WASHINGTON: Insults, obscenities, vitriol and sleaze: Americans have just about had it with this year’s White House race.
As the clock ticks down to Election Day many are counting the minutes until the end of what often seemed like a bad political reality show, headlined by two deeply unpopular stars, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“It’s torture, we’re traumatized,” said Moira Hahn. “I’ll be glad when it’s over. Every day, it’s worse, more vulgar, more violent, more divisive.”
The 64-year-old lawyer from Pennsylvania traveled to Virginia days before the November 8 election for a dose of American history at Mount Vernon, home of the country’s first president George Washington, an hour south of the nation’s capital.
Like her, visitors come from across the country to explore the old plantation with its splendid view of the Potomac River that flows toward Washington.
Maryland schoolteacher Nancy Murphy calls the entire campaign “an embarrassment.”
“When we teach, we like to bring up the election, to teach the children about the democratic process,” she said. “But we don’t bring it up this time.”
“I’m tired of the commercials, the negative aspect,” she added. “I don’t know about (the candidates’ positions on) the issues, they just talk about each other.”
In front of the tomb holding the remains of the former president (1732-1799) and his wife Martha, a small group recites the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, the daily ritual of schoolchildren across the country. Presidential history is respected here.
“The best thing George Washington did was introduce the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another,” Hahn said. “And we kept that tradition, it has kept us internally peaceful, all these years except for the Civil War.”
“Now one of our candidates is talking about not following that tradition,” she added with indignation at the threat from Trump, “and that is very upsetting.”
Whether they support the Democratic candidate Clinton or her Republican rival, the visitors appeared equally fed up, and anxious.
They decry what they call the candidates’ lack of dignity and vision, the campaign’s viciousness and flood of trivial information.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said David Long, a septuagenarian pastor who had already voted early.
Even Dom, a tin-whistle player entertaining visitors in period costume, joined the discussion.
“It’s too long,” he said of the campaign that began way back in the spring of 2015. “And they spend so much money.”
He says he won’t vote for either Clinton or Trump. “If a party wins, the other is going to be so disrespectful.”
Susan Marek, 63, who traveled from Texas with three high school friends to tour Washington’s historic sites, said she has already voted — and feels relieved.
“It was very nasty, I didn’t like the language on both sides,” she said. “And the media was really going after Trump, it didn’t seem fair.”
Other visitors say they have canceled news magazine subscriptions — “they only talk about the election” — or stopped following the campaign on television.
‘Not funny anymore’
In the yards of nearby houses, signs that traditionally support one or another candidate have been supplanted by expressions of frustration.
“Everybody sucks. We’re screwed 2016,” reads one sign.
“Giant Meteor 2016. Just end it already,” says another.
Others read “Nope and Noper” and “None of the above.”
On the internet, sites sell tee-shirts saying “It’s not funny anymore. Where are the real presidential candidates?”
Back at Mount Vernon, Jo Ann, 71 — who declined to provide her last name — says she believes Election Day won’t end the bitter struggle. “We’re going to relitigate the Clinton stuff forever.”
Lori Misemer, 54, who works at a large Missouri investment company, was among the very few who appeared not to be concerned.
“I believe we still have a great future ahead of us,” she said. “There are all kinds of uncertainty, but we’re going to support whoever becomes president.”
But Gilbert Luiz, 23, who voted in Nevada, believes there are lessons to be learned from this year’s “nasty” election.
“It’s kind of a wake-up call that Americans needed. People are going to pay more attention, and invest more time and energy in their candidates,” he said. “Because frankly I don’t think anyone is happy with how we got our two candidates.”