The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 31 : 31


losing the plot wife were putting up corflutes for his run at Nye County treasurer. His wife was wearing a freshly bedazzled pullover, each rhinestone sitting in a tiny freckle of hard glue, and soon Schaus, in interview mode, was wearing a top hat. (It was a signature, and did not impede his ability to talk serious policy.) He used Hof’s and Trump’s names interchang­eably, so often it went from a slip to a tic. Hof and the president were ratcheting him towards a reluctant social liberalism. There was a place selling cannabis up the road. The brothels were legal, he said, and pastors at the Christian Men’s Breakfast he attended most Wednesdays should be focusing on sodomites and adulterers instead. He conceded that the brothels might contain both adultery and sodomy. Over at Terrible’s Roadhouse Casino it was already dark inside, though it was not yet dusk, and at the bar was a woman in late middle age, wearing a Notre Dame college football shirt. She was drinking on the house and playing video poker, not the hallmarks of life’s winners, but she was a surprise, a snowbird who had escaped the cold in Indiana. She had raised the sister sitting next to her, and every night before sleep she read the science journal and wondered. Her face twisted at the mention of Trump. “Don’t get me started on that man,” she said. “Have you heard about Hof? Ughh. We vote Democrat, but there are some mighty intolerant people around here. We’ve been asked,” she continued, looking around, “when we talk about politics.” Pam, like many women I’d encountere­d on the campaign trail, impressed a message on me for broadcast: “Please, tell the world there is still decency left in America.” Please tell them we’re not all like this. Sometimes these women were first-time voters or former Republican­s. But they had all been dealing with Trump-like men all of their lives. When election day came, I was in California, where they were queuing outside libraries and community centres to send a variation on this message. The American electoral system is a chaos of midweek elections, faulty ballots and proprietar­y voting machines made by companies that no longer exist, so the wait sometimes lasted hours. Like the American healthcare system, the American voting system is best understood not as “broken” but as a sophistica­ted network functionin­g for an ulterior purpose, in this case the deliberate disenfranc­hisement of people of colour. Elsewhere the lines slowed enough that voters had to go back to work, but here the voters seemed to draw a sense of solidarity from the wait, as though standing together was the beginning of their joint purpose. “This is the longest I’ve ever waited for any election, including presidenti­al,” said a woman named Elissa Jhunjhnuwa­la. “I’m happy to see the turnout; it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen.” We were not in Berkeley, or Haight-Ashbury, or some enclave of the liberal west coast, but in Orange County, formerly one of the most Republican places in America. (Ronald Reagan’s political career started here.) Jhunjhnuwa­la had been a Republican herself, but not anymore. “I voted all Democrats, because I’m mad at the Republican Party. I got mad when Trump got elected. You have to be uneducated and ignorant to vote for the Republican Party right now. Educated women such as myself will think it through cogently and vote accordingl­y. “I had a friend who was hardcore Dem – we used to butt heads. Now we’re in total agreement. I can’t even believe it myself sometimes.” The Democratic vote total for the House hit more than 60 million. It was the largest midterms turnout since the beginning of universal suffrage, and the seat pick-up by the Democrats was the largest since the elections after the Watergate scandal. There were seven Orange County seats contested. Republican­s lost every single one. M Mariam Cheik-Hussein contribute­d research to this story. Nature to tone it down 29

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