There is just 24 hours to go until Americans can put the nastiest presidential contest in living memory behind them. They hope. GREG MARINOVICH reports.
On a snowy day in February 2016, nine long months ago, I drove north from Boston to the neighbouring state of New Hampshire, traditionally the first state to single out a candidate.
The presidential elections began with a series of state-based primary ballots, an unlikely and idiosyncratic tradition by which registered voters get to choose a candidate to represent their party.
The Democrats had a choice of Bernie or Hillary. The Republicans had over a dozen names to choose from, with the intelligentsia favouring the latest in the Bush dynasty. It was looking interesting.
On the Democratic side of the great Red-Blue divide, Bernie Sanders handily beat Hillary Clinton, despite the proclamations of analysts and pundits. Those same soothsayers were sure the theatrical and clownish Trump would be humiliated at the ballot box. Yet on the ground in New Hampshire, most homes and traffic islands were adorned with banners, bunting and placards bearing Trump’s name.
Clinton eventually bettered Sanders nationwide and is in the running to be the first female president of the USA, but is struggling to best the orange-haired comb-over. The foul-mouthed political neophyte’s reality television flair has resonated with a broad base of white Americans. His brash and racially loaded messages have given the suburban racists and neo-Nazis alike the opportunity to reveal their prejudice like they have not done since the days of segregation.
I returned to New Hampshire this weekend as the election race hit its final 48 hours. The state with the motto of “Live Free or Die” offers just four of the 270 electoral seats needed for victory and has been reliably Democratic since 1984. It is seen as part of the “Blue Wall” that Clinton needs, yet it has suddenly become a key player as Trump has closed in on Clinton’s lead.
Trump’s unconventional, abusive and frankly idiotic yet canny campaign has prospered on his ability to double down on bald-faced lies and distortions. Weird misinformational websites from places like Macedonia of the former Yugoslavia (yes, really) have seen teenagers post far-fetched conspiracy theories and distorted facts, feeding a gullible audience across America.
Clinton’s apparently secretive ways and lack of “likeability” have also dragged her down.
This vote really comes down to the fact that the dominant stream within white America have been fed a steady diet of hate by the right wing of the Republican Party and the “alt-right” prophets on radio talk shows across the nation and on Fox television. The shock of two terms of a black president with a Muslim name was too much for many, and even the starchily righteous religious bloc of evangelicals has stuck with Trump, even after tapes emerged of him proudly telling of grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them against their will.
And on the second to last day before voting in the Granite State, the spiritually ugly were out on the sidewalks, their placards and posters proclaiming Trump the saviour of America, along with that ubiquitous red, white and blue flag. They wore Clinton’s insulting definition of them as “deplorables” as a badge of pride.
Laughable, to the sniggering liberal-ish elites who dominate the wealthy cities of the east and west coasts, but every second or third vehicle hooted encouragingly, waved or even wound down their windows on a cold day to give a vigorous thumbs up to the Trump disciples.
Only one person showed the middle finger.
Even though Clinton was due to speak that evening, and dozens of people were lining up to get into the venue hours ahead of time, the streets were empty of any passionate displays for her.
Are the streets of New Hampshire, again festooned mostly with Trump paraphernalia, once again a portent of which way America will vote? DM
All photos by Greg Marinovich.
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