American Voter: Lee Pulliam

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

American Voter Lee Pulliam's top election issue is equality [Courtesy of Lee Pulliam]
American Voter Lee Pulliam's top election issue is equality [Courtesy of Lee Pulliam]

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”, while 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.

Lee Pulliam

American Voter Lee Pulliam [Courtesy of Lee Pulliam]
Age: 71
Occupation: Attorney, Poet

Residence: Broward County, Florida

Voted in 2016: Hillary Clinton

Will vote in 2020: Joe Biden                                                                           

Top election issue: Equality

Will you vote? why or why not?

“I always vote. However, I think this is a very important election and the reason I think that is because of COVID-19 and the inability of this current administration to deal with that effectively. However, there are a number of other issues associated with this president and his entourage that I feel that I need to lend my voice to.”

What is your number one issue?

“I think that number one, I would like to try and level the playing field with respect to minorities and women in this country. I have over my lifetime – I have seen and been subject to a number of instances where minorities and women – it seems that we usually have to have what I call ‘the Jackie Robinson syndrome’. We have to be superstars just to get on the field in terms of our qualifications and then we also have to have the temperament to deal with corporate America.

“I’m in the legal profession, even the legal side of all social situations or legal situations – it is not enough for us to be competent. We have to be superstars. And I remember someone saying a long time ago, with respect to the issue of equality, why is it that minorities and women can’t be average? Like white men. Not that I believe that they’re all average. But why? Why? Why can’t we be senators? As white men who are very average – they’re senators, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers. There are precedents for them, but not us. We have to be Obama and sometimes even that isn’t enough. We have to be Jackie Robinson. We have to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And sometimes that’s not enough. So that’s my number one issue. I’d like to see the playing field levelled.”

Who will you vote for?

“I am voting for Joe Biden, and while I don’t think he is the perfect candidate, the choice is clear for me in this election. I want to be past the racism. I want to be past the misogyny. I want to be past the ineptitude of this current administration and the input from people like himself, not billionaires, but people like himself. So I do have some issues with Joe but it is not enough in this election to focus on. It was clear to me who I was going to vote for.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“The main reason was he was running against Trump. That’s the main reason. However, I’ve watched him over the years. I watched him with respect to his service to our country as being the vice president to Barack. I watched with respect to the hardships that he’s endured with his family and how he’s kept his faith and persevered. I’ve watched him even during the Anita Hill discourse and I wasn’t happy with him then – I think that he could have done better. But who among us doesn’t make mistakes? So, you know, overwhelmingly, the more I heard him and heard about his policies with respect to healthcare, with respect to how he would attempt to bring the country together, how he would try and improve our standing on the international stage. Again, it’s clear to me is there’s just no question about it, that I should vote.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“Absolutely not. Starting with the pandemic and how poorly that has been handled by this administration and even today they have the ostrich approach to how to handle that situation. Immigration is terrible. This country was built on the backs of immigrants and people who came to this country and contributed to this country. And the way that this president, who, by the way, is married to an immigrant, the way he talks about immigrants and his policies toward immigrants are deplorable.

“Our stature in the world as well – I’ve had the good fortune to be able to travel quite a bit internationally. And wherever I went in the past, America was looked at as the leader of the free world. I’m also a military veteran and I take a great deal of pride in that as well and we were the gold standard. And now – I still don’t know, having witnessed it in real-time, how this current administration has taken the United States down a level or two. I don’t know if I were to travel, I don’t know if I feel proud to call myself American at this point, given what our president has done with the Paris accord, given what he’s done with immigration, climate change, the military, what he’s done to our court system. I don’t know. If I could echo one of my favourite poets, Langston Hughes’s ‘I, too am America. I, too, am an American.’ I don’t know if I can give that speech with as much resonance and pride that Langston wrote about back during the Harlem Renaissance.”

What would you like to see change?

“I would like for the new regime to come in with empathy and a plan. Joe Biden has talked to a lot about with respect to dealing first with the COVID-19 situation. I would like to see healthcare guaranteed for people who can’t afford basic healthcare services. I’d like to see that enacted. I would like to see more respect for the climate change issue, for our government to acknowledge that something is happening with respect to our climate and what we can do in order to try to reverse it or if not, to slow it down. So I would like to see real policies rather than someone giving tax breaks to the rich.

“I would like to see more equality with respect to economic issues flowing down to the people who are in the streets looking for ways to survive day by day. I would like to see talk about economic disenfranchisement with respect to people of colour and poor people. I’d like to see the organisations like Ida’s Legacy that I’m affiliated with that uplifts and talks about the good that people of colour have done in order to fight these issues that are affecting their communities here today.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“Normally my answer would be no but if there is a change in the presidency? Absolutely. There are just too many very basic issues that are going on. The dog whistles to the Alt-Right, QAnon, and other organisations like that, is just wrong. It would be wrong if they weren’t right-[wing]. It would be wrong if they were militant Black organisations that were causing harm to our community. But it’s not so. And our leader, unfortunately, is giving a wink and a nod and not even that anymore, just hollering it out over a bullhorn – you know, ‘I want you out there poll watching’. Nothing good is going to come from a group of people – men and women, going to the polls with ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.

“And by the way, I wanted to ask, how are we going to make America great again? How are we? When are we going back to? Slavery? Was that when America was great? Are we going to the Jim Crow era when all the lynchings and other atrocities took place with respect to people of colour? Are we going back to pre-suffrage when women could not vote? What exactly are they talking about when they say Make America Great Again? I’m sorry. That was rhetorical, but that’s how I feel about it.”

What’s your biggest concern for the US?

“I recall that I used to be able to go to a newspaper stand and get news, sporting news, political news. And now with all this so-called fake news, even though I do support and I believe in good journalism, I take a longer time to assess is what I’ve read really true? Maybe in a way that’s a good thing. But the way that has been damaged – it’s going to take this country a long time to come back from that. So my biggest concern is this country getting back to normal, whatever normal will be, in the future. I’m afraid that this administration has done something to this country that is going to take a long time to recover from.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you would like to say?

“I’d like to emphasise the power of the vote and how important it is. People for years and centuries lived and died for the opportunity for people to vote so I think it’s important that we all, regardless of our political affiliation, get out and vote.”

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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