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Saturday, March 23, 2019

ALGONAC, Mich. (Reuters) – Back in April, there were already early signs in this quiet Michigan town of the rural American discontent that helped propel Donald Trump to election victory, even if it was underestimated by the Washington establishment, pollsters and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

On a return visit after Tuesday’s election, Reuters found that many of Algonac’s 4,000 residents were jubilant that Trump had captured the White House, although there were also echoes of what some people said seven months ago: that he is an uncertain, high-stakes gamble.

But the bare fact of his success drew only shrugs: Who else did city folks really expect would win?

Reuters first visited this town on a bend of the St. Clair River in April after results from the Republican and Democratic parties’ primary elections suggested it might be a hotbed of the dissatisfaction with the status quo that would become a dominant force by November.

It was a town in a county in a state that all disproportionately turned out in the primaries for the unexpected outsider candidates: the Republican Trump, a rich real-estate developer and television star who had never held political office; and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who had emerged as Clinton’s closest rival for the Democratic Party nomination.

Trump went on to win his party’s nomination, while Sanders was beaten by Clinton.

Even though they came at the problem from very different perspectives, both men had fired up a town that was in a sour mood, striking a chord with their talk of a rigged economic system and their loud disgust at the decline of American manufacturing.

Algonac leans Republican, and, on both visits, it took no time at all to find Trump fans, and only a little longer to find Sanders fans. But it took days of asking around to find someone with a warm word for Clinton. On Tuesday, the vote in Algonac was 68 percent for Trump, 27 percent for Clinton.

STRUGGLING REGION

Residents of Algonac can easily list the relatives and neighbors who have struggled with the painful decline of manufacturing or who were forced to move after auto factories with well paid union jobs an hour away in the Detroit area shut down or moved abroad.

Older residents recall decades back when Algonac was still a proud self-sufficient manufacturing hub, employing scores of locals at the Chris-Craft factory, which turned out photogenic wooden boats that remain prized by wealthy collectors.

Pete Beauregard has turned the factory into a harbor club where the town’s summer visitors stow their boats.

“The rural area is going to want to be heard,” he said, delighting in Trump’s victory.

Up the road, Jay DeBoyer was in a dive bar he had worked in as a younger man, drinking an afternoon glass of water and dressed in a suit he had worn to deliver St. Clair County’s final elections results to the courthouse in his role as county clerk.

“The center of the country is what put Donald Trump in office,” he said.

“If the economy’s okay, they shut their mouths and go to work,” he said, describing the sort of people who live in places like Algonac, where 97 percent of residents are white.

“But if you start to smack them, when you start telling the guys working in a coal mine in West Virginia, ‘For the good of the country, we’re going to put you out of a job, for the good of cleaner air we’re going to put you out of a job,’ then you start to create a constituency of people that fall into a category of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'”

CRUDE TERMS FOR CLINTON

Mentioning Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, tended to draw scorn among Algonac residents in April, even among some Democrats who said they viewed her as untrustworthy.

Her election loss and emotional concession speech this week appeared not to soften this, with some expressing their ill-feeling in crude terms.

“Trump That Bitch,” reads a tall wooden sign alongside the main road into town, evoking a familiar anti-Clinton slogan among Trump fans.

Seeing it being photographed, Paul Paulus, 73, wandered out from the building where he was regreasing old tractors to boast he had built it entirely himself.

Some of his neighbors, particularly women, had told Reuters on both visits that, even if they disliked Clinton, they despaired at the insults and coarse language that Trump and his fans had reveled in. Paulus described his victory over such qualms.

“They had tried to get the township to take it down,” he said, smiling at the memory of the fight as he looked up at his sign. “But the township said it’s not coming down as ‘bitch’ is not a bad word. It’s a female dog.”

Jan Evans, a devout 64-year-old Christian who runs a store making slogan t-shirts for the local schools’ sports teams, said she thought there were better ways to talk about people. But she sympathized with the sort of anxiety that moved people to support Trump.

She recently learned that her monthly health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a healthcare law that Trump has said he will repeal and replace, would go from $120 to $357. But she worried that Trump’s victory would not help, either; she did not know what his healthcare plans were as he has not given details.

She said that when she voted, she filled out down-ballot lines for local and state elections and left the presidential vote until the end to give her more time to think.

“Neither one really deserved it,” she said of Clinton and Trump. Her pen hovered for quite a while, but she declined to say where on the ballot it landed.

“Everybody, they’re a little bit frightened, they’re hopeful, they know we need change,” she said of Trump’s victory. “But this is the change?”

(Editing by Jason Szep and Frances Kerry)

IMAGE: A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign at a Trump campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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4 responses to “America Should Have Seen Trump Coming”

  1. We did see it coming back in the 60’s with Nixon and the States Rights groups which he courted; we saw it with Goldwater’s run for election; again in the Reagan era and the ratcheting up of Law and Order talk; we saw it again during the Bush-Cheney failed experiment; and we saw it immediately the moment Trump stepped forward to toss his hat in the ring in order to add another self-glowing entry in his personal resume.

    Unfortunately, at least half of America was too blind or could care less about the dangers posed by increasing divisiveness in America. For them, limited unity” based on “race”, religion, ethnicity, national origins, were(and are) more important than a higher Unity that transcends such limited unities. Limited unities can only yield limited results which any sensible and reflective person would readily see. Alas, many Americans have abandoned the idea of reflection and pondering, and instead opt for knee-jerk reactions and shallow thinking.

    FOX, the alt-Right, blaming for wrong reasons jobs going away, and exclusionary and insular sentiments, have all colluded together to blind the inner eyes of many in the (dis)United States of America. And we note that many children of those in “The Red Zone” are encouraged to mimic the anger and bias of their parents.

    • kep says:

      You people really are blind, stupid drones, aren’t you??

    • Jon says:

      There are so many Trump voters who are unthinking numb-brained zombies who look physically human but have nothing inside. There have been thousands of reports from school teachers, administrators, and counselors who have seen a huge uptick in bullying and threats by the children of Trumpanzees. They tell nonwhite children that Trump is sending them and/or their parents back to their country of origin despite the U.S. being their country of origin in some cases. They chant “build the wall” “killiary” and “white power” among other hateful chants.
      I saw a woman I knew from college for the 1st time since the election who had an interesting story about Trump and her family. She married a man who barely completed high school. He is stupid and proud. He works 30 hours a week and spends most of his free time watching Fox News cheering like he’s watching a ball game when he hears news he wants to hear.. She works 40 to 60 hours a week. They have 3 boys with the oldest in 4th grade, one in 2nd grade and the youngest in kindergarten. She was a Bernie voter until he didn’t get the Democratic nomination and then supported Hillary. Her neanderthal husband is a Trump maniac. She doesn’t argue politics with him because he is too stupid and opinionated. He goes around in front of their children worshiping Trump and saying racist and hateful things.
      She said the school had the students vote in a mock presidential election. She asked each child how he voted. The 2 youngest said they voted for Trump. When asked why they said because Dad said we had to vote for him and Hillary is a bad woman. Her 4th grader said he voted for Hillary. When asked why he said that the kids who were voting for Trump were mean kids.

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