3 Nov 2018

SnowBlog: Life on an American campaign trail like no other

Chicago O’Hare Airport. Mile upon mile of concrete runways with tiny quadrants of grass, and slow moving aircraft traffic criss-crossing ahead of us. We are in America. The eternal passport control awaits us, and thence to the open road. 

Five lanes in each direction, massive ten wheeler wagons belching un-green gases along in all but the not very fast lane. Welcome to Route 90, bearing us to two neighbouring towns that define America’s mid term election battle.

Welcome first to South Bend, the railway bridge declares in large
rusty white letters. A fast-flowing brown watered river moves left to right beneath Main Street – a street far too wide to be welcoming. A few cars parked along the chilly sidewalks, but no one to be seen. We are told that South Bend was hit hard in the downturn after the banking crisis, but that it is taking off again thanks to the tech revolution. Indeed there is evidence of a number of new tech startups here.

Suddenly our filming is interrupted by news from Pittsburgh: a synagogue there has suffered the most awful attack by some man with three handguns and an automatic rifle. Four people are dead. Time passes; four becomes eight, eight becomes eleven.

Our Washington Correspondent Kylie Morris is in Mexico reporting the refugee caravan that is so exercising Donald Trump. So we set off to drive the more than 400 miles on the I-90 to Pittsburgh. The road is dominated by the massive eight-wheelers that keep America fed and her industry churning. There are more trucks than cars.

The scene outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh is agonising. There is a terrible silence. Few flowers, yet they will come, and a few of the faithful bowing their heads in prayer. Coming in the aftermath of fourteen letter bombs sent to prominent Democrats, there are constant questions of why? And where next?

We decide to forsake the arrival of President Trump. Not least because a number of Jewish activists had pleaded to us that he should not come. Has Trump stoked this atmosphere of hate, fear, and violence in the way that he speaks? It’s a question moving around in our minds as we leave Pittsburgh to resume our reporting on the Election campaign.

We return to the America few who visit the United States ever visit, to meet with the Americans we never meet.

This is unlike any U.S. election campaign I have ever reported.

We are in pursuit of the Trump’s core vote – the vote he seems devoted to trying to shore up. Amongst whom once he himself was numbered. Strangely he seems uninterested in trying to reach out to soft Democrats.

In Elkhart, Indiana we discover a labour shortage in what is the capital of mobile home manufacture in America. Will Trump’s talk about clamping down on migrants from Central America and Mexico help ease this shortage?

Our journey is punctuated with each new daily Trump speech castigating the caravan of migrants snaking their way up from Honduras, fleeing a homeland for so long beset by violence and yet funded and interfered with by the United States – once the epicentre of the Contra War which was intended to destroy the government next door in Nicaragua.

The election is three days away. America is split down the middle – for and against Trump, but to what degree? Will Trump’s intemperate language lose him the lower house of Congress or will it win him both houses to bolster the ‘cleansing’ change he craves?

Which America, his, or another, is in the ascendant?

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