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America Amplified 2020: Episode 4- America is Anxious, Prepared and Hopeful Ahead of Election Day

America Amplified: Election 2020 is a national talk show that will dive into the challegnes facing America before and after election day on November 3. This six-part, one-hour weekly radio talk show will air Sundays on WFYI from 3 to 4 p.m. from October 11- November 15. Learn more about Episode 4 below.

Anxiety. Fear. Hope.

On this episode of “America Amplified: Election 2020” - airing the weekend before Election Tuesday - we hear from voters across America about how they’re feeling.

Hosts Rose Scott of WABE in Atlanta and Luis Hernandez of Miami are both in battleground states, where millions of votes have already been cast.  

This is also an election during a pandemic, with divisive presidential candidates, and in a country that doesn’t look like what it did four years ago. 

Guests in this episode, clockwise from top left: Danielle Clealand, The Rev. Franklin Ruff, Houston Cypress, Tim Ramos, Larcy Douglas, Jock Conyngham and Kayla Smith
Credit America Amplified
Guests in this episode, clockwise from top left: Danielle Clealand, The Rev. Franklin Ruff, Houston Cypress, Tim Ramos, Larcy Douglas, Jock Conyngham and Kayla Smith

Hernandez shares this fact from the Pew Research Center: For the first time in the U.S., Latinos will make up the country’s second-largest voting demographic, about 13% of eligible voters, second only to white Americans. 

And it’s wrong to think about Latinos as a homogenous group.

For instance, in this audio diary from our assistant producer Mayowa Aina, Daphne Machado says she would call herself a “Trumper.”

Machado, 49, is originally from Peru, has lived in Miami and now calls Pennsylvania home.

“He wasn't a politician. He was very easy to understand,” Machado says of President Donald Trump. “He felt to me like somebody like I knew.”

Meanwhile Antonio Soza, 25, calls himself a Democrat. He’s from Nicaragua and became a naturalized citizen a couple years ago. He’s voting in his first presidential election.

“The message that we're getting from the campaigns is capitalism versus socialism, which does a disservice to us because we care about more than just that,” Soza says.

Guest Danielle Clealand says the people in the diary reflect the racial diversity and diversity of experience within Latino community.

Clealand is an associate professor in Mexican American and Latino Studies at the University of Austin, Texas.

“If you are a Black Latino then you might have a different perspective,” says Clealand, who is Afro-Puerto Rican. Her research in the Cuban community shows that while Cubans tend to be more conservative as a whole, the story changes when the lens magnifies Black Cubans.  They’re much more likely to be Democrats, Clealand says. 

“Being Black has a lot to do with the way folks see politics,” she says. “We can look at racial differences within the Latino community in the same way we do between Black and white people within the United States.”

She also talks about generational differences in voting because of the way people experience discrimination and “access to whiteness.” When she lived in South Florida, she says she would be followed in stores or pulled over by police.

“I was often ‘othered’ as being non-Latina. Even when I would speak Spanish, I would find that people would not understand how a Black woman spoke Spanish,” Clealand shares. “There’s this distancing from Blackness that occurs within Latino communities and particularly in South Florida, where Black Latinos are marginalized. … The experience of everyday microaggressions has an effect on the way you vote.”

What does voting mean in this election?

So how are people channeling their feelings at the polls?

We check in with three different perspectives: The Rev. Franklin Ruff of Stilwell, Kansas; Jock Conyngham from outside Missoula, Montana; and Kayla Smith, a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta.

All three agree they are anxious about what will happen after November 3, based on what they’re seeing and hearing.

Conyngham mentions stories he’s heard on public radio about businesses taking out civil unrest insurance and how Walmart has removed guns and ammunition from its stores.

Smith (who’s been featured on WABE) shares how she saw a tweet about having a post-election safety plan, which includes packing a “go bag” with essentials and avoiding stores on election day.

“I’ve been looking at it [safety plan] and sharing it with my friends … just to keep our morale in high spirits but also making sure we’re all prepared regardless what the results are.”

In Kansas, Ruff says he’s concerned about conflict within his various communities. He’s the pastor of First Baptist Church

“My hope is that we can get through this situation, determine who our president is, and do so without hatred and especially without violence,” adds Ruff, who participated in several America Amplified National Listening Sessions.

Conyngham says it helps that he lives in a small town on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

“We don’t get to be unkind to each other, you can’t be impolite … because you see them every day.”

That’s the spirit Ruff says he aims to foster. 

“We are currently doing prayer twice a day for our nation, for unity within our nation,” he says. 

He’s working on a program called With Malice Toward None to bring together people with different political beliefs. 

“It’s more than just a Trump supporter and someone who didn’t support Trump. That’s your neighbor, that’s the person that you see in Walmart, the person that might even take care of your kids.”

When it comes to voting, Conyngham says he is an Independent and voted early for a straight Democratic ticket.

Ruff says it’s going to be a difficult decision at the polls. He doesn’t think either presidential candidate can make substantial changes in the next four years.  

But the future is exactly why Smith, 21, has already voted in her first presidential election.

“My vote is an extension of my commitment to justice work, building community, and reimagining the world in a Black feminist lens,” Smith says. It’s also about moving the country toward a healing path, internally and internationally. “I recognize that my vote is essential to redirecting America’s trajectory.”

Communities, conversation and compromise

After this discussion, host Luis Hernandez shares he’s been voting since the early 1990s and has never been as worried about violence or seen this level of national anxiety.

The last three guests, however, also see a lot of reason for optimism. It’s about communities, conversation and compromise, host Rose Scott says.

Larcy Douglas works for Common Power in Seattle, a nonprofit that supports and develops the next generation of civic leaders. 

Her work involves getting college students into the habit of talking about politics, expressing their emotions and taking action. She saw students lead efforts to get out the vote, including sending more than 20,000 texts.

“College students have a lot of anxiety but at the core of it is hope,” Douglas says. “They’re scared but they’re ready.”

Houston Cypress, a faith leader with the Miccosukee Tribe in Miami and member of the Unity Coalition, says in his work, he can’t burn bridges. He talks about bringing people with different views together to spend time in the “groan zone.”  

“It’s really about learning to sit with that discomfort, helping people to do the same, and also gently guiding things back to a situation where we begin to see commonalities and a pathway forward,” Cypress explains.

Tim Ramos of Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a Republican who wants politicians to better respect the rights of the people in their constituencies. He talks about how his community is often overlooked because it’s considered Democratic city. 

He wasrecently featured in a series by our partner station WITF in Pennsylvania about Latinos along Route 222. 

“We need to claim every right that we have been blessed to have. That no matter who’s in government that they respect it,” Ramos says.  “I hope that after November 3, there is a calm; there’s a ‘Hey, things are what they are, whoever won won, let’s remember that we’re all American citizens and that we're all together at the end of the day.”

Cypress says he’s looking forward to hearing new oratory from young people and to “share a sense of wonder” together. 

Douglas says she’s looking forward to seeing what will happen next.

“I am hopeful, I am so excited to see what this young generation of young adults and leaders are going to throw at our face to say ‘You need to walk the talk.’”

Audio postcard: A poem from Richard Blanco

The show closes with Richard Blanco reading his poem, “America the Beautiful Again.” 

Blanco was raised and educated in Miami, where his family eventually resettled after being exiled from Cuba. An award-winning poet who also holds an engineering degree, Blanco was chosen by President Barack Obama in 2012 to be the country’s fifth presidential inaugural poet -- the first immigrant, Latinx and gay person to serve in the role.

In this poem, he says he’s thinking about the patriotism that he remembers from his childhood.

This audio postcard is produced by Andrea Tudhope. “País normal” song bySílvia Tomàs Trio.

Copyright 2021 Side Effects Public Media. To see more, visit Side Effects Public Media.

America Amplified