Column by Tim Steller: ‘Festival of Democracy’ withers as voter fears grow | Subscriber
Do you remember when election day really felt like a festival of democracy?
The excitement reigned in the polling stations. There was a feeling that, win or lose, we were all participating in something important and affirming together.
The days of celebrating democracy are over.
And it wasn’t just mail-in voting that dampened the excitement.
It is the deep distrust, fear and rage that characterizes American politics today. Mail-in voting has reduced the significance of Election Day and brotherly hatred has killed the thrill.
I thought about it while star photographer Mamta Popat and I toured three Tucson-area polling stations early Tuesday. Voters walked in and out, primarily casting the advance ballots they received in the mail, but also using the county’s new polling center system that allows a voter’s individual ballot to be printed on the voting site.
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People were happy to talk, and of the dozen we spoke to, they reported no significant issues with the vote. But they worried about each other, especially their rivals across our great political divide.
Some Democrats worried that Republicans were trying to intimidate voters.
At Donaldson Elementary School near North La Cholla and West Ina Roads, Democrat John Mallie said, “I was a little nervous coming here. I didn’t know who might approach.
He told me he remembered the more celebratory election days.
“I don’t feel that anymore.”
At Church of the Painted Hills on the far West Speedway, Popat was standing outside the 75-foot limit with his camera around his neck when Rodolfo and Cecilia Gallego pulled over. Rodolfo Gallego shouted that he felt intimidated by her. She was mystified.
I later spoke with them and got the context for Gallego’s comment, which his wife said was a joke.
Asked about his feelings this election, Gallego said, “It’s more of a feeling of anger against the Republican Party. I am unhappy that there is an effort to discredit the American voting system.
Back at Donaldson Elementary, I heard a lot about how the Democratic Party is supposed to facilitate a communist takeover of the United States.
Jerry and Sandy Trout, Republicans in their 80s, told me their votes weren’t counted in the 2020 election, nor were the votes of other Trump supporters they knew. They said they learned this from someone they met who worked in Pima County.
Sandy Trout said she was hoping for “a big red wave” this year.
Jerry Trout added, “If we don’t get change in this country, we are heading for a socialist country.”
When I asked how that would happen, the mechanics were vague, but it certainly involved electing members of the Democratic Party, which he called a “socialist/communist party.”
Bob Rosenberg, who was waving a sign supporting Jim Lamon for U.S. Senate outside Donaldson School, also worried about the destruction of the United States by “communists.”
“The country has totally taken the wrong road,” he said. “If we (Republicans) can get the Senate back, we can do a lot to put an end to Biden’s misguided governance.”
I’ve also met cooler heads at the polls – people less worried about what’s at stake in this general election and the one to come.
When I asked Eva Peña why she felt this election was important, she attributed it to growing deeper into adulthood and seeing the effects of her vote, not necessarily her perceptions of the opposition. .
“Maybe because I’m older now, I see the impact,” she said outside the west side church.
And Heather Charles, a voter outside the Knights of Columbus Hall at 601 S. Tucson Blvd., said her concerns were as much about the perceived incompetence of the Democratic Party — her party — to promote its candidates, as fear of the more extreme Republicans winning the primary.
“At the end of the day,” she said, “I wouldn’t be worried about Karrin Taylor Robson” if that Republican won the governorship. She said it would probably be the same as we have now.
But overall the feeling was unease with the other side – certainly not the excitement and affirmation like it had been before.
We’re too scared of what our fellow Americans on the rival camp might do to take much pleasure in the process these days.
For Star Subscribers: Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, a raw supporter, wants to insert sheriffs into election investigations.
For Star Subscribers: The Pima County District Attorney’s Office’s review of old cases and their request for reconstruction places great demands on investigators and witnesses.
Daniel Hernandez led with the most memorable part of his biography in this campaign’s videos for Congress — his heroism on January 8, 2011. It would be nice to see him move on.
Contact columnist Tim Steller at [email protected] or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter