Susan Peebles’s farm in sunny coastal Alabama doesn’t seem like the sort of place for dark talk of armed rebellion and “the downfall of America.”
The 57-year-old Donald Trump loyalist grows a modest crop of soybeans and peanuts on 400 acres in Lillian, Ala., near the border with Florida. When the season’s right, Peebles Farm welcomes families for blackberry picking.
“Oh, we just get by,” she says with a chuckle.
Peebles, a gentle-spoken Southerner, was wearing a psychedelic “We Are the Trumpions” T-shirt last week depicting Trump staring down a lion. But from the wood-panelled living room where she blares Fox News for the conservative musings of Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, her timid manner dissolved as she spoke of “revolution,” a term that to some ears carries a whisper of violence.
“It’s a call to action,” Peebles said. And should Trump lose, “it’s time for this country to react.”
What that means is anyone’s guess. Like most farmers in rural Alabama, Peebles keeps shotguns for blasting crop-munching possums. She’s among an untold number of Trump “truth seekers” who remain unsure how, or whether, they would accept Democrat Hillary Clinton as commander-in-chief.
Peebles dismisses Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke’s heated remarks about “pitchforks and torches time” as well as former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh‘s tweet that he’ll be “grabbing my musket” to protest a Clinton win.
It’s typical media spin, she says. Just making mountains of molehills.
On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump.
On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.
But while Peebles agrees civil disobedience ought to be a last resort, she cites a history of resisting “tyranny” as a precedent.
“It was time for revolution when this country was born. Remember George Washington. Those Founding Fathers at the time, they were traitors to the English Crown, and yet look at the way we look back at them now.”
If there was a human cost, she reasons, such was the price of liberty.
“Yes, there was violence. But unfortunately, sometimes that’s what it comes to.”
Trump has played coy about whether he would concede peacefully and help to unify the nation should he lose. “I will keep you in suspense,” he told debate moderator Chris Wallace.
A round of God Bless America to kick off this Trump/Pence bus tour for Alabama Republican officials in Mobile pic.twitter.com/P7QwSjlEQm
“Horrifying,” Clinton said of the remark, which pundits slammed as anger-stoking rhetoric.
At a recent Republican rally in Mobile, though, supporters in “Deplorable”-branded gear adopted the same foreboding tone as they greeted a Trump-Pence bus carrying state GOP grandees.
PJ Owens, a 76-year-old “super volunteer” at Trump’s Mobile County headquarters, fears widespread in-person voter fraud, a phenomenon that, according to a 2014 Washington Post investigation, does not exist in any way that could affect results.
As with many Trump supporters in the Bible Belt, the retired teacher buys into some falsehoods about Clinton.
With charged language, for example, she echoed Trump’s claims that Clinton plans to abolish the Second Amendment (“You can bet your dollar on this, they will take your guns away from you”); that Clinton supports unlimited abortion on demand (“Right up until a baby is born, it’s fine with her to go ahead and murder the baby”); that a biased liberal media is colluding with the Clinton machine (“The papers are all a bunch of liberal leftists”); and that the Democrats will use voter fraud to cheat their way into the Oval Office.
The 2008 Democratic election of Barack Obama was stolen, Owens believes. “The one we have in office now,” she added, is “no doubt a Muslim” born in Indonesia. (In fact, the president was born in Hawaii and is a Christian.)
Owens is ready to protest the election outcome.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen this time, but it probably won’t be good,” she said. “It’s more than scary.”
Paradoxically, voters claiming Clinton will cheat her way to the White House also predict Trump will triumph next Tuesday.
Revolution is something discussed with hushed voices among Trump’s red-meat base in Mobile. There’s strong denial in Alabama, a bubble of rigid Southern Republicanism, about Trump’s slim presidential odds. And Clinton’s lead over Trump has slipped in some polls while the FBI revives its investigation into her emails.
Mickey Sheffield, 83, a retired aluminum plant worker who attended last week’s Republican event in Mobile, trusts his eyes more than any scientific polls. With the massive crowds at Trump’s campaign events, he reckons this election can’t go any way but in Trump’s favour.
Otherwise, he’s bracing for civil disobedience.
“We pray that don’t happen, but it’s a possibility. People’s real upset.”
From her living room, Peebles streams every Trump rally she can. She counts video views and up-votes, and she compares the number of positive comments to those on Clinton videos.
By this calculus, she’s certain “there’s going to be a very huge turnout for Trump,” and that he can’t lose. This, despite mainstream media reports and recent polls being in near-universal agreement that Clinton is leading by margins as large as 13 points.
The polls are suspect in the South, though, as is the integrity of the electoral process.
Peebles has volunteered to be a “Trump election observer” to prevent voter fraud. Last week, a video circulated among conservatives suggesting that glitchy voting machines in Texas were “vote-switching” from Trump to Clinton. Those reports began circulating on Breitbart, a popular website that has trafficked in alt-right-related stories.
For up to nine hours a day, Peebles researches Clinton’s “corruption” on sources like Breitbart, TruthFeed, InfoWars, the Conservative Treehouse and Right Side Broadcasting, amassing a 7,000-plus following on Twitter since she activated her account in January to spread Trump’s vision.
‘The downfall of this country’
“If Hillary wins, I believe it’s going to be the downfall of this country. I mean, I just don’t see how the country can survive,” Peebles said.
Although Trump has refused to vow he would facilitate a peaceful transition of power, Peebles doesn’t object to the wait-and-see approach. That is, wait and see how the election results shake out.
“That’s what we’re trying to do now, is have the peaceful transition of power, that’s what Trump is trying to do,” she said.
And if the result proves unfavourable for her candidate?
“Like I say, we’ll have to see how it goes. We’ll see what the people are willing to do.”