Today’s the day. For many I’ve spoken to during my month-long stay in Muncie, Indiana, it couldn’t have come too soon. First impressions are often inaccurate. But I stand by my initial view that a significant section of folk here are embarrassed by this election. There are, I am well aware, people who are enthusiastic about both candidates. I’ve seen them on television at rallies. But then that’s what rallies are for. In my time here I have met very few who are enthusiastic about either but many who loathe one or the other.
There’s always election fatigue by this point in the process. But this time, more than any other I’ve seen, I think people want it to be over. The nerves it has exposed are too raw, the divisions too deep and the performances too bizarre for people to indulge as part of the back and forth.
I’ve covered too many elections in which both sides insist that the future of the republic is at stake to take that claim at face value. Once again though this one feels different. One poll showed half the voters fear there could be violence on Tuesday. We will have some kind of result on Wednesday but with both sides declaring the apocalypse if the other side wins, it’s not obvious to me that it’ll be accepted, whoever wins.
Next week I’ll publish my final piece in The View from Middletown series. (You can catch up with all my reporting in this series here.) Remaining in Muncie for a month, guided by your suggestions, has helped me go beyond the superficial analysis and better understand this election. I hope it has helped you too. Regardless of the result, this election has laid bare the importance of reliable news sources, such as the Guardian, countering smears and rumours.
But alongside the facts we have also brought perspective. After I wrote my first article Jamie Walsh, a former Muncie resident, wrote: “I cried when I saw your article. I literally wept at the thought that there are people out there that still give a shit about us.” I was able to follow up with Walsh and her voice found its way into a few articles. After the second article a student from Ball State University wrote: “What you’re doing, coming to Muncie and showing the election to the UK, to the world really, through our eyes is completely amazing. It’s coverage about the election that I feel like I actually want to read.”
What I love about this whole project is the focus on a real place ... Politics is the people before it is ever power. - Mabel Carlos Glyn
Nobody is doing a better job of explaining how Trump could be a candidate for president - ID0870891
Great series - don’t want it to stop. Muncie or Middletown is a captivating concept - LizOtheWest
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In the meantime, I have one more article to write. It will take the form of a long read in which I bring together what I’ve learned in the month I’ve spent in Muncie and draw whatever parallels I can between my reporting here and the national landscape after the election.
It’s been a fabulous month and I have been the recipient of extraordinary generosity – people have given me time, food, advice and friendship. I’ll miss it.
Last week, before dawn broke, I went to the Central high school to witness a twice-weekly ritual. Just after 7am, about 10 adults, black and white, stood at the doors forming a human corridor as the kids walked in. They held up signs with messages such as “We believe in you”, “You are the future”, “Love one another” and “We’re proud of you”. Some gave fist bumps as the kids walked in, others hugs.
“It’s important for them to know that there are adults out here who care about them,” explained Cornelius Dollison, a well-respected figure in Muncie’s civic life.
How effective it is I couldn’t say. But it was certainly moving to see such a selfless piece of civic engagement seeking to make some connection and give encouragement to young people in a town where some are told and believe they have no future.
American politics is doing a grave disservice to American people. It’s not that citizens aren’t out there fighting for it. I’ve seen it, in a range of ways on both sides of the divide, in my time here. Sadly, whatever the result on Wednesday, they will have to fight much harder and longer for the politics they deserve.
Main image by David Levene for the Guardian