I talked at length with a Trump supporter I grew up around. I wanted to understand. I respected her growing up. I wanted to know why a person as kind and compassionate as I remember her is voting for someone like Donald Trump.
She was a family friend, a good person. In rural Ohio, everything was tight. Money, jobs. If you really needed quick cash, she’d put you to work doing landscaping. She’d pay fairly and reliably for the area.
She’s voting for Donald Trump. I disagree with her choice, but I understand why she rejects Clinton so fiercely, and why she’s been swept up in Donald Trump’s particular brand of right-wing populism. I feel that on the left, it’s increasingly easy to ignore these people, to disregard them, to write them off as racists, bigots, or uneducated. I think that’s a loss for everyone involved, and that sometimes listening can help you to at least understand why a person is making the choices they make, so you can work on the root causes. For her, the root cause isn’t racism. In fact, I remember her as one of the only people in the area who proudly hired black workers, in a place where that was a huge issue. She fought over that choice.
But that’s enough background. Let me relay a bit of what she told me.
She’s a person who built her business from the ground up. She wasn’t rich, but was very comfortable for the area. She had a nice house, a nice car, and was stable. She achieved the American dream of not having to struggle. Things changed during the housing crisis. A landscaping business requires customers who need landscaping, and people who don’t own homes just don’t need landscaping. In some of these neighborhoods, one in five people lost their homes. That almost immediately turns a successful landscaping business into a struggling one.
Then there was a domino effect. She couldn’t pay for her lawn-care equipment leases and loans. That hurt her work efficiency. Then, she lost her car. But that didn’t stop the payments. Then, she lost her house. She slowly had to let go all of her employees, until it was just her, hand-mowing lawns for cash the way you might expect a high school student in the summertime.