As a local journalist off and on since 2007, I’ve worked quite a few Election Days.
In fact, a few days ago, I realized the only Election Days I haven’t worked were 2008, 2009, 2010, 2020 and 2021.
So, I was shocked yesterday to encounter a first for me on Election Day.
Just when I thought I had seen and heard it all in journalism.
Apparently, I had not.
Yesterday I visited a few polling locations in Staunton to gather local voter reaction to Election Day, find out what issues they were most concerned with this year and who received their votes.
I know to expect more rejections than acceptance with this exercise, and I respect that some voters will not feel comfortable speaking with a journalist or having what they say publicly shared.
A man yesterday was comfortable sharing his perspective with polling volunteers so I gave him an opportunity to speak on the record. He declined, and I was fine with that.
However, then he proceeded to begin to speak negatively about the press and mention fascism. I asked him: “In this context, who are the fascists?” He didn’t clearly answer me, but I think he was trying to say I was a fascist and attempted to explain that he had previously worked for the government and knew to be fearful of publicly sharing his opinion.
Several times I gave him an opportunity to exit the conversation by saying: “Don’t let me keep you from voting today.” But he continued to try to talk down to me, probably because I appear young. I had to let him know I am in my 40s and that as a journalist, I know what is going on politically in the United States. I didn’t become a journalist the day before.
At one point, he also attempted to try to lump the press in with politics. I had to explain to him that I am not Democrat or Republican. I am a member of the press, a completely separate entity. I am here to share the truth with readers. I do not control the news or what happens. I simply respond to the news by writing about it.
I should have mentioned to him that if my college had allowed minors, I would have minored in American history. And that I’ve studied World War II and understand the word fascism.
Apparently, he does not.