On a sunny afternoon last week, I went back to my old neighborhood. Outside the public elementary school my little brother attended, softball practice was underway. Krista Taylor, a 41-year-old nurse with brown hair in a ponytail, sat on a blanket in the shade, supervising another mom’s toddlers in a playpen.
“I am usually a Republican, but I am not a big Trump fan,” she told me. “I just don’t feel confident that he can be the leader of our country. But I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life, and I’m not sure whether I’m ready to do that, either.” She was hoping the debates would help her make up her mind.
I went to my old house—my parents moved away a decade ago—and rang the doorbell. Nobody was home; a hulking Ford Expedition sat in the driveway. Whitney Vanzel, a 32-year-old photographer, passed by in flip-flops, taking an evening walk. “When you’re trying to hire someone for a job and you can’t find the right person, you keep interviewing,” she told me. That was what she proposed to do in the presidential race: Postpone the election for eight months or so and start over to find new, better candidates.
“Neither of them are my preference,” she said. “I wish we had a system where there was someone else.” A Republican, she planned to reluctantly vote for Trump, but she was also considering the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.
At the King Soopers where my mother used to buy groceries, I met Claudio Herrera, a 38-year-old ski instructor and “entrepreneur” who grew up in another part of the state. Herrera, whose sunglasses perched atop his shaggy brown hair, didn’t even want to call himself an “independent,” because that’s a category, and he doesn’t like categories.
“Billary was great the last time, so of the two idiots, we might as well have the one who did a good job before,” he said. Trump, with his million-dollar inheritance and multiple bankruptcies, didn’t seem like someone he could trust. “But I don’t trust any politicians. I don’t trust the system,” he said.
Dick Wadhams was adamant: Colorado, he insisted, was still a swing state. A former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, he has been working at a high level in state and national politics since his first paying job, on the Gerald Ford campaign. But this fall, rather than work to elect another Republican candidate, his political activity consists of commentary for a local television station.
A hangdog look came into Wadhams’s blue eyes as we shared a pitcher of coffee at a Village Inn off Interstate 25 in Denver. The state, he said, “is only blue right now because of the candidates leading the ticket.”
Wadhams had hoped to be spending his autumn differently. At the beginning of the year, he signed on with a candidate for U.S. Senate, Jack Graham, whom he believed had what it took to beat the incumbent Democrat, Senator Michael Bennet. Graham, a former business executive and athletic director at Colorado State University, was a pro-choice former Democrat from San Francisco, running as a moderate in a party that has been doing its best to purge the ideologically impure in recent years.