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The Dublin Police Department celebrates St. Patrick's Day. Facebook
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"It’s ugly, it’s really ugly": Dublin, Georgia under the stifling heat of the Trump-Clinton struggle

Both sides agree it’s like nothing ever seen before.

From bona fide swing states like Ohio to traditionally deep-red Texas, Dubliners across America are entering the final days of one of the most divisive general election campaigns in living memory. As part of a series on the race for the White House, TheJournal.ie has been talking to Clinton voters, Trump supporters, and independents in a range of time-zones between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in recent days.

Why ‘Dublins’? We could just have easily have picked ‘Springfields’ or ‘Madisons’ but we are, after all, an Irish website – and many of the towns we chose to focus on have a strong Irish heritage. Add to that, if your peruse any list of communities called ‘Dublin’ in the US, you’ll find everything from booming Silicon Valley suburbs to industrial towns off Georgian highways. Here’s the latest piece in our series (you’ll find last night’s one here). We’ll have further installments in the coming week. 

GEORGIA IS FAR from the reddest of red states – but anything other than a Donald Trump win there next week will be a shock.

If Hillary Clinton does manage to win the southern state, then we would most likely be witnessing a nationwide hosing of Trump.

In the last eight presidential elections, only Clinton’s husband was able to turn the Georgia map blue. And he did it only once, failing to do so in his reelection bid.

Four years ago, the state comfortably chose Mitt Romney with Barack Obama only really winning out in the state’s two big cities – Atlanta in the northwest and Savannah along the state’s Atlantic coast.

About halfway between the those two major hubs, just off Interstate 16 linking them, is Dublin, GA.

Being home to about 16,000 people, Dublin is not large but it’s the heart of Laurens County and its Irish connections see it nicknamed ‘The Emerald City’.

In some ways it’s quite mixed, Laurens County has a Republican congressman and Dublin’s sheriff is a Democrat.

Dublin’s make-up is also relatively even, between black and white residents.

But as with many towns across the nation, this presidential campaign has certainly tested harmony between the two main political parties.

If there’s one thing both sides can agree on though, it’s that 2016 is different.

“I’ve never seen an election like this,” that’s the blunt assessment of Ronald Schwartz, a Republican chairman in the area and the county manager for Donald Trump 2016.

Schwartz isn’t a lifetime Dubliner, he’s originally from Indiana and spent time in South Carolina before settling there. His grownup daughter still lives in South Carolina and says the feeling is the same there.

Part of the reason why this election is different from his point of view is that it’s been difficult getting help from the Republican National Committee.

The power structure at the centre of the party usually drives the supply of simple things like yard signs and bumper stickers, this time Schwartz says supply has been scarce:

They set up a campaign headquarters for Trump and locally we had 50,000 signs coming in last month that we could distribute. Then all of the signs all of a sudden went to North Carolina. And every sign that’s in our county and our area we in the Laurens County Republican Party paid for.

Schwartz was a Tea Party Republican. The activist movement within the party that took hold after Obama’s election might not be at the forefront anymore, but there’s little doubt that Trump is benefiting from it.

TV35 WDIG / YouTube

(There’s a race to be the Laurens County Sheriff running parallel to the election)

Trump was probably the candidate the Tea Party never found. Though he never needed their help to get exposure, his ideals and perhaps more accurately his words are exactly what they were looking for.

“Everybody’s fed up with Obamacare and the economy, ” Schwartz says.

For him though, it was more than that. He describes himself as a passionate gun rights advocate who owns two assault rifles and feels Clinton will ban them in office.

He supports Trump because of his stance on guns but also because Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric won him over in the early days of the primary.

8367048827_db2091c01f_z Jackson Street, Dublin, Georgia. Circa 1930-1945. Flickr / BostonPublicLibrary Flickr / BostonPublicLibrary / BostonPublicLibrary

After campaigning for statewide Republicans looking for their Washington seats, Schwartz felt let down when they got there, even ignored when he tried contacting them.

“Nobody likes what Obama is doing on executive action but nobody’s doing anything to fix it,” he tells TheJournal.ie from his home in Dublin.

So when Trump came out and said we’re going to do this, this and this, I kind of jumped on the bandwagon. That sounded like a good idea to me because nobody could understand what the rest of them were doing.

“When you control the House and the Senate and you can’t pass a bill there’s something wrong.”

Two sides

Looking at the Presidential election from afar, it’s especially hard not to feel that race and racism is the major undercurrent bubbling beneath it.

An ABC News poll showing that just 3% of black voters support Trump makes the choice look incredibly stark. Doubly so when looking back at Trump’s primary campaign.

When the history is written about how he won the Republican nomination, his ‘Mexican rapists’ speech and his pledge to block US entry to Muslims will undoubtedly be seen as the two game-changing moments.

The angry rallies that followed are also fresh in the memory.

But Schwartz feels that, contrary to what is being said, “Trump is pulling minorities” even if some Trump supporters are nervous about doing so publicly.

There have even been cases of Trump signs being pulled down from front gardens.

“A lot of them don’t want to show support for Trump but the ones that do really want to do it,” he says.

I mean usually the politicians campaigning would have signs and they’d give them out but that didn’t happen this year. People actually are afraid to put them in their yard because they’re afraid they’re getting torn out.

Unity in the Community

Part of Schwartz’s job is building the future base of the party in the area, something he says will have to include more minorities because of changing demographics.

It’s going to be very difficult though. Wounds from this campaign are proving to be especially deep, as people from the other side of the fence can attest.

Monique Allen is a young mother and healthcare worker who’s originally from Boston but has lived in Georgia for the past decade.

A Clinton supporter but not a campaigner, she recently set up a neighbourhood group called Unity in the Community to move away from the divisiveness that has been growing in Dublin and elsewhere in the US.

monique allen Monique Allen of Unity in the Community. Katelyn Heck / WMAZ Katelyn Heck / WMAZ / WMAZ

Poor relations between police and minority groups have led to police killings and flashpoint violence in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

People like Allen don’t want the same happening in Dublin and she wants to highlight that having different opinions doesn’t have to lead to confrontation.

As she puts it: “We teach our kids to be nice to one another but it seems some adults don’t have the same mentality. ”

“It makes people feel like they have to take sides and if they don’t take the same side as another person they’re automatically evil.”

We’re trying to let people know that it’s okay to not agree with the other person, but you have to be respectful. I mean, everyone has their own opinions and that’s why our country is where it is now. Everyone has their own opinions but you have to be civil at the same time.

While Schwartz was clear in his belief that this election is different, Allen was more strident. She says that of the three Presidential elections she’s been in Dublin for, “it seems like it’s the worst one”.

“It’s ugly, it’s really ugly this time,” she adds.

The Dublin branch of Unity in the Community is holding its first big day out just four days after the election. The event will feature typically American events like a pie eating contest and a chilli cook-off.

The Facebook page dedicated to the event says that it’s purpose is to promote friendship “between those from all walks of life”.

Allen wants it to be a day where people can put aside their differences for a few hours. She admits it’s very hard to escape talk of the election these days.

While working with patients and others she has to actively avoid engaging with people who want to talk about contentious political issues. If she doesn’t engage, things can get nasty.

She also feels that the election has brought racism more out into the open. It’s always been there, she points out, but Trump has made it more accepted. Even among friends.

“Personally, not speaking on behalf of my group, but personally yes I do feel that,” she says.

A lot of the people that I call my friends, when I hear they’re supporting Trump and supporting all the things that he says, it makes me think, ‘Well, I mean now I see you for how you really are. This is how you really feel?’

Early voting has already got well underway in Dublin, Georgia. It means that for better or worse the most divisive US election in at least a generation is nearly coming to an end.

With that in mind, groups like Allen’s may be exactly what is need to bring people together after a bruising few months.

“I’m hoping it’s easy to forget but particularly with this nasty election it might be a little hard to,” she explains.

It would be nice for everybody to just accept the results of the election either way and deal with it the best that we can, whether they’re on the winning side or the losing side.

That’s the hope anyway, but there’s a way to go. Not least because the immediate aftermath to the election could be more bitter than anything we’ve seen before.

Trump’s recent refusal to say whether he’d accept the result of the election worried many, including Allen. What it meant to his most fervent supporters is anyone’s guess.

But could it lead to violence in Dublin? Schwartz isn’t convinced.

“It isn’t something that would happen here,” he says.

“But you see people posting that it could lead to a revolution, it could lead to a civil war, it could lead to disruptions on the street. I mean it’s out there, I don’t know how widespread it is. But that talk is out there on social media.”

If that doesn’t worry Schwartz though, what does? Simple, a Clinton victory.

“I would truly dread it for my kids and the future of this country,” he claims.

If we held the House and Senate, the Republicans, we could maybe stop a lot of things, but when it gets into executive action and appointees to the Supreme Court they are lifetime appointments and that’s the scary part.

Read: “Does the rest of the world want what’s best for us, or what’s best for them?” – the US election and Dublin, California >

Read: Man who defaced Trump’s Hollywood star with a sledgehammer arrested >

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