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November 3, 2016

All silent on the election front

Reporting from Los Angeles, CityMag editor Farrin Foster is stunned to find that the Clinton V Trump saga is a lot more discussed on Aussie streets than on American Boulevards.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Andrè Castellucci

It was Halloween on Monday, and in America Halloween is a big deal.


 The items in the photo were purchased at a 7-Eleven, which seems to be ground zero for election-related information.

It was responsible for providing me with an impressive hangover, it also gifted me the experience of being served by a witch over a bar, and allowed me the chance to walk through a hotel lobby filled with zombies.

The holiday also gave rise to the single conversation I’ve had about the US Presidential and Congressional elections since arriving in America almost a week ago.

“What’s your costume going to be?,” said the Uber driver.

“Oh… I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go as a Trump supporter,” I replied.

“Ha! Yeah, that’s funny,” said the Uber driver, before swiftly moving on to more pertinent things, like pointing out that we were travelling on the oldest freeway in LA.

Back home in Australia (not England, as many people here assume when they meet me), Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had dominated conversations. I know only a handful of people who didn’t either watch the debates or follow them via live updates. Adelaide locals are absolutely pre-occupied with the surreal horror of Trump as a presidential candidate, and all that means for democracy.

In Los Angeles though, I’ve been interviewing people for the last six days. I’m not asking directly about the elections, of course, but between questions like “What cultural changes have you noticed in the neighbourhood?” and “What social phenomena are reflected through your art?” there’s probably room for a mention of the tenor of the national conversation.

But whether I’m in bar, a restaurant, or working, the closest I get to talking about the election is watching a candidate ad on the TV behind someone’s head.

There’s no corflutes with candidate’s faces on them adorning street poles, none of those ‘Hillary for President’ front yard signs, and, one week out, not even all the newspaper front pages are featuring the election.

It’s weird. So today – while eating the most delicious tofu soup at this place – I asked the people sitting behind us about it.

“Oh, they’re just being polite,” says the first guy. “People are so mad. They just don’t want to get all worked up in front of you.”

“Nah,” says the second guy, “I just don’t care.”

I clarified. He meant he just doesn’t care if Trump becomes President. Truly.

In a staunchly Democrat state like California, maybe his vote won’t matter. But the general silence that seems pervasive around the election topic here makes me worry that there might be a few more people following the second guy’s example than are following the first’s – and that’s a pretty scary way to run a democracy.

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