“It multiplies,” said Mrs Frey enigmatically, as she walked away. Though she knocked on “over 3,000 doors” in 2016, she did not seem used to such pushback. Modern campaigns aim canvassers almost exclusively at likely voters for their own side; she had kindly decided to knock on every door mainly as a favour to Lexington. It was also apparent from her assertions, which tended to be untrue, that Mrs Frey inhabited a deep realm of the Trump bubble.
Considering much of Fox News “too liberal”, she got her news from the far-right One America News Network and Epoch Times, a pro-Trump newspaper produced by the Falun Gong sect that has spread the anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy. When she encountered a like-minded voter, her relief was palpable. On their doorsteps she referred to Joe Biden as a “communist” and any self-professed Christians who voted Democratic as “Satan-worshippers”.
Lee Drutman, a political scientist, attributes the mutual loathing of America’s political tribes to three things: cultural sorting (including media bubbles); the slim margins of national elections, which makes them seem existential to both sides; and the nationalisation of politics, which has bulldozed local concerns that once girded communities. All are evident in Easton—though its muchprovoked voters live cheek-by-jowl. What lessons does that offer?
One is that politics exaggerates reality. While several voters expressed unease about their neighbours’ allegiances, your columnist saw nothing to suggest a community anything like as divided as the political views its members expressed. On a sunny Saturday morning, Trumpers and anti-Trumps mowed lawns and walked dogs together. Outside elections, most of them probably give politics little thought. Given the state of things, that is consoling.
Yet this election will prove harder to recover from—because Republicans, taking their cues from the president, are already trying to invalidate it. Almost Mrs Frey’s first words to your columnist were: “We’re trying to win without stuffing ballots, we’re the Republican Party.” She repeatedly assured voters that mail-in voting was fraudulent. This promises a new order of conflict for a society whose forbearance cannot be counted on indefinitely.