Three hundred miles from the White House, Zianna Oliphant swings upside-down from a blue playground climbing frame, dressed in colourful sneakers and a football shirt. She’s about to head to cheerleading practice. Just nine-years-old, her life changed when her tearful, passionate speech to civic leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina went viral. It was sparked by the protests that dominated the news for days after a black man was shot dead here by police. The sight of Zianna, stretching up to reach the microphone while sobbing with emotion told a powerful story, and propelled her right to the heart of the US election campaign. ‘Once I stepped up on that stool I was brave enough to speak my heart out and just say what I had to say,” she told me. “I think I’m going to grow up to be a young black woman who speaks up for her community”. Sensing an opportunity, Hillary Clinton visited her on the campaign trail. Michelle Obama too, “she told me to keep on doing the good work, said you did something beautiful and she gave me a hug of good luck”.
Charlotte feels a lot like Washington DC right now. There are politicians everywhere you look, flocking here to shake hands and make promises, to win hearts and votes. It’s a concerted campaign of smooth flattery, in sharp contrast to the bitter words being exchanged on the Presidential campaign trail.
Jason waits tables at a barbecue joint in Plaza Midwood in the Charlotte suburbs. He only found out that Barack Obama had called in for lunch when his workmate Kathy sent him a photo of the two of them together. “I’m such a political junkie, I was distraught, I really was”. Kathy’s making the most of her moment though “I asked for a selfie, and he said how about a hug? This photo was on the front of the local paper, I was famous for five minutes”. The boss Kristen explained how it took them all by surprise, “it was about 30 minutes beforehand, the secret service came in, then let us know he’d be on his way”.
It isn’t always like this. In fact, between elections, people say it’s easy to feel forgotten about in North Carolina. Christopher Westmoreland is a farmer, tending 200 acres of crops and cattle. He’s the fourth generation of Westmoreland men to work the land, but five years ago things changed. It had always been a dairy farm, but it started to lose money, and good workers were thin on the ground. “My mother broke down and cried when the cows left, that’s all she’s ever known since she married my father. She will not vote for Hillary”. Have the candidates even talked about farming, I wondered? “No, absolutely not, I haven’t heard the first word about it”.
Charlotte may only be one city in a country of hundreds. But the issues it faces – be they fear or farming – show exactly how much America’s new President will have on their to-do list when they get started.
Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/anna-foster/north-carolina-election_b_12454836.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-politics&ir=UK+Politics