Down to the wire

With two days to go be­fore the US elects its next pres­i­dent, the race is get­ting tight. City Press spoke to vot­ers on the ground

CityPress - - News - CARIEN DU PLESSIS in MI­AMI, FLORIDA news@city­press.co.za

Tears flowed as Mar­i­lyn re­counted this week how peo­ple jumped from the col­laps­ing World Trade Cen­tre in New York City, where she grew up and wit­nessed the tow­ers be­ing built. “When it hap­pened, I was here [in Mi­ami], but it was like I was there,” she said of the 9/11 at­tack, more than 15 years ago. “And then, when I saw peo­ple jump­ing from the win­dows, that re­ally hit home. Be­cause that could have been a friend of mine. We’re so jam-packed in New York City, it could have been a fam­ily mem­ber,” she said, sob­bing.

“To me, New York is like a dif­fer­ent coun­try now. It’s like they at­tacked my coun­try.”

Days be­fore Tues­day’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the US, Mar­i­lyn donned a jail­bird out­fit and a mask of Hil­lary Clinton at a last-push Don­ald Trump rally on Thurs­day in Mi­ami. But the re­opened in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee wasn’t the main rea­son she at­tended the packed rally in the 2 600-seater am­phithe­atre of Mi­ami’s down­town Bayfront Park, in a grassy area right by the wa­ter.

The re­tired nurse and child of Paraguayan im­mi­grants – her el­derly fa­ther came with her – wants to stop peo­ple who fol­low Is­lam from com­ing to the US.

The irony ap­pears lost on Mar­i­lyn, who joked that her sur­name was Mon­roe. She’s His­panic, a mi­nor­ity group at the sharpest end of Trump-in­spired race hate, who sup­ports Trump’s stance on Muslims.

“To me, it’s im­por­tant that we ban Muslims from this coun­try un­til we can vet them 100%,” she says.

“In our coun­try, we never had be­head­ings or hon­our killings. Okay, so peo­ple say we hang, we burn, what­ever – but that was for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. That’s not some­thing that your holy book says … but the Qur’an says you can do that.”

Stricter con­trols on the US’s al­ready dra­co­nian immigration and asy­lum reg­u­la­tions topped the lists of many Trump sup­port­ers City Press en­coun­tered in the run-up to one of the most con­tested elec­tions in re­cent US his­tory.

At a Trump rally in Cleve­land, Ohio, this week, es­tate agent Kim agreed: “I’m not a racist, but when you start to come to our coun­try and start to ter­rorise...”

At Trump’s Mi­ami rally, sup­port­ers chanted “Build a wall!” when Florida attorney-gen­eral Pam Bondi, a close Trump ally, took to the podium. She said jobs were mov­ing over­seas ow­ing to “bad trade poli­cies” by the Democrats, that fun­da­men­tal­ist group Is­lamic State was “tak­ing over”, and she was “sick of see­ing an in­flux of coke and heroin” in her town. “Lock her up!” is an­other favourite chant at Trump ral­lies. The FBI has re­cently re­opened its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into for­mer sec­re­tary of state Clinton’s send­ing of thou­sands of of­fi­cial emails from a pri­vate server in con­tra­ven­tion of govern­ment reg­u­la­tions, and pos­si­bly com­pro­mis­ing state se­cu­rity.

Dur­ing the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate last month, Trump – who has con­sis­tently used the email saga in his cam­paign against Clinton, partly to counter a flood of re­ported al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment against him – threat­ened to jail Clinton over the scan­dal should he be­come pres­i­dent.

“Did you hear about this lit­tle event, the FBI re­open­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion? They’re re­open­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into crooked Hil­lary Clinton,” Trump told the Mi­ami crowd, who were on their feet cheer­ing, wav­ing red posters bear­ing the slo­gan on his white cap, “Make Amer­ica great again”, as well as plac­ards of women, His­pan­ics and a hand­ful of black sup­port­ers declar­ing allegiance to Trump.

He called the in­ves­ti­ga­tion “the big­gest scan­dal since Water­gate”.

On Mon­day, Clinton, dressed in a fight­ing-red suit, her voice slightly hoarse from ad­dress­ing up to three ral­lies a day, opened her week of cam­paign­ing by telling a smaller rally of mainly stu­dents at Kent Univer­sity in Ohio: “There is no case here.”

Like Florida, Ohio is a swing state that has his­tor­i­cally deter­mined the out­come of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Clinton said she was “not mak­ing ex­cuses” for her use of a per­sonal email ad­dress, but said the FBI would reach the same con­clu­sion it did ear­lier this year, when it de­cided against pros­e­cut­ing her.

She also wheeled out for­mer nu­clear mis­sile launch of­fi­cer, Bruce Blair, who said Trump would be a dan­ger­ous com­man­der in chief.

Clinton sup­port­ers in Ohio told City Press the email saga mat­tered to them less than the threat a pos­si­ble Trump pres­i­dency would pose to the coun­try.

Syd­ney, a pol­i­tics and his­tory ma­jor, said Trump did not “even have the knowl­edge [of pol­i­tics] that I learnt in my un­der­grad classes”.

“I have looked up to Hil­lary Clinton my whole life, she is a re­ally strong woman. I think she will do a lot of good things for women, the LGBTI [les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans and/or in­ter­sex] com­mu­nity, Muslims, black peo­ple – ev­ery­body who hasn’t been priv­i­leged by so­ci­ety and who needs ex­tra sup­port,” she said.

Chetan, a dig­i­tal sciences stu­dent orig­i­nally from In­dia, said he sup­ported Clinton be­cause of her ex­pe­ri­ence and the threat Trump would pose to im­mi­grants like himself. “Ev­ery­body knows Amer­ica is a land of op­por­tu­nity. They have good op­por­tu­ni­ties here. Ev­ery­body is con­sid­ered equal, there shouldn’t be ha­tred to­wards one an­other,” he said.

Polls show very few His­pan­ics and even fewer black Amer­i­cans will vote for Trump, but Clinton’s sup­port­ers fear a loss of votes in these com­mu­ni­ties as well.

A day af­ter Trump’s Bayfront rally, in Greater Mi­ami’s more pedes­trian sub­urbs, an emo­tional Clinton cam­paigner was in tears too. Fresh out of a rally held by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama at Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity, the fourth-big­gest in the US, for­mer stu­dent Cyn­thia Oladapo feared that black vot­ers were de­sert­ing the Democrats for the wrong rea­sons.

One poll this week even showed that Trump was slightly in the lead in the tra­di­tion­ally Repub­li­can Sun­shine State, which in the past two elec­tions voted for Obama.

“The black Amer­i­can com­mu­nity are feel­ing be­trayed and an­gry, and have turned on [Obama] and they are not out there vot­ing. We have been go­ing door to door to get them to vote,” said the 41-year-old African-Amer­i­can woman, dressed in jeans and a fem­i­nist T-shirt with a vin­tage image bear­ing Clinton’s face.

Oladapo said a Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Sen­ate made things dif­fi­cult for Obama, and if Democrats didn’t go out to vote, the pres­i­dency as well as the bench on the Supreme Court would be dom­i­nated by Repub­li­cans for the first time in decades.

“Never in 50 years have we had it one-sided. This is not one coun­try with one voice, we have more than one voice. They [the Repub­li­cans] want it all one-sided now,” she said.

Early vot­ing fig­ures since the open­ing of the polls al­most two weeks ago show that black vot­ers – most of them Democrat sup­port­ers – have not turned out in their num­bers like in the pre­vi­ous two elec­tions.

Oladapo was one of the most vo­cal in the 4 500-strong crowd loudly cheer­ing Obama’s ev­ery word, while the out­go­ing US pres­i­dent ap­peared to humbly bask in the glory.

Three months be­fore the end of his eight years in of­fice, his ap­proval rat­ings are at 54%, slightly higher than the 50% be­fore his 2012 re-elec­tion. When he asked “Do you know what makes Amer­ica great?”, the sup­port­ers cheek­ily shouted: “You!”

A day be­fore Trump told vot­ers they were “vic­tims” of a rigged sys­tem who should make their voices heard, Obama re­minded young peo­ple of the power of their vote.

“I know a lot of you are cyn­i­cal about pol­i­tics. There’s a lot about this elec­tion that gives you rea­son to be,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you, right now, you have a chance to move his­tory in a bet­ter di­rec­tion.”

Both Clinton and Trump have sched­uled events in Man­hat­tan on Tues­day night, at the close of polls. Clinton has la­belled hers an oc­ca­sion to make “re­marks to sup­port­ers and vol­un­teers”, while Trump’s will be a “vic­tory party”.

Only one of them will cel­e­brate an elec­tion win.

PHOTO: BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS

RUN THE WORLD US Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clinton is joined by artist Beyoncé at a cam­paign con­cert in Cleve­land, Ohio, on Fri­day

PHOTO: CARIEN DU PLESSIS

CON­FUSED? Mar­i­lyn wears her Hil­lary Clinton jail cos­tume at a Trump rally in Mi­ami on Thurs­day

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