Act 3: The Evolving Language of Political Dissent - Enter Nick Fasske

 “America is a business, it is not a soup kitchen. I have made a lot of money for other people. It is time I make it for myself.” (Darryl Wimbley, Time Magazine, December 2016)

Darryl Wimbley (Lise Sarfati for Time)

2016 was the first year Darryl Wimbley voted for a Republican president. Wimbley of Saginaw, MI, was 48 then. Wimbley told Time that voting for Barack Obama in 2008 was “the most racist thing I ever did. I voted for him simply because he was black.” He explained his vote for Trump like this: “America is a business, it is not a soup kitchen.” In January 2018, Wimbley said this to BBC News“Illegal immigrants do cause a lot of crime. I lived in Chicago, I know what immigrants do. I understand MS-13, I understand the Latin Kings, I understand Maniac Disciples. I’ve seen it first hand, and most of them are illegals.”

Wimbley paid a personal price for his vote. His sister and mother stopped speaking to him. He said some blacks in the community called him an ”Uncle Tom”; told him he was a ”coon.” But there were harsher sentiments too.

“I should be killed, my babies should be killed,” he said. ”These are people who say they are social justice warriors. They are saying the Constitution only applies to them,” Wimbley told Time. 

Darryl Wimbley stands by his vote. When he spoke to BBC News in 2018 he said, “The tax bill I like, the jobs are coming back, we’re getting rid of regulation,” he said. “A big thing is coal mines for me, because my family are coal miners.”

Kim Woodrosky (Lise Sarfati for Time)

“I want to see a woman president. I’m a woman. Why wouldn’t I?” (Kim Woodrosky, Time Magazine, December 2016)

Hillary Clinton was not that woman. 

A real estate investor in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Woodrosky was 53 in 2016. She fit the profile of a life-long Democrat voting Republican for the first time.“Honestly, the one thing she (Clinton) said that stuck in my head was, ‘If you were happy with the last eight years, vote for me and we’ll continue that.’ Well, I wasn’t happy with the last eight years, so she was also telling me not to vote for her!”

Like Darryl Wimbley, Woodrosky stands by her choice of Trump over Clinton. She’s been noticed for her stance. According to an August 2018 story in The Citizen’s Voice, reporters from Portugal, France and Japan have visited her to discuss the 2016 election. Ben Bradlee interviewed her for his book, The Forgotten: How the people of one Pennsylvania county elected Donald Trump and changed America.

Ron Seippel a farmer in Beetown, WI, told Time in December 2016,  “I voted Democrat for the last 25 years, but I voted for Trump.” Seippel said his vote was “more against her, because I would have voted for somebody less liberal.” Seippel liked Jim Webb, a Democrat and a former Marine and Senator from Virginia. “I’d have voted for him in a heartbeat. If she’d (Clinton) been more moderate she would’ve won.” 

In addition to Wimbely, Woodrosky, and Seippel, Time reported on 15 other women and men, varied in age between 22 and 69, who voted for Donald Trump instead of Clinton. You can read more about them at Voices from Democratic Counties Where Trump Won Big.

Now let’s go to Lake Charles, Louisiana. It’s 9am on October 11, 2019. Trump’s Keep America Great rally wouldn’t start until 7pm. I knew a small band of die-hard supporters would be out early. I looked around for a fervent Trump supporter. I spotted him leaning against a bicycle rack used to delineate the walk-here-but-not-there rows around the Lake Charles Civic Center Arena.

Enter Nick Fasske.

Nick Fasske, Lake Charles, LA, Oct 2019

“Are you fake news or real news,” Nick called out spotting the press pass swinging around my neck as I walked toward him. “You’re wearing a white shirt, so that’s a good sign.” I leaned up on the rail beside him and we talked.

Nick Fasske owns a sign business, Sign Art. Like a lot of small business owners, he’s flexible. Nick’s wife, Vickie, works with him. Vickie paints murals for their customers. 

Nick grew up working in his Dad’s concrete business. Nick told me he worked hard for everything he had. Nothing was free. The work ethic he developed as a young man stuck with him. Concrete work eventually took a toll. Nick injured his spine and walks now with help from a single crutch. But that doesn’t get in the way of his sign business. Hearing Nick’s story, I assumed he was a solid Trump supporter and a party-line Republican. I was only half right.

“I liked the way he talked. If something was bullshit, Trump called it bullshit. He didn’t need it. He’s rich, but he thought running for president was the right thing to do for the country.” Then Nick said,“If the Democrats would be positive, it’s hard to say where we could be now. But the Democrats are too negative. I’m not just blaming them. The Republicans are too. There’re always a few bad apples on both sides.” 

What about the 2020 election? “The Democrats need to find someone who is as smart and plain spoken as Trump. Someone who understands business like Trump. Hillary didn’t understand anything about business, and that’s why I voted for Trump.” 

Nick isn’t sure any of the Democrat candidates understand business any better than Clinton. But he hopes one will emerge. Nick’s not committed to a predetermined 2020 result based on ideology. Nick didn’t feel he had a choice in 2016. He wants one in 2020. He’s looking for a fair fight.

Just when the conversation with Nick was ramping up, the sky opened and poured buckets. Vickie found Nick and off they went to find cover.

At Trump rallies press photographers are free to roam until an hour before Trump is scheduled to speak. Then no cameras can leave the press pool. I hoped to find Nick during that free time, but with 7500 people streaming in, that wasn’t going to happen. My one shot at learning more from Nick Fasske was over.

But I knew this. Nick isn’t some do-or-die Trump supporter. He’s not a hard-line Republican. Nick is a reasonable, responsible, self-employed, hard working, 63-year old businessman. Politics didn’t make Nick’s choice in 2016. Practicality did. And Donald Trump fit the practical world of Nick Fasske. Hillary Clinton did not. Politics won’t guide Nick’s hand in 2020 either. But if the Democrats nominate someone who can’t fit Nick’s definition of understanding business, I know where Nick and Vickie will make their marks.

Darryl Wimbley, Sagniaw, MI - “America is a business, it is not a soup kitchen.”

Kim Woodrosky, Wilkes-Barre, PA“I want to see a woman president. I’m a woman. Why wouldn’t I?”  

Ron Seippel, Beetown, WI If she’d (Clinton) been more moderate she would’ve won.” 

Nick Fasske, Lake Charles, LA - ”Hillary didn’t understand anything about business, and that’s why I voted for Trump.” 

A black car salesman in Michigan votes for Trump and calls his 2008 vote for Obama “racist.” A woman in Pennsylvania, who wants to see a woman in the White House, votes for Trump. A farmer in Wisconsin who saw Clinton as too liberal, but would have voted for the conservative Democrat Jim Webb, votes for Trump. And an affable hard-working business owner in Louisiana who would have been happy voting for a Democrat who understands business, votes for Trump.

Are we paying attention?

About 138 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election. How many Darryls, Kims, Rons, and Nicks were out there? What would have kept them true to their Democratic Party roots instead of pushing them away?

But looking ahead to 2020, who is speaking to - actually listening to - Darryl, Kim, Ron and Nick? 

A Democrat? Or this man?

Donald Trump, President of the United States

I get it. Four out of 138 million voters is hardly a reasonable sample.

Unless it is.

As I scanned the crowd at the Lake Charles Civic Center Arena on October 11, 2019, I thought about Nick and Vickie Fasske every time I clicked the shutter. Do these folks have an unshakable belief in Donald Trump? Or were they left with no other option? 

You’ll find a few photographs here

Post Note

If you’d like to know more about how Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin influenced the 2016 election, here’s one of many sources. There are certainly other news stories and opinion pieces regarding how these three key states affected the 2016 election and how they may fit into the 2020 race. I only offer this one as a jumping-off point.

Act 2: The Evolving Language of Political Dissent - Climate Strike

“We’ re fuckin’ dying”

John Marshall Park, Washington, DC, Sep 2019

There are interesting dichotomies between the spoken, written and visual languages of dissent. Here we look specifically at the DC Climate Strike, part of the September 20, 2019 Global Climate Strike. According to Jonah Gottlieb of the National Childrens Campaign, about 12,000 school kids and adults participated. Because I wanted to capture more than photographs, Debbie Messina, a journalist and my wife, went along to interview some of the strikers. Here are excerpts from three interviews.

Debbie Messina interviewing a climate striker

Donovan Weber, DC Climate Strike, John Marshall Park

Donovan Weber said this about the sign he brought to the strike;

“I wanted to make my message short and bold. It’s our future at stake. It’s our children’s future at stake.” Talking about industry, Donovan’s remarks were sharp. “I don’t want them (industries) changed, I want them out. They won’t change unless they are removed.” That industry provoked Weber’s ire was palpable. 

Keely Ferrando, DC Climate Strike, US Capitol

Keely Ferrando, media coordinator and a strike organizer, was concerned about more than just the environmental impact of climate change.

“It’s important to anyone who walks and breathes to have a functioning ecological system.” But she also fears climate change “…is going to have severe economic issues; possibly economic collapse.”

Sam Schulman, DC Climate Strike, US Capitol

And Sam Schulman, one of the strikers reporting for his school newspaper, said this; “The planet is literally dying. Sea level rise is wiping out coastal areas. Ocean life is dying because it can’t handle rising temperatures. It’s hard to get people to care. Legislators are not changing their minds. We need to continue to bring attention…keep the conversation going so people will care. I’m worried less for myself and more for people with less resources than I have.”

Co-MCs, DC Climate Strike, US Capitol

Before introducing a line-up of speakers, the co-MCs for the strike sounded off five demands:

  • Pass the Green New Deal
  • Respect indigenous rights
  • Promote sustainable agriculture
  • Protect biodiversity
  • Environmental justice for all
  • Over the next 90 minutes about 30 people addressed the crowd. Most were students. Stepping out of the Capitol at various times, Representatives Nanette Barragan, D-CA; Kathy Castor, D-FL; John Garamendi, D-CA; Raul Grijalva, D-AZ; Jim McGovern, D-MA, and Jerry Nadler, D-NY each made brief remarks. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was expected to speak but didn’t make it out.

    In the days following the strike, some criticized the strikers suggesting that they were kids being manipulated by parents and politicians. On Twitter, one young speaker was called “deranged.” Those exaggerations were off-base and unwarranted. Were people excited? Sure. Did they carry banners and make some noise? Yes. Just like my friends and I did in our youth for causes that mattered to us.

    The kids in DC weren’t suckers. And they damn sure weren’t deranged. Frankly, it was refreshing to see several thousand engaged young adults come together in an organized fashion for an important cause. Perhaps the students are becoming the teachers?

    The strikers spoke with a collective sense of urgency. I believe that is appropriate. To consider the edgier side of dissent and transitions from what they had to say to the signs they carried, take a look at the photographs for Act 2: The Evolving Language of Political Dissent.

    Post Note:

    Donald Trump, Sep 2019

    As the week of Sep 23 moved from Tuesday to Thursday - from Pelosi’s call for an impeachment inquiry to the Trump-Zelensky phone call to the whistleblower’s letter to Joseph Maguire’s testimony - I considered scrapping this article on climate change. Then I thought better. Svante Arrhenius made some of the first calculations of atmospheric cooling in 1896. Today we know a hell of a lot more about climate change than we do about Trump-Zelensky-whistleblower-Maguire.  We’ll come back to the events of this week in a future Act. But we’ll do that when we move further from “what we think we know” to “we know.”

    Act 1: The Evolving Language of Political Dissent - Hey, Hey, LBJ

    “Hey, Hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?”

    circa 1967-68; photographer and source of original publication unknown

    I started college in 1968. Then this protest chant was growing louder on campuses and in streets across the United States. 1968 was a year of unwelcome records. US troop presence in Vietnam peaked at a high of 550,000. Almost 16,500 soldiers were killed, the single deadliest year of the war. Over $77 billion was poured into Vietnam, the most spent in a single year on a war more people questioned and fewer supported. But that slogan? 

    “Hey, Hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?” 

    Quietly, even opponents of the war worried that the language crossed a line. It was a personal attack on the President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson. It called LBJ a murderer. Such irreverence was shocking. How dare these dirty-long-haired boys and braless girls say such things. Didn’t they love the country? 

    They did.

    Older now I realize it’s sometimes easier to see from a distance. Photographs from those years contain hints. But too few of us were paying attention. We missed signals. The language and action of American dissent wasn’t just getting louder. It was taking a dark turn. 

    • In October 1965, David Miller burned his draft card in New York City. The 24-year old Miller was the first person arrested and convicted under the Military Training and Service Act. Traitor or hero?
    • One month later, on November 2, Norman Morrison poured kerosene over his body and set himself ablaze at the Pentagon beneath the office window of the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. Morrison’s self-immolation was timed for maximum affect. He went up in flames just as thousands of Pentagon workers left for the day. (The burning image most Americans know is that of a buddhist monk burning to death on June 11, 1963 on the streets of Saigon. Thich Quang Duc was 65 years old.) Morrison was a 32-year old American father of three, dying by his own hand not on some faraway soil but in Washington, D.C.
    • Toward the end of the sixties, the pace of draft card burnings, sit-ins, marches, and peace strikes accelerated; an embattled LBJ decided one term was enough; and Richard Nixon was elected the nation’s 37th President. Soon, even darker times emerged from the shadows.
    • On May 4, 1970, after days of student unrest, four unarmed students were shot and killed by 28 members of the Ohio National Guard on the campus of Kent State University. Americans killed by Americans on an American campus.
    • In the aftermath of Kent State, 4 million striking college students shut down 450 campuses across the United States. Attitudes about the war were now unmistakeable. 

    The signals - and the message - were clear.

    Joseph Karpen, Photographer, UWC 2797

    By the time Saigon fell in 1975, Nixon had already resigned in disgrace. Gerald Ford, America’s first non-elected caretaker president, did his best to shift language from dissent to unity with a new slogan; WIN, Whip Inflation Now. The war was over, but WIN was too pollyanna for a country hardened by Vietnam and Watergate.

    Fast forward 45 years.

    ©Philip Shucet Photography 2019

    Is a new war brewing? A domestic war? Not the war on terror. But a war between the President of the United States and his supporters and the people of the United States? A war that may be reshaping and rewriting the language of political dissent?

    Over the next 14 months, we’ll examine political events as they happen leading up to the presidential election in November 2020. You’ll find photographs here along with updated commentary as we consider The Evolving Language of Political Dissent.

    ©Philip Shucet Photography 2019

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