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What I Learned From Reading All The Media Safaris Into ‘Trump Country’ I Could Handle Before Wanting To Die

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This was the year the political media couldn’t stop reminding us of the forgotten Americans. All year long, outlets parachuted reporters into “Trump Country” to observe his voters in their habitat — “Cletus safari” is the derisive term of art — and the reporters returned with tenderly crafted soft-focus portrait after tenderly crafted soft-focus portrait of people aching to say the n-word.

Trump supporters are mad, reporters told us. Maybe you’ve heard? They’re mad at the establishment, they’re mad at Democrats, and most of all, they’re mad that they’ve been left behind. (And of course a lot of them are mad at black people, and many even say as much, but we try not to talk about that part.) 

These stories were a sort of pornography. They existed less as a way of explaining the country to their audience than as a way for media outlets to gratify themselves, or perhaps to atone for the perceived sin of overlooking Trump supporters the year before. Some profiles offered insight; many more did not. But together, in their sheer bulk, they illuminated a larger story: the longstanding media habit of indexing the American political narrative to the sanctified yearnings of a narrow slice of white voter. Reagan Democrats, independent voters, the “undecided,” soft Republicans — no matter how small their number, no matter how wide the electoral margin, these groups always become the axis on which the story of every election turns. 

In 2017, the story was deemed to be the rural Trump diehard and his or her unflagging support for the president. Below are 36 such Trump supporter profiles published in the past year, 36 being the number I was able to read without melting my brain. 

What we learned: Racist Trump supporters support Trump because he is racist.

Jan. 8, 9News

What we learned: Trump supporters support Trump.

What we learned: Trump supporters support Trump.

What we learned: Trump supporters support Trump.

What we learned: Trump supporters, though unhappy with the president’s tweets, still support Trump.

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

What we learned: Hesitant Trump supporters still hesitantly support Trump.

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

Feb. 19, The Washington Post

“Trump supporters see a successful president — and are frustrated with critics who don’t”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“It was hilarious to see him give it to the media,” said Tony Lopez, 28, a car dealer who drove to the rally from Orlando. “The media’s problem is that they keep wanting to make up stories so that he looks bad. It doesn’t work. He’s talking right through you guys.”

Feb. 26, The Washington Post

“These Iowans voted for Trump. Many of them are already disappointed.”

What we learned: While some Trump supporters are getting worried, others still support Trump.

“He’s doing what he said he was going to do, that’s the biggest thing,” said Tyler Schurbon, 23, who describes himself as a “progressive Republican” who falls asleep watching Fox News each night. “A lot of people get into the presidency, and they just completely forget what they talked about.”

March 8, The Washington Post

“‘Nobody really cares’: In this Ohio town, Trump and Russia aren’t really on the radar”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

Wayne Smith, 74, said he’s skeptical about all the stories of ties between President Trump’s associates and Russia.

“Is there something there? Probably,” said Smith, who walks with a cane and stands up about every 10 minutes to relieve the pressure on his back, a lingering reminder of his half-century working as a barber before he retired. “But Judas Priest, don’t go overboard.”

March 8, New York Post

“Trump’s voters have high hopes – even if they don’t expect miracles”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“Look, we all know the steel jobs aren’t coming back to the degree they once were, nor the coal jobs,” said Grimm. “Honestly, we never expected that.”

March 24, WGBH News

“Trump Regret in Saugus? Not So Much”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“If he does something wrong, that’s one thing. But give him a chance to lead the country. If falls apart, it can’t be any worse than it’s been.”

March 25, STAT News

“In Trump country, voters know who’s to blame for the health bill debacle. And it’s not their president”

What we learned: Despite the failure of health care repeal, Trump supporters still support Trump.

“We just need to give President Trump time,” said Joleen Dudley, a real estate agent in Canton, Ga. “He isn’t one to give up, or he wouldn’t be a billionaire.”

April 1, The New York Times

“In Trump Country, Shock at Trump Budget Cuts, but Still Loyalty”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“If I lose this job,” she said, “I’ll sit home and die.”

Yet she said she might still vote for Trump in 2020. And that’s a refrain I heard over and over. 

April 17, The New York Times

“Trump Voters in a Swing District Wonder When the ‘Winning’ Will Start”

What we learned: Trump supporters are getting a little antsy, but still mostly support Trump.

“It’s really disheartening what they’re putting him through,” said Jeanne Maher, 66, from Langhorne, whose husband, a bonsai artist, affixed a “Hillary for Prison” sticker to his motorcycle during the campaign.

April 26, The Kansas City Star

“Presidential voter’s remorse? Not in the Trumpiest county in Missouri”

What we learned: Trump supporters still extremely support Trump.

“Unfortunately, some of Trump’s advisers and appointees appear to be willful, intractable, and committed to their own unspoken agendas, making their decisions without concern for him, his image or his campaign promises.”

May 10, The New York Times

“Trump Voters on Comey’s Ouster: Some Cheers, and Some Fears of a Cover-Up”

 What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“Do I believe that Donald Trump is in bed with the Russians? Oh, hell no,” he said. “Do I think it’s a lie that’s trying to be perpetrated by the left? Absolutely.”

May 16, CNN

“Trump voters want jobs. Not noise about Russia”

What we learned: Trump supporters wish Trump would do his job, but still mostly support Trump.

“I think he’s best for our economy, especially here,” said William Owens, a pastor who has dedicated his life to helping the kids in Kentucky’s forgotten hills where far too many are addicted to drugs and government aid. “We have the same problems here that the inner cities have.”

May 16, The Cincinnati Enquirer

“Trump country on leak charges: Meh”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“A lot of the whirlwinds that surround him are just not true,” said Mansfield resident John Calhoun, 74, a Trump voter who said he would vote for him again. “I think some of them are generated by Democrats.”

May 17, Newsweek

“No Trump Regrets For Voters In Bellwether Pennsylvania County Despite Comey Memo”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“I believe Trump is doing the right thing,” says Paul Visoky, a general contractor in Luzerne County. Visoky admits it would bother him if Trump had tried to end the Flynn probe, but says he wouldn’t believe a Comey memo on the issue because that could be political sour grapes from the fired FBI director.

May 18, NPR

“In Southeastern Virginia, Trump Supporters Weigh Recent Scandals”

What we learned:: Despite recent bad press, Trump supporters still support Trump.

“They’re all liars and thieves and slicksters. There is no such thing as the truth in Washington anymore.” 

May 18, AP

“Trump loyalists pay little heed to revelations rocking DC”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“I tuned it out,” said 44-year-old Michele Velardi, a mother of three sons, during a break from her job at a Staten Island hair salon. “I didn’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to feel that he’s not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen.”

May 27, Detroit Free Press

“In Michigan, Trump voters still have the president’s back”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“He’s here to clean up this country and keep us safe and make us financially stable,” said 77-year-old Mary Hasse in Three Rivers, south of Kalamazoo. “He’s the president of the United States. He should be able to say whatever he wants to say. …. Leave the man alone, let him do his job.”

May 30, Vanity Fair

“In Trump Country, True Believers Are Still Holding Their Breath For The Embattled President”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

I spent 36 hours in the area, but I could have saved myself some time because it was clear from the get-go that support for Trump in the area has not substantially weakened. Over and over, I was told that if the election were held again today, the result would be the same.

 

July 10, Vox

“I asked Trump voters in Michigan about the Russia investigation. They said it’s fake news.”

 What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“It’s a waste of time and energy for us out here in the hinterlands for us to worry about what’s going on in the cesspool in Washington,” said Norman Schmidt, Argentine’s treasurer who has been on the board for more than 20 years. “And it’s a swamp. It really is a swamp.”

 

July 12, The Tennessean

“In Trump Country, Russia scandal doesn’t resonate”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“I probably am a bigger supporter of him. I have a greater respect and admiration for him and his office,” Pearson said.

July 24, The New Yorker

“How Trump Is Transforming Rural America”

What we learned: Trump supporters support Trump even more.

“I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. 

 July 26, Time

“These Ohio Voters Made Trump President. They’re Still With Him”

 What we learnedTrump supporters still support Trump.

“He’s taking back the American initiative,” he said. “He’s a force for good in the world, a force to be reckoned with. You can’t beat him.” 

July 26, WBUR

“How Trump Voters In Central Mass. See The President Now”

What we learned: Trump supporters, though somewhat dissatisfied, still support Trump.

“He’s doing more than anyone else has. There’s some people trying to stop him or slow him down, but he’s trying.”

Oct. 9, The Chicago Tribune

“In rural Henry County, support for Trump remains but some cracks starting to show”

What we learned: Despite a rough start, Trump supporters still support Trump.

“I think he’s figuring it out,” said Yaklich, who established Kewanee Real Estate in 2002. She was on her way to a Kiwanis luncheon. “I’m happy that he went to the United Nations and I’m glad he was forceful with them. I think the U.S. has been too pussyfoot in the past with them.”

Oct. 22, The New York Times

“A Presidential Bellwether Is Still Waiting to Start Winning Under Trump”

What we learned: Trump supporters wish he would stop tweeting, but still probably support Trump.

“I think when he has worked at being more civil, I appreciate it,” she said.

 

Nov. 8, Politico

“Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway.”

What we learned: Trump supporters, despite not receiving any of the things they were promised, still support Trump.

“Everybody I talk to,” he said, “realizes it’s not Trump who’s dragging his feet. Trump’s probably the most diligent, hardest-working president we’ve ever had in our lifetimes. It’s not like he sleeps in till noon and goes golfing every weekend, like the last president did.”

Nov. 14, USA Today

“Rural Wisconsin voters swung for Trump, change; found frustration”

What we learned: Reluctant Trump supporters still mostly reluctantly support Trump.

“No matter what his behavior is, he’s the president. Sorry guys! Suck it up,” she said.

Dec. 24, The Guardian

“Trump voters see his flaws but stand by president who ‘shakes things up’”

What we learned: Trump voters, who were aware of his flaws when they voted for him, still support Trump.

“We have voted with our principle and our conscience for all these years, and where has it gotten us? It’s time to vote to shake things up.”

Dec. 24, The Washington Post

“In a pro-Trump town, they never stopped saying ‘Merry Christmas’”

What we learned: Trump supporters support Trump and are excited about Christmas.

“I personally like that he’s a no-nonsense sort of person. Do I wish he would use his words in a better way sometimes? Absolutely. But it takes a person with strength and gumption to not care sometimes about what they say or how they say it,” Taylor said. “But the ‘Merry Christmas’ part, I think, is amazing and should have been done a long time ago.”

Dec. 27, AP

“In the heart of Trump Country, his base’s faith is unshaken”

What we learned: Trump supporters still support Trump.

“He’s already done enough to get my vote again, without a doubt, no question,” Wes Lewis, a retired pipefitter and one of Whitt’s regulars, declares as he deals the day’s first hand of cards.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.



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