Two days before the election, Vice President Biden made his way back to Scranton, Pa. for a rally to spur people to the polls. The scene outside that rally was a microcosm of the split that the 2016 presidential race has spurred.

For those heading to the small event space at Johnson College a bit north of town, it wasn't hard to figure which exit on Route 81 was the appropriate one. A large semi was parked at the off-ramp, covered with anti-Hillary Clinton images and blurbs.


A truck parked near the Biden venue. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

A man standing nearby in a ball cap promoting a Las Vegas-area casino declined to give his name. The truck wasn't his, he said, he was just there to put up Trump-Pence lawn signs. But, he assured me, "it's all true."

"She's said so many other things," he said. While he didn't agree with the language Trump has used during the campaign, he said the election was a case of Donald Trump's words versus Clinton's actions. He described a conspiracy theory in which a former employee accused Clinton of racism and ended up dead. "So many people have been lost because of these criminals," he added.


Matoushek. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

At the venue itself, three men waited for attendees at a picnic table with relatively sober signs by the standards of this campaign season. Kirk Matoushek, 55, described why he was there: healthcare costs. He wasn't on Obamacare, he said, but his costs had spiked and he blames the losses his insurer saw on the Obamacare exchanges.

Joe Granteed, 60, agreed. His premiums had gone up and he was there to "make a statement." "I got behind Donald Trump the moment he opened his mouth," Granteed said -- though he, too, was quick to note that he didn't agree with all of Trump's language. He also didn't like how Clinton had portrayed Trump supporters.

"None of us are racist," Granteed said. "None of us hate anybody."

On the sidewalk approaching the hilltop venue a short while later, Janet Friedman, 67, offered a differing opinion.

"Hillary Clinton is right," she said. "Anyone who votes for Trump is deplorable."

Friedman's half-brother died in Auschwitz. Her father was imprisoned there and was later liberated from Bergen-Belsen. Her mother, who'd escaped the Warsaw ghetto, told her on her deathbed last year that she was worried about Trump. Friedman had recently moved from New Jersey to northeastern Pennsylvania and said she felt like "I fell into Trumpland."

"I've been teaching the Holocaust for 40 years," she said. "I'm in shock. I cannot believe how stupid Americans are! They say they'll never forget -- they forgot!"


Friedman. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Just then, Matoushek approached, holding his sign. A representative of the college had asked him and his friends to leave, he said, and he wanted to let me know.

I asked why they'd had to leave. "That's what this party represents," Matoushek said: Censorship.

Friedman confronted him, asking him about reports of an armed man standing outside a polling place in Virginia, suggesting that the Republican Party stood for voter intimidation.

Matoushek responded with the much-cited story of members of the New Black Panther Party standing outside a polling place in 2008. Those men, he said, had been excused by Eric Holder.

Frustrated, Friedman mentioned the allegations of sexual assault against Trump, saying that she'd seen him do it herself when she lived in New York. It was clear that she'd lost patience with the conversation. But she got the last word.

"I know how Hitler came to power!" she said as she walked away. "And Trump is following that to the letter!"

Matoushek didn't reply. He and his friends walked down to the sidewalk near the university to hold their signs and give a thumbs up to anyone that honked. A number of people did.