These voters love Trump because he listens
Last week I drove a 20-foot box from Brooklyn to Arkansas and back. Ostensibly, the purpose was to move a couple to Fayetteville for a fee. But this was a chance to take the temperature of that strange terrain we call Middle America.
Each day, after hours of driving, I’d tuck into a bar in some town and talk to the people. They had a lot to say.
First stop: Wheeling, W. Va. At a little sports bar called T.J.’s, I met Chuck, a Vietnam-era Navy vet who is concerned about American foreign policy but generally confident in President Trump. “If you’re a Democrat, he’s the worst thing since Stalin,” he told me. “If you’re a Republican, he’s Jesus.”
On Venezuela, Chuck wanted more aggressive policies; on the Middle East, less. But when I asked him about the Democrats running for president, he struck a note I’d hear over and over: He wasn’t sure how much they cared about average Americans.
Chuck was especially dumbfounded that all the wannabes at the second debate agreed illegal immigrants should get free health care, while ignoring the plight of people born here.
My next leg took me through Ohio, Indiana and most of southern Illinois.
In Vandalia, Ill., a little town that was once the state’s capital but now doesn’t have even Uber, I called Callie’s Cab Service to take me to a sociable bar. Callie herself picked me up.
Callie used to be a Democrat but no longer votes. When I asked her if Dems had moved too far left, she said no. “Not too far left — too far gone. They don’t care about Americans.”
At a bar called The Blind Society (a hipster paradise that looks like it should be in Greenpoint), Amy, the owner, was easy to spot: She sported a fantastic bob hairdo with blond highlights and was very much the woman in charge.
Amy described herself as a liberal, but not a progressive. She’s worried about Democrats’ socialist rhetoric. And this, as far as I could tell, was the far left of Vandalia.
Both Amy and an attorney I’d met earlier, Matt, had other options: They didn’t have to live in this beat, depressed town where they grew up, but they do. They have allegiance to this naïve concept known as “home.”
Where New Yorkers see decay, they see hope. They don’t want to see their way of life vanish.
In St. Robert, Mo., I had my most extensive conversation with strong Trump supporters. Sitting at a picnic table outside my hotel, I spoke with a family from North Carolina whose son just graduated from a nearby boot camp.
They told me they like Trump because he does what he says he’ll do and is for the people.
I asked about the disdain many feel toward him. One woman said she hears a lot about norms and how presidents are supposed to act. To this she generally responds: “You told me society’s reasons, not your reasons.”
Our conversation touched on myriad topics. In general, these folks, whose son had just pledged his life to our country, were tired of hearing about how awful America is. They think it’s pretty great.
The idea of removing Confederate statues even made them angry. “That’s our history, those statues aren’t hurting anyone,” they said.
This was a friendly, down-home group; they even let me hold their baby. Meanwhile, cars and trucks were coursing through this small center of giant America, where I could sense that many others felt as they did.
More than anything, people in this flyover country — which had smacked Northeastern sensibilities in the mouth by electing Trump — want to be heard.
They are tired of the lectures, tired of hearing what’s wrong with them, their towns, their lives — their country. Trump may be a bully and a tycoon from Queens, but they believe he listens, hears and understands.
They see a man who truly cares about them, who won’t toss their lifestyle into the dustbin of history and cover it over with a green, high-tech and service economy.
Theirs is an America New Yorkers rarely see, but one that is vibrant, full of life and dignity.
They aren’t asking for much. They simply want us to listen.
David Marcus is The Federalist’s New York correspondent.