Trump County, USA

Politico reports: The most accurate pundits in the history of American presidential politics reside far from the Beltway, on a 403-square mile patch of land along the western border of Indiana. At the intersections of U.S. Highways 40 and 41, and off Interstate 70, you find yourself in Vigo County, with its 108,000 residents and its ho-hum county seat, Terre Haute, situated along the Wabash River. Terre Haute is the land of Clabber Girl Baking Powder—and its citizens call it the “Crossroads of America.” It’s the place where both Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and labor leader and Social Democratic Party founder Eugene Debs were born, and home to the U.S. penitentiary where the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh died.

And, in nearly every presidential election since 1888, voters here in this blue-collar county have selected the winning candidate, missing only twice: Once, in 1908, when they opted for Williams Jennings Bryan instead of William Howard Taft, and again in 1952, when they chose Adlai Stevenson rather than Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“It’s obviously because of our extraordinary intelligence and good sense,” said Bayh, whose father built the family’s political dynasty here. “It’s classic middle America. Small businesses. Family farms. Community schools. We care more about common sense results than we do about party labels and ideology. … You don’t get the excesses of New York or California. We keep it between the 40-yard-lines.”

So, when it comes to 2016, you might expect these “between-the 40-yard-lines” voters to be soberly weighing the merits of Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio, with maybe an occasional flirtation with Bernie Sanders or Mike Huckabee. And yet, when I spent two days traveling around its gathering places and watering holes, I discovered that, while the county’s Democrats have, for their part, coalesced around Clinton, its Republicans mostly wanted to talk about just one candidate: Donald Trump. [Continue reading…]

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