One of the most divisive presidential contests is rapidly turning into one of the closest; recent polls show the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is within the margin of error. Here's a portrait of starkly divided voters in a red county and a blue county, weighing in on what happens if their candidate loses.
I’m standing on the corner of Jefferson and Madison Streets in Downtown Quincy, Florida. It’s a predominantly black, small town in Gadsden County. And this is Hillary Clinton country. During the March 15th primary, every single precinct voted for Clinton.
Sheila Campbell and Charlie Mae Kelley are waving campaign signs on the side of the road as traffic drives by. They’re both strong Clinton supporters, they’re not ready to consider what a Trump administration would be like. Here’s Charlie Mae Kelley.
“He could win, but in my heart, and the way I been praying, I really don’t think he gonna win. God come for all things, yes he do. And I don’t believe he’ll put him in there the way he been acting. That man been talking about us like dirt, " she said. "And the people voting for him, I don't see how they do it. I really don't, I really don't."
Sheila Campbell agrees. She says she doesn’t know a single Trump supporter.
Just up the street, I run into Bobbie Monroe walking out of the Clinton campaign headquarters with a handful of yard signs. Her family is split this election season. And if Trump loses, she’s planning to reach out to her Trump-leaning friends and family.
“But the first thing, I’ve already been thinking about a Facebook post. In which I ask Trump supporters, which includes friends and family, what five things would they want to see done,” Monroe said.
And if Trump wins?
"The man doesn’t really understand how it works up there. He keeps talking as if he is a despot and can just go up there and rule like a king. It doesn’t work that way and so I think he really won’t get almost anything done," Monroe said.
Throughout this election, Monroe has been debating back and forth with her Trump-supporting sisters. So I ask her what Thanksgiving will be like after the election is resolved.
“So what do I want? I want an ongoing conversation. And in that vein I will try to treat them with respect and an open heart, so we can go on and have that open conversation. But not around the Thanksgiving table. No thank you,” she said.
Forty miles away, I stop in downtown Crawfordville in Wakulla County, it’s a little more split, politically. There are plenty of bluedog democrats, and 7 out of 12 precincts went for Trump in the primary. I run into three friends at the park on their lunch hour: Chris Kelley, Becky Stuart and Renee Stevens. They’re all bankers, Christians, and reluctant Trump supporters. Here’s Chris.
“If everybody is looking for a president to bring this country back on its feet, they’re looking wrong. They need to be looking to God, is what they need to be looking toward. Because not one man can turn around what all these men over the years have destroyed.” Chris said.
And they say no policy proposal or peace offering from Hillary Clinton could regain their trust.
“I don’t know that there’s anything that she could do,” Becky said.
“I don’t think there is anything. Because her core values do not align. And if she changed her core values that would pretty much negate her whole stance, her whole platform,” Chris said.
“We would just survive the next four years like we’ve survived the past eight,” said Renee, as the three laughed.
Becky says the thought of a Hillary Clinton presidency really worries her.
“Devastated. Very much so. Because I can see our country falling apart,” Becky said.
And like the voters in Quincy, the ladies say they don’t know anyone on the other side. Here’s Renee.
“It’s not that I wouldn’t be a friend with a liberal. I just don’t know many around here that are, honestly,” Renee said.
Once upon a time, there were more conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. But today those partisan labels are about so much more than politics. Increasingly, conservatives and liberals work different jobs, in different neighborhoods, in different parts of the country. And that makes it harder and harder to understand the other side, says Renee.
“I think before you would have a lot more friends that were one or the other party, and now it’s almost hard to be with people who believe completely different, opposite. And I wish it weren’t like that, but that’s just life...” she said.
The next president will have to find a way to represent all of these divided voters.