The Election: Yesterday and Today

Malven, PA. In the weeks leading up to November 8, it was apparent people were stirred by this election in a way we have not witnessed before.  Much of that is because this election has been truly unique. Not “unique” in a good way but “unique” in a “I just ate a bad oyster” kind of way.  It doesn’t stop you from eating seafood but the foulness of that oyster will leave a bad taste in your mouth for quite a long time.

It was unique, too, in the unprecedented support for the major candidates to the point that I was shocked.  I should have had some clue when I saw President Obama on TV showing more arm pumping enthusiasm, at the Philadelphia Clinton rally, than I have ever seen from the staid leader.   Another indicator was watching Dan Rather host an SNL night-before-the-election special.  I should have seen it by the number of Vote for Trump signs lining local neighbourhood streets in a recent visit to SE Pennsylvania, sometimes whole streets.

Even with these examples in mind I could not anticipate the range of positive support that I would encounter on election day. It first hit me when I met Anisa Doreen and her sister Nadira, ages 6 and 9 respectively, outside of my local polling station.

Nadira and Anisa Doreen with signs they proudly made without help "except for diamonds and other pretty things". Greenwich, CT
Nadira and Anisa Doreen with signs they proudly made without help
“except for diamonds and other pretty things.” Greenwich, CT.

The girls were spending the day with their grandmother who is a volunteer with the Democratic 4th District in Greenwich.  Their enthusiasm for Secretary Clinton is not from their Grandmother, it is because they were anti-Trump, “ (he) does not think women are equal to men and that is a very horrible mean thing to say”.  Their answer: “Vote for Hilary” signs with lots glitter, hearts and creatively spaced letters.

A local election official, who prefers his name not be used, was surprised by the number of elementary and middle school girls accompanying their parents to the polls, unprecedented in his experience.  Indeed the Latino immigrant voter behind me had his 5th grade daughter with him and she looked over his shoulder to as he voted to ensure he voted for a person she approved.

After leaving the polling station behind I spoke, by phone, to an 83 year old Italian American roofer who lives in a very pro-Trump area.  Dave De Rafelo claims that his home town of Malvern, in Chester County, Pa has never voted democrat.  He wasn’t sure how to get a Hilary Clinton sign so he made his own out of brass to hang on a tree in his front yard under a copper lantern he had made to light it.

img_2776-1Dave De Rafelo, 83, of Malven, Pennsylvania.

De Rafelo wore a Vote for Hilary t-shirt yesterday to show his support.  He said, at the YMCA where he goes daily for a workout, “5 or 6 older men came up and thanked or congratulated me for wearing it”.  This was balanced by a younger man at the gym who remarked, “you have balls wearing that here” and the two women who usually ride next to him on the exercise bike ignored his presence.  That was much better than expected given an experience in July when his car was vandalised by a Trump supporter (who helpfully left a foul note) because of his Hilary sticker….while it sat in a handicapped spot…. at the same YMCA.  This bullying didn’t faze him just as Anisa Doreen and Nadira smiled sweetly at those voters who scowled towards their signs.

Finally I spoke with Ken Gilbert, who took the day off to drive people to the polls. He said the glee on the faces of “a senior who otherwise might be shut out of a sacred tradition” is because they are still able to participate in a way “that provides an enormous sense of self worth”.   I think that is true but the smiles are also part of the delighted surprise to be picked up by this senior international executive, Chief Marketing Officer at Voss, as he drove up in his luxury car.

Yesterday surprised me by the breadth of support; schoolgirls, retirees and executives- not a group that usually meets together- were all part of the same effort on the same day.  What impressed me was their willingness to do it in a positive manner rather than some of the other behavior we have seen this election season.

Today is no different, I am again surprised.  It was a shock to most of the nation; one candidate winning the popular vote and another the electoral college.  Not the first time that happened in our history; it always represents a divide.  In this case a Marianas Trench type of divide, and more of a learning experience for that.  It won’t stop Ken Gilbert from driving voters next election.  It gives Nadir and Anisa time for perfect their message and a chance to learn grace in defeat as shown by their candidate.  It will teach all of us how to minimize that divide.

Today I am again impressed.  People are coming together.  Dave De Rafelo knows we can move on from this- he says at 83 he has seen political and social disappointment before..  He remembers Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, MLK’s assassination, the ugliness of Vietnam, multiple economic depressions, September 11th and more.  This election is a loss but it is not a devastation.

He chuckled remembering the famous Chicago Daily Tribune headline touting Thomas Dewey winning the 1948 presidential election when in fact Harry Truman won.  It was that misunderstood and that close.  Just like yesterday.  It was also a time when a 3rd party candidate, Strom Thurmond representing Segregation, won 39 electoral votes.  Within 4 terms of that reflection of bigotry we amended the constitution with the Voting Rights Act.

We have been here before.  We know that we can move forward; we can do it better.  Thanks Dave, Ken, Nadira, Anisa Doreen and countless others who fought a good fight, a clean fight.

Susan De Rafelo
Susie De Rafelo is a humanitarian worker who divides her time between the US and overseas. She is the founder of S3 Works sustainability consulting and Hands In fair trade marketplace. Upon joining the non-profit world she earned a B.A. In development and an M.A. Humanitarian Services and has worked with groups in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

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