Irish in America: ‘I was crying in the polling station’

Midterm elections: Readers in the US share their opinions as America goes to the polls

Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

 

As America voted in one of the most significant midterm elections in decades on Tuesday, The Irish Times asked readers across the US to share their views on the candidates in their area, and the campaign overall. If they have a vote, how did they cast it? What is the mood like where they live? What do they think the outcome will be? Below is a selection of responses we received. To have your say on the results as they roll in, click here.

Brian McInerney, New Jersey: ‘This election is a vote on the kind of country I want my son and daughter to live in’

I voted with my son and wife at a local polling station early this morning, shortly after polls opened at 6am. There was a long line, which is highly unusual for a Midterm election. I see this election as a vote on the kind of country I want my son and daughter to live in - one full of hatred, or full of understanding - because as teens they will be living here a lot longer than me. People are motivated; you either hate or love Trump, his words and actions are so polarising.

I have been canvassing for the Democrats over the past few weekends, but as New Jersey is a mostly blue or liberal state, it has been an easy election campaign at local level here. In other areas of the South and Mid-West, the contest has been racially charged, which has become par for the Republican party under Trump. Who knew so many angry white men were horrified to see a black man become president? Fear, anger and hate are unfortunately just below the surface for some people.

I think Democrats will win back the House of Representatives, but have a slim chance of retaking the Senate. Unfortunately many whites support Trump, including many Irish-Americans. I think they are reacting to the changing demographics and the fear instilled by a huckster like Trump. They have quickly forgotten how badly Irish Catholics were treated when they first arrived. This president has abused so many people and conventions that he is a real danger to democracy, and must be stopped.

Fionnuala Fisk, Fairfax County, Virginia: ‘I was crying in the polling station’

I was crying in the polling station while my boyfriend, an American citizen, voted today. I’m currently filling out my citizenship form to become a citizen myself after years on a green card, but standing there in the polling station watching people exercise their civic duty just reminded me that, despite everything these past two years, democracy is a beautiful, brave endeavour.

Diane Montiel, Redondo Beach, California: ‘This election means everything to me and my family’

As an American with Irish dual citizenship (through descent), I appreciate being asked for my views. This election means everything to me and my family. We are Democrats and have been actively volunteering for our candidates and donating to liberal candidates across the country. We’re especially supporting the election of women and people of colour. We’re cautiously optimistic that Democrats can take back the House, and also win some governorships. But we’ve all been crying today because there’s so much at stake. I was in Grant Park the night president Obama was elected. I remember the emotions... the love, the hope. I want that America back.

Stephen Cass, New York City: ‘There’s a lot more activity at polling stations than usual’

I’ve lived in the states for 20 years, 16 of them in my current home of New York City. NYC is mostly deep blue, so, as usual, local electioneering here has been relatively muted: the outcomes of the general elections were largely decided by the Democratic primaries a few months ago. But despite that-and the lousy weather today-looking at my local friend’s social media, there’s a lot more activity at polling stations than usual, with lines forming where they normally wouldn’t for Midterm elections.

Irish in America: Have your say on the Midterm elections

Most attention is being given to how things will play out in toss-up districts in other states, with the prevailing mood being cautious optimism for a change in control of the House of Representatives, tinged with a lot of anxiety. This anxiety is enhanced by the thought that it’s unlikely we’ve seen the peak of far-right violence, and dangerous radicals may be energised if the election doesn’t go the way they’d like, or if there is rhetoric that delegitimises the results.

In previous years, it’s been easy to dismiss the tradition of defeated candidates and parties giving a concession speech as hollow political theatre, but now it’s clear that the ritual of concession is actually another small piece of the glue that holds us all together.

Martha Clarke: ‘I have been taken aback at the fact that there really are just two parties here. You are either Democrat or Republican; there’s no middle ground.’
Martha Clarke: ‘I have been taken aback at the fact that there really are just two parties here. You are either Democrat or Republican; there’s no middle ground.’

Martha Clarke, Cape Cod, Massachusetts: ‘Everyone has told me that these are the most important elections ever’

I have been living and working as a professional astrologer in the US for almost a year now, mostly based in Boston. I live in Provincetown, at the far end of Cape Cod, but have spent a lot of time in Washington DC and Philadelphia, seeing clients. It has been so moving in recent months to see how ordinary people have been mobilised to speak out against the increasing hatred and erosion of basic human rights of several minority groups, which is being spread by “the current administration”.

The lack of women’s rights here has appalled me, highlighted by the recent Ford v Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearing. I spoke to so many women here in Provincetown who had been too re-traumatised to watch the hearing. Their buried pain is very real.

I have been taken aback at the fact that there really are just two parties here. You are either Democrat or Republican; there’s no middle ground. Coming from a country where we have had decades of coalition governments, where opposing parties learnt to work together and compromise for the good of those who elected them, the Irish approach seems way more democratic.

It has been immensely heartening these last few weeks to see so many people on Facebook posting offers to drive people to the polling stations. Everyone I have spoken to, and I mean everyone, has told me that these are the most important elections ever in the history of the US.

I was at a wonderful open mic night here in Provincetown last night, where one of the performers finished her performance with one word, “VOTE”. Another performer sang a version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”, and the audience sang quietly along, their voices getting louder with each verse

“This land is your land, this land is my land
From the California to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”

Who will win today? I have no idea. But the people are moving in masses, and there is change on the horizon.

Bryan Byrne, San Francisco: ‘Locally, the big issue revolves around Proposition C’

I am from Co Laois, and will be voting in San Francisco today, having become an American citizen in 2013. California is a very “blue” state, so Democratic candidates will be elected across the board here. Locally, the big issue revolves around Proposition C, a proposal to create a new tax that will increase funding for homeless services. Homelessness in San Francisco is a full blown crisis, the root causes of which are the city’s notoriously restrictive zoning laws. There has been very little residential construction in recent decades, while job growth has soared. The city is divided on Proposition C, the people for it believe more money will help, and the people against believe it’s throwing good money after bad and that a fresh approach is needed. Personally I’m against Proposition C, since I believe the only way to improve the situation is to address the root cause; by revamping zoning laws to allow higher density construction, something most major cities probably need to do.

Meghan: ‘There’s a realisation that people are not just voting for a candidate this time, they are also voting for the future of the US.’
Meghan: ‘There’s a realisation that people are not just voting for a candidate this time, they are also voting for the future of the US.’

Meghan, New York: ‘This election is about fighting against Donald Trump’

In my 11 years living in the US I have never seen people so eager to vote in the Midterm elections. There’s a realisation that people are not just voting for a candidate this time, they are also voting for the future of the US. This election is about fighting against Donald Trump and the Republican Party, who have turned my head sideways more times than I can count. This election has not only energised young people like me to get involved, but has shown that anyone can run for election, highlighted by a large number of women running for office on both sides. Though I can’t vote, I still feel excited and nervous.

Stuart Cahill, Texas: ‘Most houses around where I live have “Vote Beto” signs on the lawns’

I moved to Austin, Texas in May. I was born in Boston but my family moved back to Ireland soon after that, and I have always aspired to living in the States. Having visited Austin previously I knew it was a pretty laidback place, with good weather and a good atmosphere. It’s also leans to the blue spectrum of politics, and most houses around where I live have “Vote Beto” signs on the lawns, supporting Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke.

I work for a small accountancy firm of less than 20 people and politics is rarely spoken about. From the few tense conversations I’ve had in my office, it would appear most are decidedly Republican but cautious to admit it. Some are less reserved, suggesting there should be a gun in the office in case of an attack. Those that appear to be Democrat are either from outside Texas, or of a younger generation.

I voted for Beto last week in the early voting stage. There were a number of issues on the ballot but the race for the Senate is the only vote I have much knowledge of. Beto comes across as a normal guy with common sense policies and ideas. But at the time of writing, Ted Cruz has a 6.6 point lead in the polls. Anecdotal evidence from Irish friends living further outside the city suggests support out there falls on the Republican side. It will be interesting to see what a loss for Beto would do to talk of his presidential nomination for 2020, or if it will stall the “blue wave” that appears to be building in Texas.

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