February 13, 2017 9:09:52 am
Why did so many working-class Americans switch their presidential votes from Democrat to Republican and pin their hopes on Donald Trump? It’s this simple: They hope he can make their lives better. Trump even won Wisconsin, a state once considered so reliably Democratic that Hillary Clinton didn’t even make campaign stops there after she became her party’s nominee.
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Some 50 counties stretching 300 miles through the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois broke with tradition to choose Trump. That includes Crawford County, Wisconsin, which cast the majority of its votes for a Republican president for the first time in 30 years.
The list of grievances these supporters want Trump to remedy is long and exacting, including stagnant wages and soaring health care costs. But they also harbor a hard-to-define feeling that things haven’t improved, at least not for people like them.
If they don’t see positive changes, Trump may struggle to hold onto their support.
Here are the voices of some of the voters in rural Crawford County who helped alter America’s course:
Lydia Holt tugs 13 envelopes from a cabinet above the stove, each one labeled with a different debt: the house payment, the student loans, the vacuum cleaner she bought on credit.
Holt and her husband tuck money into these envelopes with each paycheck to whittle away at what they owe. They both earn about $10 an hour she is a lawyer’s assistant, he works at an auto parts store. With two kids, there are usually some envelopes they just can’t fill. At this rate, they’ll be paying these same bills for 87 years.
In 2012, Holt voted for Barack Obama because he promised change, but she feels it never arrived. So last year, she chose a billionaire businessman who vowed to help Americans like her win again.
“I’m hoping that our country starts to be run like a business, that’s my main thing,” she says. “I’m tired of personally living in debt. I’m tired of our country being in debt.”
She is enthusiastic that Trump started quickly doing some of the things he said he would, because she worries that by the time her sons grow up there will be nothing left for them.
Robbo Coleman leans over the bar he tends and holds up an ink pen, wrapped in plastic stamped “Made in China.”
“I don’t see why we can’t make pens in Prairie du Chien or in Louisville, Kentucky, or in Alabama or wherever,” says Coleman. “Trump brought something to the table that I haven’t heard or seen before. And if it doesn’t turn out, then, hey, at least we tried.”
Coleman doesn’t love Trump’s moves to build a wall or ban certain immigrants. All Americans descended from immigrants, he says, including his own relatives who migrated from Germany. But he’s frustrated that other politicians stopped listening to working people like him.
“We’ve got to give him some time,” he says of Trump. “He’s not Houdini.”
Marlene Kramer gets to work before the sun comes up and spends her days sitting at a sewing machine, stitching sports uniforms for $10.50 an hour.
Kramer, who voted twice for Obama, used to watch Trump on the “Celebrity Apprentice” television show. `’I said to myself, `Ugh, I can’t stand him.”’
When he announced his candidacy, she thought it was a joke. “Then my husband said to me, `Just think, everything he touches seems to turn to money.”’ And she changed her mind.
Kramer is looking to Trump to make health insurance less expensive. She said she’s glad that Obama’s health care law helped millions get insurance, but it didn’t help her. Facing premiums over $1,000 a month, the Kramers chose to pay the penalty of $2,000 to opt out of having insurance.
Now she’s hoping she and her husband don’t get sick before Trump replaces the law, hopefully with something better. “We needed to go in another direction,” she says.
Bernard Moravits hoses mud and cow dung off his boots, and then drives into town to talk to a banker about keeping his farm afloat. The price of milk and agricultural goods has plummeted, and it’s hard to keep things running.
Change is what he looked to Obama for and now expects from Trump. Moravits wants the president to reduce red tape and renegotiate trade deals to benefit American farmers.
“I think he’s a shrewd businessman,” he says. “He’s been broke several times. He keeps bouncing back, and he knows how big business works.”
Moravits has several choice words for Trump’s move to build his “stupid” wall on the Mexico border. The farmer employs Hispanic workers whom he trusts to do a dirty, difficult job that he says white people aren’t willing to do.
Moravits isn’t sure Trump is going to “Make America Great Again” for farmers. But he feels he had to take the gamble.
“He might have us in a war in two weeks,” he says. “We’ll come back here in six months, drink a 30-pack of Busch Light and talk, because no one knows now what’s gonna happen
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