Welcome to Trump country: ‘We’re the silent majority’

Why is Trump winning support in this rural Kentucky town? Human trafficking, world peace – and ‘Antifa’.

Mary Fitzgerald headshot in circle, small
Mary Fitzgerald
2 November 2020, 9.35am
James Hopkins and friend
Mary Fitzgerald. CC BY-NC 4.0. Some rights reserved

“The major thing I like about Trump is his fight against human trafficking,” James Hopkins told me as we waited for the Trump road rally to drive by in Lawrenceberg, Kentucky.

“Trump’s organisation has put together a great deal of money and time and effort into combatting this issue, and that speaks to me tremendously, because I have children.”

James and his friends had fixed their Trump/Pence flag to a fishing rod, and were planning to wave it at the long convoy of trucks and SUVs due to pass the bungalow minutes later, honking horns and waving MAGA flags.

“It’s Trump’s whole outlook across the world too: peace,” James added. “I could give you tons of other reasons, but those are the main ones: human trafficking and world peace. I’m a major supporter, for sure.”

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Lawrenceberg is a picture-postcard country town. Main Street is lined with gift shops and, this weekend, front yards were festooned with elaborate Halloween decorations. The town sits in the heart of rural Kentucky, a deep red state. Trump/Pence signs speckle the farmland in the surrounding countryside.

Courthouse in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, 1 November 2020
The Lawrenceburg courthouse
Mary Fitzgerald. CC BY-NC 4.0. Some rights reserved

But in the town itself, there’s a mix of political allegiances. “Our neighbours next door are for Biden and we get on just fine,” James told me.

Like everyone I met in Lawrenceberg, James was happy to talk – once he’d got permission from his friend whose property we were standing on. He gave many of the same reasons that voters across the country have given me in recent days and weeks for supporting the current president. Apart from his paramount concern: human trafficking.

James told me how a Facebook group he’d been involved in called ‘Save the Children’ had been summarily shut down by the social platform, with no reasons given. He says it was a group of concerned citizens who researched and tracked down child and sex traffickers and turned them over to authorities when they found them. They never tried to mete out justice themselves, he insisted. And he had no idea why they’d been stopped.

Over the past few months, the media has carried reports of how QAnon conspiracy theorists have infiltrated online networks such as the one James belonged to. Facebook has recently shut down many of these groups, limited distribution of #SaveTheChildren hashtags and pointed users to ‘credible child safety resources’ in response.

James himself showed no indication of having bought into QAnon – which alleges that Trump is facing down a shadowy cabal of Democrat paedophiles – other than confusing and perhaps overstating Trump’s role in cracking down on human trafficking. He called Biden a “puppet”, but only of the Democratic Party: too willing to cave on issues like the Green New Deal. And he told me that he’ll respect the next president, whoever that turns out to be. But, like most people I’ve spoken to – Republican and Democrat – he fears violence and unrest on election day, and beyond.

“I do fear that if Donald Trump is re-elected, as we hope he is, there won’t be peace. There will be more unrest – rioting, looting,” James told me.

And if Biden wins? “I honestly don’t think there will be as much trouble if that happens. There just aren’t that many Republicans out there doing that kind of thing.”

“They call a lot of us the silent majority for a reason,” he added. “If he’s the president we’ll respect that, because he’s our commander-in-chief, and that’s what you’re supposed to do as an American.”

‘We’re riding the Trump train’

Up on Main Street, I met Jeremy and his mother-in-law Elma. Three generations of their family had gathered to wave the Trump truck convoy as it rolled by.

Jeremy and Elma, Main Street, Lawrenceberg, Kentucky, 1 November 2020
Jeremy and Elma
Mary Fitzgerald. CC BY-NC 4.0. Some rights reserved

Jeremy and Elma have many reasons for what they call “riding the Trump train”. Elma passionately disagrees with the Democrats on abortion. Jeremy told me he doesn’t support the “radical left-wing agenda” of Black Lives Matter, because “all lives matter”.

Down the road by the coffee shop, more residents asked why the liberal media wasn’t covering the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. They lamented the fact that kids are being “raised to disrespect the police and parental authorities”.

Their complaints and anxieties echo those of countless voters I’ve spoken to on the other side of the US’s deep political divide, too. Why won’t the other side accept the truth? Why are they so closed-minded? Why is the establishment so against us?

But just like James, their chief fear is that the other side won’t respect the election result.

“My concern is that if Trump doesn’t win by a landslide, we might not know who won the election for a while,” Jeremy told me. “And of course, being a Republican and backing Trump, my biggest fear is Trump not winning. I’m scared for the economy and I’m scared for the country if he doesn’t.”

Either way, he said “Antifa and others” have “probably already put in a plan. If Biden doesn’t win, they’re gonna go crazy. I think they’re going to burn the streets down, I really do.”

“I hope not, I pray not. But if Trump gets re-elected, I don’t think it’s going to be good”.

'Lawrenceburg' mural in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, 1 November 2020
Mary Fitzgerald. CC BY-NC 4.0. Some rights reserved

We’re reporting on the ground for the critical swing states on election day – and in the aftermath. Follow me on Twitter @maryftz to get live updates, and listen to our latest US election podcast on how the resurgent racial justice movement is shaping – and polarising – the US.

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