American Voter: Lila Ann Weller

Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.

Lila Ann Weller's top election issue is getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control [Courtesy of Lila Ann Weller]

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Lila Ann Weller

[Courtesy of Lila Ann Weller]

Age: 23

Occupation: Bookseller 

Residence: Salt Lake County, Utah 

Voted in 2016 for: Hillary Clinton

Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden

Top Election Issue: Getting COVID Pandemic Under Control

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“Yes, I will absolutely vote in the upcoming election. I consider voting very important. But I think it’s safe to say this is one of the most pivotal elections that I’ll see in my lifetime. I know that in my nation where we’re very attached to the Electoral College, we just flat out know that not every vote counts. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to exercise that right at this, like I said, a very crucial moment in our history.”

What is your number one issue?

“That is such a tough question. I struggle with it every time! Usually, I try to narrow it down into my top three, and if I were to do that today, it would come down to the umbrella issue of resource equity, because that branches off into everything.

“But as things are in the US, right now, my number one issue is getting the pandemic under control in our nation. I don’t think that we have the capacity to focus on anything else when we’re just literally trying to survive day-to-day. I work in retail – I’m the fourth generation in a local independently owned bookstore, and service workers and retail workers – we’re feeling it right now – everyone is. It’s a daily struggle for those of us who are dealing with the public on the front lines.”

Who will you be voting for?

“I will be voting for Joe Biden.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“He is not my ideal candidate by any means. I always hoped for a more progressive candidate who better represents my ideals and demographics – who aren’t heard or served. But that said, he isn’t Donald Trump.

“He is a person who can speak in coherent sentences, at least a large portion of the time. He’s a person who stands up for the rights of people who are neglected by our system presently. I’m a genderqueer person – I’m a sapphic queer, sexually, genderqueer, gender-wise. And that does make me one of those demographics that is very much in danger right now. I know that [Biden] is a person – especially with Kamala on his side as VP – who will be able to stand up for our rights, at least a little bit.

“A lot of these questions feel very different than they would have a couple of years ago. I used to have this feeling that the US moves more slowly than other nations, but we are moving in a productive direction. And I felt that way up until, like I said, a couple of years ago. And now I am just hoping that we can eventually get back on that track. And I know that while Joe Biden doesn’t represent me in a number of ways that I hoped for, he is our only hope to getting there.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“I am incredibly demoralised by the state of the country right now. Like I mentioned, that false progression narrative that I had in my head is totally obliterated now. And I struggle to see a way out of this. Honestly, there are a lot of things that need to change rapidly in order for us to be able to consider ourselves even a ‘developed nation,’ if that makes sense.

“It’s such a big question. I’ve never been more unhappy with the state of our nation. I’m shaking in my boots. I’ve been talking with my partner and my co-workers, in particular, over the past couple of days, as we’re listening to the hearings to find out who our new Supreme Court Justice will be – and I think we know at this point. If she does get into the Supreme Court, we’re about to see a lot of rights that we have spent – our foreparents have spent their entire lives – not to mention our entire lives, fighting for just out the window like that. We’re going to be back to back-alley abortions. I might lose the right to get married someday. It’s very scary.

“Queer people, LGBTQ folks, in my community, we’re losing our medical protections, we are losing our right to public services like access to homeless shelters – you can be turned away on the basis of your gender now – it’s very frightening. And these things are all happening so rapidly, that it’s hard to focus on any one thing and really find a concrete way to address it.”

What would you like to see change?

“A big one for me is our healthcare. I know in our nation that the top two expenses for people are housing and healthcare. And as a person who works in retail and an independent business, I don’t get healthcare through my job— the Affordable Care Act has been incredibly important to my survival, and that’s yet another thing that we might have to say goodbye to very soon. And that’s also very scary.

“Getting socialised healthcare, like every other developed nation in the world has at this point, it would be a huge thing for us [to get] affordable housing – where I live, the cost of housing has gone up, just hugely in my lifetime. I don’t know anyone in the Salt Lake Valley who can live by themselves unless they’re living in low-income housing, specifically.

“And then just going back to what I mentioned before, I would really, really like to see the human rights that we have fought so hard to have maintained. I would really like to be able to marry my partner someday and both raise a child together legally. I would really like to have access to safe, legal abortion if I need one in the next few years. And I would really like to see qualified immunity end for police officers – it’s something else that we can hope for in our future.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I do believe it’s going to change a lot, but not in the clean, issue-oriented way that you might hope for like we’ve been discussing right here. I don’t believe that we’re going to see immediate change on any of these specific issues. What I’m really thinking about right now is fingers crossed that Biden wins and we don’t get another four years of what we have now. I can’t even visualise what we would be if that’s what ends up happening.

“But even if that does happen, what really scares me now is the backlash that we see in American culture. We saw it after Obama was elected, and I am one of the folks who believes that that conservative, alt-right backlash is largely what led us to the political state we’re in now. So trying to imagine what that’s going to be – if we do get our best-case scenario – is another one of those things that’s weighing on me heavily right now.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“I think that once again, I have to say it is getting the coronavirus under control. For those of us who in particular are working class, it is very hard to take action in other spheres when you are just trying to survive.

“All of these wonderful political movements and uprisings and community rallies that are going on across the nation – it’s powerful and surprising considering these circumstances and the risk that people are taking to stand up for these values – it’s amazing. It warms my heart to see us come together like this, but it’s so supremely unfair that we have to fight for these rights that we should already have in this era of – well, it’s not only the sociopolitical issues, but it’s literally that you’re putting your life at risk when you take the time to get out and organize with your community. Whether that’s at a rally … whether you’re working the polls, whether you’re voting yourself, you are putting your life at risk right now to do that. And that’s really commendable and very unfair.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?

“One thing that’s really interesting about this election, I think, is that the millennial generation in numbers has outstripped the boomer generation. And we know from the previous presidential election that there is a very strong cultural divide there. For instance, a very, very high percentage of white women over 50 voted for Donald Trump. You don’t see the same numbers [with] the millennials.

“And so what I’m really hoping right now is that – you can tell that I’m demoralised, and frustrated and tired by what’s going on – but I’m hoping that we collectively, as a generation, can maintain our momentum and energy through the election, and show up. Because I can’t tell you what it is about us that makes it so hard for us to actually show up and vote. That is a huge issue!  And if we can manage to do it, it’ll make a really big difference. We have a lot of power there. I’m so frustrated, but at the same time, it’s not time to get lackadaisical about it. We just need to keep powering forward.”

Source: Al Jazeera