The line stretched almost around the inside of the fire station when I went to vote on election day. When I left an hour later, it had started to snake back and forth at one end of the building because the hundred or so people waiting for the vote had nowhere else to go.
At some point, a neighbor who was acting as an election observer spotted me and came by. As we talked for a few minutes, I realized that hardly anyone was speaking except us, even though there must have been many people who knew each other in my New York city of under 3,000. This was not a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting on “Democracy at Work”. Rather, it gave the feeling that voting, at least in this election, was a joyless undertaking.
I thought of the firefighting scene in the days that followed, and especially after the presidential election for Joe Biden. The people waiting to vote wanted to give Trump over 60 percent of the president’s vote in Greene County –a little bit higher than four years ago. But they didn’t look very enthusiastic about the prospect, and in the days following the election I didn’t hear of any rallies nearby in support of Trump. Perhaps, I thought, news reports during the campaign had exaggerated the passion for Trump in rural areas.
Still, there weren’t any Democrats celebrating in the streets. Yes, Biden won nationwide. But Greene County’s voters not only decisively selected his opponent, they also backed mostly Republican local and state candidates and helped make Democratic Rep Antonio Delgado’s re-election closer to a squeaker than to a mandate. Hardly what it takes to inspire a victory celebration.
But now, a few days after the election, everyone seems to be just getting on with their lives. People are concerned about the rising number of Covid cases and the weak economy, and after two snowstorms in October, wonder if this will be one of those winters like the last when spring didn’t arrive until June. Do-it-yourself ads have replaced the political abuse on the community’s Facebook pages, and political gossip has gotten up to speed among members of the (all-Republican) city council.
Probably the memories I will remember the longest over the past few months are not political at all in the truest sense of the word. Rather, they are examples of what Biden talked about in his first speech as elected president: the ability of people with different views to work together for the common good. An example of this is a development plan drawn up by a city government-appointed committee of Democrats and Republicans. It was passed in July and is already being implemented with the help of a similarly mixed group of volunteer residents. On a more personal scale, my husband and the staunch Republican who gave him a “Weapons 101” session at a local rifle range after expressing opposing views on gun use during a city government debate (an incident I wrote about) are my husband , now kind enough to regularly discuss local issues, most recently a strategy to improve the local emergency services.
I want to leave you (this is the last in a year-long series of reports) with a story that I hope will make you laugh, while also demonstrating Biden’s belief in the basic decency and sense of American fair play. If he’s right, and if my observations last year are correct, there is reason to believe that building a post-Trump America might not be that difficult after all.
The story is about an incident that happened not long before the election when the city manager and I were sitting on my porch as we went through next year’s budget for an article I wrote for the city newsletter. It was late in the day and the porch was already in the shade.
In addition to being a gun-loving Republican, the supervisor is the chairman of the local Republican committee and an assistant sheriff in his day-to-day work.
When he arrived I asked him if he would be more comfortable behind the house, where no one could see him, as we live on a main road and at the time we had three democratic courtyard signs on the lawn and a house. made Black Lives Matter signs near the front door. He scoffed and said it wasn’t a problem.
About 45 minutes later when we finished, a pickup truck with a huge Trump flag drove past the house. The driver, who saw the courtyard signs and a few figures seated outside, threw a nickname in our direction as he shot down his truck and drove past.
I turned to the supervisor and wondered how he would react. “I know this guy,” he said, his face not smiling, but maybe – I could have imagined – with a touch of amusement in his eyes. “I will talk with him.”