Off the Road in America’s Election Year

Some distance north of the Chickamauga Memorial Battlefield in southern Tennessee, on a country road the sat-nav’s oracle insisted led to Interstate 74 and the route north to the Iowa caucuses, something went bump in the night. It was more of a mighty whack than a bump, truth be told, and a mile or so later the engine began to falter, made a noise somewhere between stutter and clatter and emitted a cloud of what proved to be a stinking, oily funereal smoke. It was the death rattle of a 5.7-litre V8. So there I was, stuck cursing in the dark and going nowhere except to the camper van’s storage bin for more winter woollies as the temperature, which had been barely above freezing all day, dropped faster than stumble-prone Joe Biden on a bicycle, campaign stage or Air Force One’s stairs. Waiting for the tow truck, in between wondering if God had something against Quadrant, there wasn’t much to do but mull the passions that drove the Americans of 164 years ago to throw themselves into a civil war that, as the cliche goes, turned fathers against sons and brother against brother. In-laws too, for it was a dispatch reporting the Union defeat at Chickamauga which informed Abraham Lincoln that one of his brothers-in-law, Confederate General Benjamin Hardin Helm, was amongst the 34,624 who died in what proved a pyrrhic victory for the South. Two months later the rebels were driven from the railway hub of nearby Chattanooga and the ultimate destruction of Atlanta assured. It was all downhill for the Confederacy after that.

The mechanical mishap was a blow, especially to the wallet. But Providence takes with one hand and gives with the other, and five days venturing forth at less inclement moments from the warm comfort of a nice, cheap motel has had its compensations for a wandering observer keen to a get handle on this, the most bizarre election since 1801. That was the year Thomas Jefferson had to endure 36 ballots over a week of horse trading in the House of Representatives, plus the grudging support of longtime foe Alexander Hamilton, to claim the presidency over Aaron Burr. How bizarre? Well, Burr began the election as Jefferson’s vice-presidential running mate. Four years later, as students of modern musical theatre will know, Burr killed Hamilton in a duel and the US electoral system was obliged to take the first serious steps towards the still chaotic, corrupt but mercifully less lethal mess it remains today.

On the road in America’s election year

The towie who dropped off my van at Mark’s Garage in Cleveland, Tennessee (pop. 47,000), assured me the mechanic proprietor was no ripoff merchant. “He’s a good man,” he said, “a good Christian man you can trust”. I’ve yet to see the final bill, but $3000 (US) has been put down on a reconditioned GM engine that comes with a 12-month guarantee and, all going well, should be nestling under the bonnet within the next 24 hours. It might have been in place today but, as Mark put it, “I don’t work on the Sabbath”. The pokerwork signs quoting New Testament verses on his workshop walls were a reassurance of his vaunted honesty, although the one citing Revelation 13:18 was a reminder the ways of the business of faith can disconcert the curious traveller in America, just as it did Alexis de Toqueville in the 1830s. In his classic Democracy in America, which every serious visitor to the US should read, the French savant marvelled at the influence of religious zeal: “Here and there, in the midst of American society, you meet with men, full of a fanatical and almost wild enthusiasm, which hardly exists in Europe. From time to time, strange sects arise which endeavor to strike out extraordinary paths to eternal happiness. Religious insanity is very common in the United States.” (Book II, Chapter 12).

Mark, though, was no loony, whatever else his interest in the numerology of The Beast might suggest. From my perch on a greasy stool by the workshop counter as he called other customers to reschedule their jobs (“I’ve got a poor Australian here who needs to be on his way.”) and track down the new engine, I quizzed him about the presidential contest and November’s likely winner.

“I don’t know who will win, but I know who should win.”

“Trump?” I ventured.

“You said it, but he’ll need our prayers, lots of prayers. There’s so much they’re doing to stop him, so much it will be a miracle if they don’t stop him.”

One of Mark’s mechanics chipped in as the boss made his apologies to another customer whose work order was being bumped to make way for mine. “They’ll steal it from him like they did the last time,” he said.


READ the New York Times, Washington Post or pretty much any other example of the mainstream press and you’ll never find the merest hint of a possibility that mischief might have been at play in tallyrooms, with harvested “Covid emergency” postal ballots, or the suppression by both old media and new of genuine stories such as the many scandals and suggestions of graft arising from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop. Associated Press, whose style book is the general guide for subeditors processing reporters’ copy in newsroom across the country, never moves a wire story that mentions Trump’s aggrieved charges of electoral fraud without prefacing his gripes with the words “unfounded”, “disproven” or simply “false”. That blind eye for so much prima facie evidence of widespread fraud and the deliberate incuriosity that goes with it helps to explain why, in terms of trust, the Fourth Estate ranks somewhere near used car dealers and unsolicited emails from Nigerian princes.

Forget the more florid accusations of cyber fiends switching bulk votes from Trump to Biden (electronic voting machines are sufficiently unreliable on their untampered own to raise serious doubts) and consider one instructive Pennsylvania case involving not Trump in 2020 but Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign of eight years earlier: in 18 Philadelphia inner-city wards comprised of 59 individual voting stations, Romney was listed as having received not even one single, solitary vote. Not one! Election officials, all appointed by and beholden to the infamously corrupt Democratic city administration, insisted they had looked into the apparent anomaly and concluded that, yes, Obama — really, truly, scout’s honour — scored 19,605 votes to Romney’s big fat zero.

Believe that and those Nigerian princes will seem the most credible fellows in the whole wide world.


AT DINNER tonight in a ribs-and-chicken joint, an old bloke eating alone like me at the bar picked up on my accent, identified its origin and introduced himself with a handshake and memories of the Diggers he had known and liked in Vietnam.

“Tough guys, good guys,” he said, after the initial question-and-answer exchange of what-are-you-doing-in-these-parts pleasantries. I told him about the sad death of a noble V8 and returned serve with a question about his thoughts on the electioneering in Iowa, 500 miles to the north, tomorrow’s caucuses and how he saw Tennessee voting in its own primary on March 5’s Super Tuesday, when 14 states — Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia — will hold their primaries and caucuses.

“Trump, of course, who else?”

But that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about, which was the Covid lockdowns he had seen on the TV news. “How could you let them do that to you?” he wondered. How indeed. Thanks, Daniel Andrews, you really put Victoria on the global stage.

I countered that it was a mystery how Americans could tolerate an electoral system so thoroughly stuffed when both experience and common sense say the nation’s city hall corruptocrats and state legislators steeped in brazen gamesmanship need to be kept far, far away from the ballot boxes and voting machines.

Between his self-proclaimed “hillbilly” accent and the jukebox I couldn’t quite catch the full response, just a few words, two of which were “Second Amendment”.

It’s going to be an interesting year in the US of A.

8 thoughts on “Off the Road in America’s Election Year

  • STD says:

    Roger, I don’t suppose Willy Nelson entered the frame at any point!

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Thanks Roger, interesting post.
    I like the sound and judgements of those mechanics and diners in Tennessee, but it sounds like you should also be keeping a closer eye on some of the basic necessities of a good detroit 5.7 litre V8 engine….. eg oil and water…including antfrieeze ?

  • lbloveday says:

    Quote: READ the New York Times, Washington Post or pretty much any other example of the mainstream press and you’ll never find the merest hint of a possibility that mischief might have been at play in tallyrooms”.
    “Agency writers” in The Australian report on the Iowa caucuses, par for the course:
    The results showed how the party has rallied around Trump, despite his FALSE CLAIMS that the 2020 election was stolen from him. (my emphasis)

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Great stuff, Roger.

    Re that Second Amendment. Keep out of range when the firing starts please.
    We need you back with no bits missing, so avoid those ‘mostly peaceful’ demos we saw on TV.
    Don’t consider a video report where you dodge rockets like Douglas Murray did in Israel.
    He’s a good and brave writer too, whom we can’t afford to lose. Just like you.

  • john mac says:

    Planning our own trip to Alaska , and the mountain states in September , will be interested to hear what the cowboys of Montana , Wyoming and Idaho have to say on the subject ! Enjoy the rest of your trip , Roger!

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Thanks, Roger, for a very timely article. I shamelessly plagiarised your work in an online comment to an article in The Australian:

    “The results showed how the party has rallied around Trump, despite his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him ..” You may argue that Trump’s claims were unproven, fanciful even exaggerated, but to describe them as ‘false’ you would have to demonstrate that no voting malfeasance occurred. The history of American elections (such as in the 2012 election where in 18 Philadelphia inner-city wards comprised of 59 individual voting stations, Mitt Romney was listed as having received not even one single, solitary vote) gives the lie to that proposition. So the question is, if there was voting fraud, how extensive was it? Trump is entitled to believe it was more widespread than his many detractors in the media. The Executive in a number of States changed their voting rules prior to the 2020 election in defiance of the Constitution which mandates that only the State legislature can set the rules for presidential elections. Trump called this out at the time but was ignored even by the Supreme Court which refused to hear challenges from other States, eg Texas, on the grounds that they had no standing.

    To my astonishment, the comment was accepted and has attracted 59 likes.

  • Ceres says:

    Lovely piece thanks Roger.
    Those salt of the earth mid westerners in Tennessee were proven right in the Iowa result today. Trump’s popularity there covered all age and demographics and surprisingly included the under 30s. The Courts looking at all the lawfare against the man should pay careful heed as Americans are indicating they’ve had enough of vexatious litigation to deny them their right to vote for a nominated candidate.

  • nfw says:

    They all talk, talk, talk about the Second Amendment but NEVEr do anything. Great stuff I suppose if those redcoats ever show up again.

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