On election night, a small group of Trump supporters sat in lawn chairs watching Fox News in the Person County Republican headquarters. They and millions of other Americans witnessed one of the most erroneously predicted elections in U.S. history.
Yarborough and the rest of the the people at the watch party crowded around a dusty boombox radio placed on top of a cardboard box. A cardboard cutout of Trump overlooked the small gathering as they listened to the crackling radiocast of local election results.
“Person County is leaning Trump!” a man with his ear practically on the speaker shouted. Everyone in the room cheered.
Yarborough, tired from campaigning at the polls all day, was still smiling. Though it was only 8:30 p.m., the results were already tilted in his favor.
“I’ve got 58 percent, and that’s just from early voting,” he said as he refreshed the results on his smartphone. “They’re declaring me the winner up in Raleigh.”
Meanwhile, Parrish sat in his usual place at his desk watching the BBC’s live feed of presidential election results on his laptop while eating pizza. As the U.S. map filled with more and more red, his fellow Democrats felt uneasiness build up.
Parrish just laughed. He thought both candidates were equally terrible.
“If you just look at the perception of Donald Trump and the whole ‘Well, he’s a straight talker’ vibe people get, they say this because people want honesty from their politicians and they’re not getting it,” he said.
Parrish’s mother Cyndi Parrish disagreed with her son’s position on Clinton, but it didn’t surprise her that he felt such discontent with her.
“I am a very big rule follower, and I think Joe is probably an even bigger rule follower,” she said, sitting in the worn out recliner in her living room. “He tries to do the right thing, and he believes in being honest to accomplish the goals. But you have to build trust with people, too. That’s why I say sometimes too much [honesty] can get out of hand and start running against you.”
Honesty drove Parrish’s decisions in his campaign. It was the reason why he did not hide his asexuality from the world and why he would not support Clinton even though she was at the top of the ticket. It was the reason behind burning bridges with his local party, a risky move for a young politician.
Honesty was the reason why he didn’t think Clinton would be a better president than Trump.
On election night, Parrish’s best friend and campaign treasurer, Devon Bass, comes to visit. They play Call of Duty while occasionally checking the election results on Parrish’s laptop. Parrish and Bass plan to move back to Chapel Hill in December where they believe they can do more in politics as progressives.
Parrish hopes to work as a community organizer for the Orange County Democratic Party and facilitate change in Person County from the outside.
“Eventually North Carolina has to raise the bar and bring Person County up with it, but I don’t think anything is going to happen in Person County with the current actors there,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from this year, and in some ways I see this election as my last year of school. I have a lot more knowledge now, and I think I can carry that into Chapel Hill and do something positive with it.”
It didn’t take long for the results of his race to come in. Parrish lost to Yarborough 39 percent to 60 percent. In Person County, almost all of the Democrats lost their races.
He stayed awake until Trump was announced the winner of the presidential election, not shocked that he was able to defeat Clinton. At 3 a.m., Parrish crawled into his coffin-like bed among his childhood Space Jam curtains, Looney Tunes wall hangings and Star Wars Lego figurines he will soon leave behind and fell asleep.