As Lucas Cameron sees it, there’s no way this election can end well. “Trump will win the popular vote by a landslide, and then the Electoral College will give it to Clinton,” he told me as his wife, Nikki, drove us through the rolling mountains of northeast Tennessee. Their home-schooled 12-year-old son, Jonathon, sat in the back, sipping on a McDonald’s drink, placidly gazing out the window as his father laid out some fairly terrifying scenarios. “By spring, we’ll be in a proxy war with Russia and going at it hard with Iran,” Lucas said. Things don’t look much better if Trump, his preferred candidate, wins. “If Trump is elected, Black Lives Matters goes crazy,” he says. “And Obama won’t let him take office. He’ll declare martial law so he can stay another four years.” If he does, and Trump takes office, “a recession is guaranteed.”
But luckily, Lucas and Nikki have been preparing for years—for nuclear war, for social unrest, for economic meltdown, and all kind of biblically prophesied turmoil. A completely insane election is just one more possibility for how it all ends, and people like them—so-called preppers, who were once known as survivalists—are ready. The Camerons have bought a plot of a land in a remote stretch of Tennessee, which I wasn’t allowed to see for fear of compromising the secrecy of its location. They are almost done building a tiny house—144 square feet, to be exact—which they’ll put on the property and plant creeping vines and tall bushes to hide it from prying (government) eyes. It’ll have solar panels on its roof and there will be wind turbines on the property, which means they won’t need to rely on the electric grid. And, of course, they’ve stocked up on weapons and ammunition.
He and Nikki run a business, Off Grid Contracting, to help others prepare for any modernity-ending eventuality, and what they’ve found is that the 2016 election has been a massive boost. “I’ve just never seen as many people prepping as there are now,” Lucas said. His friend Kevin O’Brien, a local realtor who specializes in helping people find plots of land to go off-grid, says, “My phone has been ringing off the hook.” I asked them to show me, using their forearms to mimic the slope of a graph, how demand has changed. Instead, both men imitated a rocket ship taking off.
“People are getting ready,” Kevin said. “The can has been kicked down the road so many times. It’s a mathematical probability that the dollar will collapse.”
While the rest of the country expects—or at least hopes—the election will put a merciful end to the chaos of campaign season, the Camerons are among the many Americans who think it will only get worse. The end of the campaign, many in this community believe, is only the beginning: The really bad stuff will begin the day after the election. “I’ll be honest with ya, I think some things are going to go down,” Lucas told me.
“Nobody takes Obama seriously,” he said, “but the two people who are running for office—a lot of people are scared that he’ll hit the nuclear button without even taking a breath, and that she’s so wicked that I won’t be surprised if she opens the floodgates of ISIS to come in and kill all Americans.” Though most of his clients, like him, support Trump, he says, “Most all of them expect there will be riots in either case.”
In a way these clowns are proof of the oldest of adages about fools, money and parting. On the other hand, how much paranoia and fear have these folks been fed to make them this way, and to rope their families, businesses and entire lives into this movement?
On the gripping hand, these guys are mostly Trump supporting "sovereign citizen" Bundy Ranch militia-types anyway, so if anything I'd be keeping a careful law enforcement eye on them. They fit the profile, as the saying goes.