South Sacramento considers the White House

Burt Clemons

Burt Clemons

Clemons survey

The turmoil and controversy in this year’s presidential election prompted me to get out into the community and find out what was being said about the candidates and how people were going to vote.

My questions were basic: What do people think about this election, and whom are they voting for? And, why were they even going to bother to vote, given the few remaining choices?

I chose two locations in South Sacramento for my sample poll: the FoodMax Shopping Center at Franklin Boulevard and Florin Road and the Mi Rancho Shopping Center at 24th Street and Florin. Both locations are very diverse with ethnic groups such as Latino, Black, Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Fijian, Middle Eastern and Caucasian.

I interviewed 109 people. Here are the ethnic percentages:

  • 47% African American
  • 27% Hispanic
  • 16% Caucasian
  • 8% Indian, Fijians
  • 8% Asian
  • Less than 1% Middle Eastern

To my dismay, I discovered that a lot of Asians, South Asians and older Latinos would not take time and speak with me. I wondered about that. Was it because they didn’t trust me? Is voting so personal that they wouldn’t talk anyone about it, particularly a stranger? Was it their culture or the language barrier? I tried to be as humble and polite as possible.

One 33-year-old Fijian woman, who gave her name as Shalini, told me it was a sign of fear. I even tried to get one 20-year-old East Indian man, Anthony, to get his mom to participate. His mom refused, but he happily answered all the questions.

The 2016 Presidential campaign trail is littered with many wounded and bruised candidates. It started with more than a dozen. However, it has still been one of the most exciting elections I’ve witnessed in my voting history. My first voting experience was in 1962.

People are restless and the establishment leaders are playing catch up this time around. There seems to be new rules being made each day.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is like that great heavyweight fighter, Mohammad Ali. Remember when you thought he was beat, he used his famous “Rope-A-Dope” tactic. He would let opponents use him as a punching bag, then bounce back and finish them off. They were fighting by the traditional strategy: hit, defend, clinch and trade punches. Not Ali.

Like Ali, Trump is talking smack, shouting and name calling, keeping his opponent off guard with personal attacks, being obnoxious and certainly being unconventional in everything he does and says.

Politicians have not seen a guy like Trump, especially someone who wants to be elected President of the United States. Politicians have always wanted his money and that’s all.

Trump is like the bully in grade school. He advocates hitting you, or shouting you down and knocking you out. Or he spreads insults and false claims about your family and character. He doesn’t even care if it’s true or not. He seemingly doesn’t care if what he says about you applies to him.

The Republican candidates knocked out by Trump’s unconventional tactics have no desire to get back into the fight.

As every student of history knows, you can win a lot of battles but eventually lose the war. The Republicans are trying to unify their party and Trump is standing in their way. On the other hand, Democrats are worried that Hillary Clinton’s past legal indiscretions will eventually be the undoing of her success at the polls, so each side must wait for its big end-of-the-war-victory-dance.

Wife Of A President And A Woman

One important factor stands out about Clinton. Thirty-five percent of our participants say they will vote for her because of her husband, Bill Clinton. They told me she would make a good president because she learned how to govern from her husband.

Patrice said she was voting for Hillary because she was a woman and that it was time for a woman to be president. Or, as another woman said, “Rule the world.”

Less than one percent said they would vote for Clinton because they believed she would continue in President Obama’s footsteps and maintain some of his policies. I sensed they felt she would follow Obama on some issues. They didn’t believe she would dismantle the Healthcare Initiative as Trump has vowed.

Gwen, a 54-year-old Black female, said Clinton would make a good president because, “She put up with Bill’s mess.”

Feel The Bern

Bernie Sanders, by contrast, is lagging behind in votes with only 19 percent. Either his supporters are very passionate about him and will vote, or they believe it doesn’t matter so they are not going to vote.

In the local and national news we hear that Sanders’ followers are typically young college students under the age of 30, but this survey revealed that he has an older following as well. They ranged in ages 19 to 57 and of all ethnicities. The common theme was that he is trustworthy.

Anthony, a 20-year old junior college student, knew a lot about Sanders’ record. He stated Sanders had opposed the Iraq war and he wanted to provide free healthcare and college tuition for all. He knew the Vermont senator supported the exposing of companies mentioned in the Panama Papers. Those papers exposed organizations that allowed the very rich to hide millions of dollars, some of it illegal, in money-laundering schemes.

Sanders supporters felt he was fighting for the little guy. Jo’Anna said, “He’s been in office a long time and he knows how to get things done.” She felt we shouldn’t just hand over the presidency to anyone. As I was listening to Sanders’ supporters, I wondered how many knew that he supported the crime bills of the 1980’s and 90’s, which put so many minorities in jail for non-violent crimes. Bill Clinton did too!

Make America Great Again

Nine percent of the people surveyed said they would vote for Trump. Only one African American, John, 66-years old, said if he was to vote Republican it would go for Trump. “God told me, Trump is playing a game on white people and the Republican Party. He’s going to get in there and turn things right. He ain’t doing it for money or power. I believe that and I’m no dummy,” John said.

Most of Trump’s supporters said they believed he would create jobs, a strong military and do away with big government interference and taxes.

Marty, a 58-year-old Caucasian, said Trump would shake up Washington.

Alan, a Middle Eastern 23-year-old, said Trump would decrease the national debt and make the environment safer and reduce the crime rate. Loretl, a 47-year-old Filipino, and Randy, a 59-year-old Asian, both said they liked Trump because, “He tells it like it is and I liked that.”

Betty, a 77-year-old Caucasian, had the most provocative and chilling comments about Trump. Betty said, “Trump is going to get elected and he’s going to be assassinated. I’m serious, the rumors are everywhere among my friends. He can’t be controlled and the elite, who run this country don’t like that. I talked to so many of my friends and they are all voting for him. They don’t want to tell people because they get ridiculed, because he does say some stupid shit sometimes. I’m sorry but he does, but I like the way he is thinking. This country is going into socialism. Go back into history, you can see where we are headed. It’s not good. It’s scary.”

Betty believes Mexican cartels are smuggling ISIS mem

bers across the boarder and she doesn’t care what Obama says. She wants someone who will stop it.

The Take Away

One thing I can say with certainty is, this project has been very interesting and fun. I listened to each person and tried to understand why they felt the way they did. Most respondents had strong convictions about their voting rights. That’s what’s important. There are some who might judge them and say if they aren’t informed, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. On the other hand, I’m in the group that says it’s their right and I don’t care how much they know about the candidates. If they are registered, voting is their right.

That reminds me of one conversation with an older Caucasian security officer, who declined my invitation to take part in this report. He felt there should be more restrictions and requirements for voters. I knew he was voting for Trump. I knew he was a Republican, and I knew he was a Rush Limbaugh listener. Yes, I’m showing prejudice here, but there are certain buzzwords that are common amongst particular Kool-Aid drinkers. So, in fairness, they have a right to believe whatever they want.

I conclude with these words:

Strong opinions aren’t worth anything if you don’t vote.


Burt Clemons

About Burt Clemons
Mr. Clemons is passionate about videography and photography, and was among the first photographers to document life among Sacramento homeless residents during the “Tent City” occupation that gained international attention in 2009. He has provided decades of community service to neighborhoods across Sacramento. A prime concern for him is the anger visible in many South Sacramento locations.

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