When a happy childhood memory was branded with the Republican candidate’s name, there was only one way Gillian Glover could vote
It really started with Turnberry, When Donald Trump thrust his own name ahead of the hotel’s, I knew some personal response was required. Turnberry was where my long-dead Dad played golf most Sundays of my childhood. Occasionally my brother and I were allowed to play in the windswept dunes of the private beach. We almost never went into the hotel, hence its immense, undimmed allure. This was the early 1960s and my parents’ default mode for catering was austerity: sandwiches in the car and maybe an ice cream later. Later was reliably the favoured to time to dispense treats.
So Trump Turnberry elicits a primal shudder, and what of the suggestion of President Trump over the past two years? Something like terror. Now some might suggest that becoming an American citizen just so I could vote against Donald Trump could be considered a little extreme. I’d like to think that Scotsman readers would expect nothing less of their correspondents.
Besides, the citizenship process was quite straightforward. It involved only a marriage, moving 7000 miles, approximately $1000 in fees, a lot of fingerprinting and a long interview during which I was twice asked if I had ever worked as a guard in a prison camp. After all of that - which did take some time - I was off to an Art Deco theatre across the bay from San Francisco to take the Oath of Allegiance which compelled me to renounce the Queen (sorry, your Majesty) and pledge to defend America against all enemies foreign and domestic, which is of course exactly what I have been attempting.
There were only two Europeans among the 900-plus throng of ardent new American citizens that day: myself and a solitary Dane. I felt we looked rather shifty, but that may have been embarrassment at all the unaccustomed flag-waving.Not to mention the singing, after which an “orderly queue” of 900 very excited people lined up for passports and voter registration. For the latter, a rather stern woman barked “Republican or Democrat?” at me. I was most surprised. Hasn’t anyone told Americans about the secret ballot ? Are you allowed to ask that? I mumbled, but I should have remembered the last time I made that inquiry it was of a police officer who had just demanded to know what I weighed. Truly. Americans append weight to every possible document. When I replied with a rather flattering interpretation of the facts, his response was: “Lady, you wanna fix on a number we can both believe?” So, on this occasion I suppressed further comment. I simply said “democrat” and I now am, as I understand it, indefinitely registered as such. Which must explain the extraordinary number of begging letters from Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton that I receive.
So the first step in my Trump eradication plan was complete.
There followed a pause of many months during which all the important activity seemed to take place on TV. Perhaps you have forgotten some of the highlights.
Trump’s come-hither to the black community: “ You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 per cent of your youth is unemployed - what the hell do you have to lose? “
And to Latinos: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best, They’re bringing crime, they’re rapists...”
And to Californians, enduring a historic five-year drought:”There is no drought. They’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea.”
Of course, the subject of Trump and women demands far more space than is available here, so let’s skip it, especially as it doesn’t seem to matter that much anyway. Almost daily, a new heavily-lip-glossed Barbie doll pops up on Fox news to pledge her loyalty to the Trump cause. It is more than a little perplexing, so you can imagine my relief when, in early October, the postman delivered my Voter Information Pamphlet and Sample Ballot. This “pamphlet” has the dimensions of the Edinburgh phone book (if anyone can remember what that looks like) and runs to 313 pages. It came accompanied by the 224-page Californian Official Information Guide. “Prepare, Plan and Participate” was the slogan on the front cover, which sounded so Baden-Powell, I turned it over to see if tent pegs were included.
Because what you nice people leading leisurely electoral lives that demand only one little cross in one little box probably don’t realize is that here in California democracy is dynamic as a Jane Fonda gym class. Slackers need not apply.
The ballot - all eight stiff pages of it - is so bulky voters are urged to download a two-minute video on how to fold it correctly, lest one’s lack of dexterity cause the counting machine to jam. If that happens, the transgressor’s name and address is on the outside, so they know where to send the complaint. And who wants to make Mr Trump’s predictions of election-rigging appear true, even for a moment ?
Despite numerous international examples of voter intransigence (Brexit, Colombia ) Californians enjoy direct involvement in almost every aspect of Government. This is expressed in a vast array of down-ballot “propositions” . This year, 17 from the State and 24 from the city of San Francisco. The range of subjects is astonishing. Sex, drugs (both recreational and pharmaceutical) the death penalty, plastic bags and fizzy pop - it’s all here.
How can sex possibly be on a ballot, you ask? May I introduce you to Proposition 60 which, if passed, would require performers in porn films to wear condoms. The San Francisco Chronicle advises its readers to vote No.
The legalizing of marijuana is there again, following its success in Colorado, but pharmaceutical price-gouging is probably more interesting and reflected in Proposition 61 which seeks to contain it. However “Big Pharma” has spent a fortune on TV ads attempting to assure Californians that any limiting of profits will ultimately harm them. And Americans do tend to believe that the limiting of any profit is cosmically harmful.
The most famous proposition which profoundly changed life in California took place in 1978. Proposition 13 was a Boston Tea Party-style rebellion against escalating property taxes (rates to you and me) The proposition immediately reduced taxes by 57 per cent, but also ensured that as long as a property was not sold, its taxable rate could remain at that 1978 level. Sadly the law of unintended consequences also applied, and California’s schools, once at the top of the national league, now languish near the bottom - woefully underfunded. Expecting citizens to vote for their own taxation is treacherous territory.
Expecting me to make appropriate selections for the San Francisco Board of Education is pretty treacherous as well. Ditto for the Board of Bay Area Rapid Transit. As has been widely remarked for several centuries, democracy may be the best possible governance by the people and for the people, but the process can be perilous if the voter is pig ignorant. So if I’ve just suggested that groundskeeper Willy is put in charge of the county’s middle school curriculum, I do apologize. It isn’t just the Presidential candidates who can be disappointing.
In fact, this year, everyone claims to be disappointed, angry, betrayed or worse. Resentment and accusations flood social media. This is the psychosis of negative polarization, the more refined publications suggest. I’d put it at a more basic level: this is the result of a campaign that has lasted nearly two years. All that seems to remain now is fear and distrust. That’s not to say the situation is without remedy. I heard that remedy voiced by a Republican mother of four daughters from Utah who confessed that she could not, in conscience vote for Trump, so she would vote Democrat for the first time in her life. However, all of her down-ballot selections will be Republican, she said.
“So even if Hillary wins, the Senate and Congress should remain Republican, so she will be paralyzed.”
As it turned out there was no need for such subtlety. This was not that kind of election.
So, naturally, I am packing again. Last night, the official Canadian immigration website crashed. Seems this is the US border which will really need a wall.