By a Landslide

Political conformity has infected our elections, as I witnessed yesterday in rural PA.

It+was+hardly+a+surprise%2C+especially+with+high+voter+turnout%2C+that+President+Trump+won+the+small+rural+town+of+Shanksville%2C+PA+by+a+landslide+yesterday.

photo by Lucie Flagg

It was hardly a surprise, especially with high voter turnout, that President Trump won the small rural town of Shanksville, PA by a landslide yesterday.

Lucie Flagg, Co-Editor-in-Chief

I started to become politically aware during the 2016 election. I was in eighth grade, and I desperately wanted Hillary to win. When it came to policies and civic rights, I knew just about nothing. But what I did know was that the star of The Apprentice, a show that I had come to love, was not fit to lead a country. 

Throughout Donald Trump’s four years in office, which coincided with my four years in high school, my understanding of right and wrong matured. I formulated my own opinions and was crushed to see my values dismissed, and often ridiculed, by the President. When I realized that I wouldn’t be eligible to vote in the 2020 election, I was devastated

As I entered the polling station, people immediately took notice of me and my mother, saying ‘You’re new” and “You’re not from around here.’

It was painful to know that a mere six months separated me from the polls, especially considering our state’s importance in the Electoral College. But my frustrations were lessened, if only minimally, when I volunteered to work the polls yesterday in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where my family owns an inherited home.

Infamously known as the crash site in the attacks of 9/11, Shanksville appears to fit the exact definition of “Pennsyltucky.” Its population of just over 200 people is primarily Republican. Everyone in this small rural town knows each other, and it can feel as if Pittsburgh — or any metropolitan area, for that matter — is as far away as the tropics.  

Needless to say, I feel out of place there, and my decision to dress in heavily ripped jeans and Vans yesterday probably didn’t help. As I entered the polling station, people immediately took notice of me and my mother, saying “You’re new” and “You’re not from around here.” They were right, and I’m glad — but please don’t construe that as snobbery on my part.

Few people wore masks, and many of those who did wore them incorrectly. Though prohibited by Pennsylvania law, many voters yesterday chose to wear conservative political attire while voting. The Judge of Elections, a Trump supporter herself, never said a word. One man, in particular, yelled, “I’m ready to p*ss off some liberals,” as he walked into the building. An offense that would likely result in immediate dismissal elsewhere was praised with laughter by my fellow poll workers.

It was a scary job, being in possession of ballots from a conservative town. Voters seemed highly suspicious of fraud, asking repeated questions about our machine—how it works and where the votes go. Any problems, and the liberal girl in ripped jeans would be the one to blame.

The day was disillusioning to me. Every polling place in America should abide by the same rules, but that’s not always how it goes, and Shanksville is proof.

Every polling place in America should abide by the same rules, but that’s not always how it goes, and Shanksville is proof.”

Here in Pittsburgh, a split between Democratic and Republican support is expected. In practically every election, local or national, there are always genuine choices. But towns that glamorize, even obsess over a single candidate are deeply worrisome. In a democracy, conformity is dangerous. Towns like Shanksville, I witnessed, suppress independent thinking. You agree with the town’s leanings, or you leave. 

It’s worth adding that voter turnout in Shanksville yesterday was the highest it has been in many years, and it was impressive to see so many people for taking part in their civic duties. And truly, many of the voters I met were very pleasant, kind people.

I’m proud to have played a small part in such a historic event, but the whole experience left me with the unsettling feeling — in this currently undecided election and all those in the future — that we’re up against a whole host of troubles.