One of my close friends—I’ll call her Gloria—voted for Trump. She said she was undecided leading up to the election and she actively participated in conversations in which we both questioned Trump’s character. She never once defended him when I marveled at his thin skin and what his lack of filter revealed about his psyche. In fact, she always agreed and threw in a few choice criticisms herself. To be fair, we could also be rough on Hillary.
After the election, I asked her point-blank who she voted for. It was rude, I realize. As she told me, I tried to keep my expression neutral. I refrained from shouting an expletive. I think I managed a teeth-baring grimace when she explained that, ultimately, she believes Trump is a “catalyst for change.”
I don’t dedicate an entire post to Gloria because she doesn’t fit the criteria I laid out in the beginning. Namely, she’s not white. She’s officially “Mexican” though previous generations of her family have been here as long as my own.
Like Gloria, Courtney is an unlikely Trump supporter. While a majority of white women middle aged and older voted Trump, millennials (like people of color) overwhelmingly backed Clinton. Courtney, born in 1987, is the youngest woman with whom I spoke. She spent her childhood in a tiny town in Southern Missouri but now resides in St. Louis.
I suppose it would easy to chalk up her vote to ignorance or naiveté, but in speaking with her she struck me as wise beyond her years, perhaps even wise beyond my own. She was forced to grow up fast when, as a teenager, she took on the responsibility of raising her two younger brothers when her mother was incapacitated by mental illness.
In her youth, Courtney was a dedicated member of church youth group but became disillusioned as she got older and their stance on abstinence both inflexible and unrealistic. She is both pro-life AND pro-choice: she doesn’t think abortion is ever good, but she believes it should be among the options for women making decisions about their own bodies.
You’d never guess by looking at Courtney how she voted. She sports a bright rainbow shade of hair, vintage style dresses, and cat-eye makeup—all of which gives her the appearance of a sexy Rosie the Riveter. The rebellious nod to the past seems fitting for a conservative who has found kindred spirits in unconventional people. Her best friend is both gay and black.
Courtney manages a pub while saving money to complete her nursing degree. She plans to specialize in hospice care. This election is giving her plenty of practice comforting those who are facing circumstances that feel like death.
“I want to hug them and tell them it’s going to be okay,” she says of the many people she sees who are expressing pain because of the election results. She voted for Trump because she didn’t like Hillary and she believed he would beef up “homeland security.”
But will it be okay?
“He said what he needed to say to get elected,” Courtney explained. She was under the impression that Trump-as-president would be a gentler more inclusive force than his campaign rhetoric had implied.
In days after the inauguration, I asked Gloria what she thought so far—was the man she’d cast her vote for living up to her expectations? Gloria tends to evaluate things on a macro-level, interpreting events in broad stroke according to what they reveal about humanity at large. It’s a point of view that allows her to stay somewhat detached from everyday details. Some might call this viewpoint spiritual or even biblical. Others might say it’s a cop-out.
“I didn’t say the changes he makes would be good,” she told me. “Only that he’d be a catalyst for change.”