TRUMP LOSING SUPPORT AMONG OLDER RACISTS
Many Cite Mishandling of Covid-19 Crisis
Fayetteville, NC – 86-year-old Earl Toole, a self-identified lifelong racist, slips off his mask to sip his coffee at the Dixie Café. “I wasn’t one of them Obama-Trump voters,” says Toole. “I’ve voted Republican every election since 1964.” That, of course, was the year that the 1964 Civil Rights Bill ended Jim Crow, a turning point for Southern racists like Toole, who until then had been lifelong Democrats. “But I just can’t get myself to pull that lever again for Trump.”
A tear rolled down Toole’s cheek as he slipped the mask back on. His older brother, Otis, 93, was in the ICU at Fayetteville’s Jesse Helms Memorial Hospital, named for this battleground state’s virulently racist late senator. “Otis grew tobacco his entire life, but never, ever took a puff off a cigarette. Not once! And now he’s on a goddam ventilator. And I blame Donald Trump!”
Like many older racists in this historically racist community, Toole has lost faith in this president’s ability to handle crises. Toole now wears a mask whenever he ventures outside the modest home he shares with his 85-year-old wife, Enid, whom he also describes as “very, very racist.” Because of Enid’s several co-morbidities, including diabetes and emphysema, Toole had asked to conduct the interview at the Dixie, owned by his friend, Bobby Fortenberry, who is now considering whether to pull the lever for Joe Biden in November or to write in a protest vote for David Duke.
“Don’t get me wrong,” says Toole, “I support Trump on those Confederate statues.” Then, raising his voice, he pounds the table, “That’s our goddam heritage, goddam it!”
That catches the attention of the McCuskers, a family of four that participates religiously in the town’s Civil War reenactments organized twice a year by Toole himself. “Damn straight!” yells 34-year-old Danny McCusker, husband of Gretchen and father of their boys, Connor, 10, and Kyle, 7. Until recently both Danny, who sells thermal pumps, and Gretchen, a teacher’s assistant, were firmly in Trump’s camp. But of late, Gretchen has been having her doubts, wondering whether Trump has the intelligence or attention span to keep her family safe and economically secure.
Back at his table, Toole is wiping up the coffee spilled from the table-pounding. “And those goddam Black Lives Matter protesters? He shoulda put vicious dogs on ‘em like he promised.” Fortenberry, standing six feet away, nods in agreement.
“But, my God, what a goddam, stupid idiot!” Toole scoffs, shaking his head. “He’s been screwing up from Day One!” Then mocking the president he says, “’It’ll disappear in April,’” in a voice that could best be described as that of a person who is cognitively disabled .
“Right!” laughs Fortenberry. “I mean he’s a friggin’ idiot!” That illicits a cackle from Gretchen McCusker as her husband just stares down at his waffles.
Now Toole is exasperated. “And he’s just incapable of learning from his mistakes. The thing he said in Tulsa about testing? That made me wish I’d voted for Hillary!”
“How about swallowing disinfectant?” Fortenberry laughs, as does Gretchen and her older boy, Connor. Danny just throws down his napkin and heads to the men’s room.
But now Toole turns serious. “Listen. I firmly believe that in the history of our country, Donald Trump is the most racist president who did not personally own slaves. And no one I know is more racist than me and Bobby right here.”
“But I believe that Trump is personally responsible for killing tens of thousands of Americans, a good number of them just as racist or almost as racist as us.”
Asked if most of the other racists in town agree with him, Toole seems less than certain. “I don’t know. If I had to guess, of racists my age, I’d say it’s fifty-fifty. The younger racists just don’t seem to get it.”
Does he think that will change? “Absolutely. See, Trump is just incapable of admitting mistakes, so things will just keep getting worse and worse. I’d say by November, it’s actually possible that Donald J. Trump could lose the racist vote. And, frankly, by a substantial margin.”
The day after this story was published, Earl’s brother Otis regained consciousness and was taken off the ventilator, though he remains in critical condition.
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