Listening to Trump’s America: Bridging the Divide

Please plan to attend Supervisor Simitian’s talk on Saturday, September 16 at Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Street, Palo Alto, 1:00 to 3:00 pm. http://www.lwvpaloalto.org/Calendar.html

Read Supervisor Joe Simitian’s introduction to his talk:

Here in the Bay Area we live in a bubble, in a bubble, in a bubble.

While 46% of the American electorate voted for President Donald Trump last fall, here at home the numbers were dramatically different.

In California, just 32% of the electorate voted for President Trump. In Santa Clara County that number was just 21%. And in my hometown, Palo Alto, just 12% of the voters cast their ballot for President Donald Trump.

Which led me to think that the rest of the country must see things somewhat differently than folks here in the area where I live and work. In the immediate aftermath of the election, some were inclined to dismiss Trump voters as racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic or xenophobic. But do we really believe that 46% of the American electorate is racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic or xenophobic? I don’t.

Which is what prompted me to ask, what’s going on in the rest of the country? What prompted 46% of the electorate to vote for a candidate I considered wholly unfit for the presidency? The same country that elected Barack Obama not once, but twice?

To get some answers, I traveled to three counties, in three states and had more than 100 conversations in places that had historically voted for Democratic candidates for President (including President Obama), but that “flipped” in 2016, and voted for President Trump. I spent a week in each county. My goal was to listen, learn and understand. And I learned a lot.

I traveled to Robeson County, North Carolina; Cambria County, Pennsylvania; and Macomb County, Michigan.

I talked with cops, teachers, librarians, labor leaders, business people, academics, bankers, journalists, retirees, elected officials and party activists from both parties, a college cross country team, total strangers I met on the street and a host of others.

I ate fried chicken at Candy Sue’s, had a Gob for dessert at Coney Island Lunch, and enjoyed the hummus and tabbouleh at Ike’s.

And along the way I spent time at parades, talent shows, candidate forums, biker bars, local museums and a traveling circus.

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