Act 3: 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 Wimbley, 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 (© Philip Shucet Photography)

“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’s wife, Vickie, owns a sign business, Sign Art. Nick works with her. Like a lot of small businesses, they have to be flexible. 

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 him working with Vickie in the 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 (© Philip Shucet Photography)

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 Fasske and Vickie 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.

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