The View From Ohio: Bellwether Overload, AR-15s, and Fear of a Trump Nation (Election 2016 Special)

(images chosen by St. Jane staff)

(images chosen by St. Jane staff)

By J.J. Ulm

Living in a bellwether state is a special kind of hell. Here in Ohio, starting months before the election, you can't turn on the TV, load up a video stream, or visit a web site without getting either a Clinton or a Trump ad. Traffic is regularly backed up and buses are rerouted around Secret Service convoys. It's impossible to ignore.

Most years, it's just annoying. This year, when one of the candidates is a literal fascist, an unrepentant sexual predator, and a neo-Nazi darling, it's a stressful nightmare. I’m constantly reminded that one of our major party candidates is a horrible human being who has no respect for my basic humanity. You know, even more than most years. Significantly more than most years. The Donald makes Mitt Romney look like Bernie Sanders.

And worse, far worse, a significant percentage of the country is willing to support him. I’m horrified by the idea of him being elected, but I’m almost as horrified by the idea that so many of my fellow Americans think he’s acceptable. Those people will be around long after he’s hopefully relegated to the Wikipedia list of unsuccessful presidential candidates.

And if only that was the end of it.

I won’t just be making a point to vote this year, I’ve already voted absentee, because I’ll be busy on November 8th. As I’ve done twice a year since 2012, I’m going to be working at a nearby polling location as a machine judge for the Franklin County (that’s Columbus, OH) Board of Elections.

But thanks to Donald Trump, this time I’m worried about more than just getting my certified non-morning-person self to my assigned location by 5:30am. I’m worried about the self-declared “poll watchers” that Donald’s campaign has, in a show of the gross irresponsibility that has marked not only his entire campaign but his entire life, encouraged to go into cities like mine and wave their AR-15s around with the ironic claimed goal of “protecting” the vote. In my largely Democratic (though also largely white) precinct, I’m worried about people from the Red sea outside of the little Blue island of Columbus standing in the parking lot and intimidating my neighbors with assault rifles. Intimidating me, a lesbian with blue undercut hair and boyish fashion sense, one of the various sorts of people they hate, with assault rifles.

My support for Hillary Clinton isn’t just a vote against fascism, either. I was a Bernie supporter in the primaries, but I think she’s done what I hoped she would and taken lessons from how close the primaries were. Because I always wanted to support her, but she didn’t seem to grasp a lot of the genuine economic problems people—especially younger people, those oh-so-inscrutable Millennials—are facing today. And she’s still not perfect, but there’s an old saying that writers like to use: Perfect is the enemy of good. If I turned away from Hillary because she wasn’t Perfect, like so many third-party-voting idealists with little enough skin in the game to be able to vote just to “make a point” and not to avoid being tossed in some gulag (though gulags were state-run; any Trump-sponsored ones would certainly be private), then I would be eschewing Good.

This year’s presidential election is the sixth I’ve voted in, and never have I felt so terrified not only of one of the candidates but of his supporters. I’m more than ready for the hell of an Ohio presidential autumn to be over. I only hope it ends on Election Day, and with my personhood protected.