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America at the Midterms - Part I - Before the Election
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America at the Midterms - Part I - Before the Election

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I took a trip to the United States shortly before the 2018 Congressional Midterm elections were held. During that trip, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of Americans in Florida and Pennsylvania about their own thoughts and feelings about the midterms themselves, about President Trump and related political issues.

Full disclosure: These were not done as formal interviews, so any names are fictitious and only for reference. Further, as a political "junkie" myself, I am very conservative in my political world view. However, I made every effort to listen to everyone rather than try to convince them of any sort of political ideology. The results of the discussions I had reflected the sentiments of the people who said them, and hopefully are in no way swayed by my own approach to discussing this topic.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The reason I was even in Harrisburg in the first place was to assist in an Eastern Orthodox Christian wedding service as a special favor to the bride in this wedding.

My questions are in bold, with the answers given in paraphrase by the people I spoke to.

How do you feel about the midterms?

Stacy: I am exhausted. I do not even plan to vote, but I don't like Trump.

And, why is that?

Stacy: Well, he is just... nasty. I don't like his character.

Stacy went on to say that although she was not particularly liberal - she didn't like Hillary Clinton either, she just didn't think much of President Trump. What was interesting was that she felt more tired than anything else. She had no particular political axes to grind against anyone.

This response, surprisingly, was echoed by several people, all Church going Orthodox Christians, and all very decent people. The issues of ideology and platform, or policy were never brought up by these people. They just had a vague dislike of Mr. Trump, but not at all a fiery, passionate hatred of him.

Further, when I proposed the idea of reading "The Art of the Deal", which Mr. Trump wrote decades ago as a success manual for entrepreneurs, they were generally receptive to this idea as to getting an explanation of how and why Trump works as he does.

Campaign exhaustion was the main theme, however, and it did not appear that there was a great deal of interest even in voting for or against any particular policy.

An additional topic was about President Putin, of Russia. Since I presently live and work in Russia, the fact that see the US from an outsider's point of view was very interesting to the Harrisburg residents.

There was much more curiosity about President Putin in these conversations, with questions from my interviewees such as "What do the Russians think of Putin?" and "What do you think about Mr. Putin?"

This discussion was far more lively for many people, because they seemed to really enjoy getting first-hand information about life in Russia and about the viewpoints that the Russian people appear to express towards life, towards Americans and towards their President. Although it seemed a challenge for them to get information that President Putin is widely liked in Russia, even if only in the practical sense of his being able to lead better than any other known candidate for President, they did not express any hostile views towards Russia.

This appears to be a reaction that indicated some level of distrust in the American media concerning Russia. While most questioners were proceeding from the point of view that the US media pushes - that Russia is horrible and Putin is a thug and so on, they were amazed to learn how radically incorrect these notions were and wanted to talk more about this.

Madeira Beach, Florida

How do you feel about the midterms?

Mike: The silent majority is involved. We don't really know anything about what they are doing but in 2016 the polling agencies didn't expect them, and those agencies are making the same mistake again, now.

For Mike, President Trump is understood this way: "He is a deal-maker. He can unload on you and beat you down one moment, but if you want to make a deal with him, he is always interested."

As Election Day rolled along, discussion about the candidates and issues was muted. Exit polling is illegal now in the United States, and although media outlets respect the letter of the law, they usually find ways to accomplish the same sort of projection that exit polling created. For this reason, and the hopes of being more honorable than that, we elected not to ask about issues and political choices. We did not even discuss party affiliations with the people we talked to. What we did was a more general, and hopefully more positive effort to understand the sentiment of voters, regardless of the side they held.

In that regard, it was pretty evident that voter interest was quite high this time. One indirect report at a Madeira Beach precinct was that at that hour in the midafternoon some five hundred votes had already been cast. The voting populace of the town was understood to be about 4,500 people, but the person who discussed this didn't have any idea what the other precincts were experiencing.

As we watched and discussed the election though over about ten to fifteen minutes, quite a few people came to vote - probably about 20. In this quiet beach resort town, made a bit quieter at that time by the heat of the day and the red tide presently afflicting the area, this was significant activity.

Now tonight as the election returns come in, we are observing the will of the nation in motion. At the time of this writing, no one can be entirely certain of the nation's fate, but a lot of people are glued to the TV and Internet to follow the outcome of a hard-fought race.

Author: Seraphim Hanisch