Sunday Focus: Residents worry election won’t end hostility

Published 12:44 am Sunday, November 6, 2016

NATCHEZ — Looking at Election Day, many local residents are just ready for the U.S. presidential race to be over, and some are worried Tuesday will not end the political bombardment.

On Tuesday, voters will chose from Republican candidate Donald Trump, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate.

Natchez’s Zee Gray said for all the overwhelming amount of talking being done, she said the focus has been more about how each candidate has insulted the other than the actual issues that impact the country.

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“It is a crazy election,” Gray said. “It is just different. So much negativity has been said publicly. I think they ought to just give us what they stand for, each side offers their platform, asks for you to vote for them, and then don’t say anything else.”

On the one hand, licensed professional counselor Marc Taylor, who operates a private practice, said all the media coverage of this election is a good thing because people have the option to make a more informed decision. But on the other hand, the doomsday theories for both sides are causing a lot of anxiety.

“I think people are focusing on the most catastrophic possible outcome, if their chosen candidate is not elected,” Taylor said. “I have talked to some of my clients and asked them to just stop and think for a minute.

“The probability is low for the worst possible scenario they are imagining to come true.”

Taylor said he believes no matter the outcome Tuesday, things are more likely to remain the same than not.

“I think a lot of people fear that this election is going to change their lives dramatically,” he said. “I think people will still be able to do the things they like to do regardless of who is elected. Life will go on.”

Mental health therapist and Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez psychology instructor Joe Swoveland said he has also noticed people “wigging out” about this election.

Swoveland said for what he is seeing, the anxiety seems to boil down to three issues: trust, personal impact and polarization.

The large fiscal contributions have caused politicians to go back on campaign promises time and time again, Swoveland said.

“The big money contributors end up strong-arming the politician later into the politician doing something he or she promised the people they were not going to do,” he said.

“But at the same time, if you are going to be reelected, you have to have money, so you have to satisfy the corporation.

“It leads to even honest politicians looking as if they are distrustful in their word.”

On personal impact, Swoveland said the economy is a big issue, but the biggest issue this time around is health care. Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, Swoveland said people are paying a lot more and the latest trends project health care costs will continue to rise.

“The nation as a whole feels like the outcome of this election can really hit them personally in the hip pocket,” Swoveland said. “A lot more people are taking note of politics because it is hitting them personally. Hopefully it will mean a higher voter turnout.”

For the third issue, Swoveland said the extreme polarization has created two candidates that many have no hope or belief in.

“People don’t know what to believe in and have an extremely hard time trusting both candidates,” Swoveland said. “I think many people are voting for the lessor of two evils, not necessarily someone they believe in.”

David Matherne of Baton Rouge was taking one of his frequent trips to Natchez Friday to visit his daughter.

“I am ready for it to be over,” he said. “I am ready for all the fraud and lies to be done with — at least for another four years.”

Matherne said he is voting for Trump at least in part because Clinton is the greater evil.

“That is a big part of it,” he said. “But I do believe he is a business person and he has not gotten where he is by luck.

“I think he can put the right people around him to improve our country — that’s what it’s all about.”

Henry Legg Sr. of Natchez said he’s voting for Clinton Tuesday. Legg said people have an unrealistic hatred for Clinton, yet they instantly forgive any of the vile things Trump says about women and minorities.

For Legg, he said it’s been about taking a step back from all the hatred on both sides and looking at the issues. Clinton will actually talk about the issues if she is given a chance, but Trump does not, he said.

“He never says how he is going to fix things, he just says to trust him,” Legg said. “He has no plan. His entire candidacy is based on fear.

“Stop all the fear mongering and get them to talk about the facts. Or do we really want to elect someone based on fear?”

Stratton Bull and Hyram Burkes, both of Natchez, wouldn’t say for whom they are voting, but they did say they are ready for election day to come and go.

“I will be glad when it is over,” Bull said. “But I am afraid it won’t be over when it’s over.”

Burkes said he thinks this election is so much worse than other elections because people are faced with electing one of two bad choices.

“No matter what I say, half the people will agree, and half the people will be mad,” he said. “This country is so polarized.

“I don’t think it’s going to get any better until both sides learn to work together.”

Whatever a person wants to say about Democratic President Barack Obama, Swoveland said a lot of change has occurred over the past eight years. That change, and the speed of the change, has led to increased polarization, he said.

“Some of the changes have been positive, and some of the changes have been very detrimental,” Swoveland said. “I think people are worried that no matter which candidate gets sworn in, a lot of extremely fast change is coming.

“From a psychological perspective, as human beings, we want control in our lives. Extremely fast change makes us very uncomfortable.”

Taylor said he encouraged people to take some control by making sure they vote. And more than that, he said people should get involved.

“Go volunteer for your candidate, or write a letter to the editor to the newspaper,” Taylor said. “Those are good ways to feel like you are having an impact or like you have a voice that can be heard.”