scene which, like so many lately, would hardly make sense to a political traveler from even the recent past.
The block was the site of a solo televised forum with Mr Biden, scheduled because the second presidential debate was called off following Mr Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis and subsequent refusal to appear remotely. But others had also gathered: climate activists who suspect the Democrat will disappoint them if elected; a presidential spoofer in a red tie, swinging in traffic with a golf club (“I’m supposed to imitate,” the man said, reading the scene’s instructions a little); a visitor driving a bus with a deafening speaker system and strong feelings about the start of life.
“ABORTION IS A MURDER,” he said over and over, blocking a path.
“Ignorance too! Ty Jenkins, 57, responded by checking the coronavirus statistics.
A third man in a Sixers basketball jersey climbed in front of the bus, attempted to order the driver out in a shower of profanity, then began an EAGLES song that no one joined.
Mr. Jenkins went to his parked car and blew soft jazz in a futile attempt to drown the driver. He shrugged his shoulders.
“It is there”, he says, “that we are out of control”.
There are plenty of them this year.
And yet, the homestretch has also welcomed flashes of fantasy and community endemic to any countryside. In Reading, Pa., Faces swayed skyward at the sight of an eagle just before Vice President Mike Pence arrived – a sure signal, participants reasoned, of divine approval for their cause. . In Miami Springs, Florida, where Barack Obama visited last week, an enthusiastic volunteer shouted “you were my first! and the former president thanked her, before gently suggesting a reformulation.
There’s also still the happy sound of children following – to the ballot boxes, to the rally, wherever someone takes them these days: the boy bumping his forehead with a lawn sign while waiting for the middle-aged son to take them. president moves masses to gravel pit in Lansing, Michigan; the laughing girl in her Snow White Halloween costume on a sidewalk in Rome, Georgia, flutters under her grandmother’s arm one recent afternoon as adults spoke warmly about the QAnon conspirators.
Anything new in the Covid Age has generally been placed in one of two categories. There are dark but necessary turns, like insta-thermometers next to candidate documentation in field offices and the introduction of early voting places that clear like virus testing places. And then there are the frills which are more disorienting than scary.
The remote car rally is especially popular among Democrats, where horns of approval golden dozing speeches with the mellow tones of the Holland Tunnel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“When the auto industry was in trouble, Joe Biden was there…” Honnnnnnnnnnk.
“United Steelworkers …” Honnnnnnnnnnk.
“I sort of prefer it,” said Alannah Garrett, 19, hanging from the window of an orange Mustang during a Jill Biden drive-through in Saginaw, Michigan. “No one steps on my shoes.”
Mr. Trump was less impressed. “You heard a few horns. “Honk, honk,” he shared in Lumberton, North Carolina last week, after watching Mr. Biden on television. “It’s the strangest thing.”
But then, the affairs of the Trump campaign have long been going at their own pace, virus or not. If anything, the maximum volume cheers and ostentatious outfit from fans have only accelerated in this pressing political hour, with admiring messages etched on shirts, masks, painted stones.
His supporters fear a new social order in any Democrat-led future.
“As a middle-aged white man I’m the target,” TJ Whipple, 52, said in Reading.
“Normal people for Trump-Pence,” read a poster inside the Cobb County Republican headquarters in Marietta, Georgia.
And the loyalties, and sometimes the stories affiliated with Trump, run deep.
“He came to thank me for using his hotel,” recalls Julio Martinez, 77, a former boxing promoter for shows in Atlantic City decades ago and former mayor of Hialeah, where he stood in a shirt. “Vets for Trump” alongside a life -size executive cutout. “I told him, ‘One day you’re going to be in politics.’ And he told me the F word.
The president’s most devoted accusations are so captivating that praise can flow even for pedestrian acts. In Lansing, Republican state president Laura Cox appeared to salute Mr. Trump for wearing a hat in bad weather at a recent rally.
“He was like, ‘I didn’t know it was going to be high winds,’ ‘she said, warming up the crowd for Eric Trump in a sand and gravel business. “It was very, very authentic.”
The younger Mr Trump worked on a catalog of bragging rights and grievances (“We deal with a lot of rigged processes, guys – we’ll get to Nobel Peace in a second”) and assured those listening that the his father had “God on our side.”
“We’re going to have these guys,” he told a goodwill follower on the almost fully unmasked selfie chord line, cheek to cheek. “I promise you.”
In the interviews, there was a bipartisan instinct towards such a search for revenge – or, at least, the hope that a decisive result on Tuesday (or whenever the count is done) would amount to well-deserved comeuppance for the losers. .
But few seemed convinced that even the desired outcome would lead to catharsis.
“Honestly, I’m scared if he wins or if he loses,” Derrick Ward, 51, of Philadelphia, said of Mr. Trump, picking up lawn signs in a Biden office. “It’s a boiling point.”
At the Atlanta event, 18-year-old Keyla Ramirez stood on top of a car with a “Black Lives Matter” poster, dancing to a Fugees song someone was playing and telling how good she was. felt “stupid” voting for the very first time, more against Mr. Trump than against his rival.
“We won’t get what we want right now,” she said. “But we need this orange pill.”
This seemed to be the result for those who have been displaced to participate, even reluctantly, in this particular democratic experiment: this was not the year to stay away.
And perhaps, some hoped, the act would turn out to be a habit.
Outside the South Dade Florida Regional Library – where voters last weekend were greeted by a steel drum group spanning Bob Marley and several pop-up cafecito stations – Dennis Valdes, 36, had built a tent intended to attract even the most timid voter with balloons, snacks and “patriotic punch”, enriched for the older ones.
A high school history teacher, Valdes said he had spent years trying to make students understand that all current national despair is not fate.
“How would John Lewis teach this moment?” He asked. “How could one of our heroes teach this moment?”
Eventually, Mr. Valdes spotted two former students, approaching for punches. “I’m happy for you guys,” he said quickly, playing cool.
When they were gone, M. Valdès lowered his mask enough so that a smile crept in.
“First time voters,” he said. It was a start.
He exhaled a little, then grabbed the punch again.