With expected reactions ranging from “devastated” to “despondent,” locals will be watching the 2020 presidential election with more than a little anxiety.
Mobilian Ann Davis has learned to calm her election nerves in a very unorthodox way. The supporter of President Donald Trump has a collection of what she calls “voodoo dolls” to represent different Democrats.
Davis has dolls representing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, presidential candidate Joe Biden and others that she pulls out during debates or press conferences when worry begins to take over.
“It helps relieve my anxiety,” she said. “I don’t really believe that there’s power to it.”
Davis adapted the idea to politics in 2016, after using a doll for years to represent opponents during Alabama Crimson Tide football games. She became so well known for the practice that friends within her section at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa called her “The Voodoo Lady.”
Davis’s gameday tradition became political in 2016 when she got worried Trump would lose in the general election that year. She decided to purchase a Hillary Clinton doll online. She eventually buried the Clinton doll underground just before the 2016 election.
“Hillary is still there,” Davis said. “We built a deck over her. She can’t come back up. She’s down there deep.”
Davis is planning similar fates for the dolls representing Trump’s main rivals this time around. However, her otherworldly plans don’t seem to be soothing her anxiety in 2020, as the election draws near.
“I’ll be a nervous wreck and I’ll watch,” Davis said of election returns on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
And if Trump loses once every ballot is counted, Davis said she’ll be “devastated.”
Davis said she doesn’t understand why everyone is not voting for Trump, given his success with the economy and the threat that looms with a Democrat in office.
“I don’t understand anyone who even looks at the Democratic platform when it hasn’t worked anywhere else,” she said. “I look at the job [Trump] has done for the economy and people of all races.”
Herb Wagner is also from Mobile — born and raised — and that’s about where the similarities between him and Davis end. Wagner plans to vote for Biden in the upcoming election and thinks the former vice president has a good shot at winning the seat.
“I want to be very optimistic Biden will win,” he said. “I believe he will. Frankly, I’m amazed it’s as close as it is.”
Wagner said he’d be more confident if he didn’t believe there are ongoing efforts to block voters from exercising their right to vote. For instance, he mentioned the reduction of ballot drop-off boxes in Texas, leaving just one in the county encompassing Houston. He is “cautiously optimistic.”
However, one of the biggest issues in this election, Wagner said, is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Another issue is the economy, he said, and Trump himself.
“There are people who will support him regardless,” Wagner said. “You are either one of his big followers or you’re appalled by him.”
If Biden loses, Wagner said, he will have to do a lot of “soul-searching.” He’ll also begin mourning the loss of the country’s greatest institution.
“Frankly, I see the destruction of American democracy and our status overseas,” he said of a Trump win. “The only countries that will be happy are North Korea, Russia and maybe China. We’ll basically become an outside player because no one will follow us.”
If Biden loses, Wagner said he’d be “despondent” in large part because America would basically become Alabama of the 1960s and 1970s in terms of racism and voter suppression.
“I love this country, its constitution and its people,” Wagner said. “Patriotism and nationalism can be powerfully negative forces. That’s why I’m engaged trying to fight for a better country and a more perfect union.”
Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman and Mobilian Terry Lathan is predicting a “2016 2.0” this year.
“If you believe some of our internal polls, [Trump] is right where he needs to be,” she said. “I don’t think America is a radical left country. It’s more moderate or moderate right, and the nation will suffer under a leftist administration.”
Lathan explained Trump’s popularity in Alabama — a state where his support is among the strongest — by pointing out his independent streak.
“He says what he thinks and he thinks what he says,” Lathan said of Trump. “We like straight shooters. Nobody has to guess what he’s thinking.”
As for Trump’s and the party’s success, Lathan gives him high marks for what she sees as moving the country in the right direction.
“We’re at the top of our game in every category in less than three and a half years,” she said.
Mobile resident and Chicago native Marion Steinfels worked for Biden when he ran for president 12 years ago. Steinfels served as Biden’s deputy communications director and joined him on the campaign trail.
“I loved being on the campaign trail,” she said. “You’d travel the country and I was a fly on the wall. I really enjoyed it.”
Steinfels believed Biden showed who he really is during that time: a kind, compassionate politician.
“He is so grounded,” she said. “I too come from an Irish Catholic family, and his kids, grandkids and family in general means the most to him. That’s who he is. He’s a genuine person.”
For Steinfels, Biden will be a break from the divisiveness the country has seen over the last four years or so.
“I think more than ever, we need calmness to come over our country,” she said. “There’s so much divisiveness. Hopefully, he can bring us back together.”
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