You’d be forgiven for assuming that this is the sort of place where Donald Trump would have been successful in the 2016 election. Unless, that is, you know that shipping and manufacturing left New York County a very long time ago. New York County is Manhattan; the warehouses are now art galleries and the skyscrapers where piecemeal manufacturing once took place are now offices and expensive apartments.
Far from backing Trump, Manhattan was one of the most heavily pro-Hillary Clinton counties in the country in 2016, supporting her by a 77-point margin. (In his home county, Trump won only 9.7 percent of the vote; for every 2.6 votes he got, a third-party candidate got one.) We don’t hear much about how Manhattanites have responded to the first year of Trump’s presidency, though, despite how much we’ve heard about how regions central to Trump’s candidacy are still home to people who stand by their choice. There are a lot of reasons for not focusing on the views of people in Manhattan, including that the city is not without a voice in the media and that how it voted was not particularly surprising (compared to the fervent support Trump enjoyed in the Rust Belt).
Nonetheless, we decided to see if voters in Clinton country stood by their candidate one year into Trump’s tenure. We know Trump’s supporters are sticking with him, but are Clinton’s sticking with her? Is Trump convincing any opponents to rally to his cause?
Six of the eight counties that voted the most overwhelmingly for Clinton run in a line from The Bronx to Petersburg, Va. (The other two counties are San Francisco and Oglala Lakota County, S.D.) On Wednesday of this week, I visited five of those counties and spoke with two dozen people who told me they’d voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. I asked them how they felt about Trump and if they stood by their 2016 vote.
With only one exception, they did.
Bronx County, N.Y.
Support for Clinton: 88.5 percent
Support for Trump: 9.5 percent
Third-largest margin for Clinton nationally.
President Trump “never speaks the truth!” said Imelda Barrett, 70, as we spoke on Wednesday. “He’s always lying. He says one thing and…”
A train passing overhead drowned her out.
We were standing on a corner of White Plains Road near the working-class Morris Park neighborhood of the Bronx. The Bronx is the northernmost borough of New York City and is majority-minority: more than half Hispanic and more than 40 percent black. White Plains Road is something like a tunnel, lined with a mix of chain stores and local businesses and boxed in by the train tracks carrying the 2 and 5 lines overhead every few minutes.
As when Barrett, a retiree who has lived in the Bronx all her life, was explaining her feelings about Trump, for whom she didn’t vote. She continued her thought once the train had passed: He says one thing “and then he says he never said it and he tries to put it another way.”
Asked for a review of Trump’s first year, she was unsparing.
“Oh God. Horrible horrible horrible horrible,” she said. “He embarrasses me really. I try not to watch the news anymore. It’s so embarrassing the way he behaves.”
“He is a horrible speaker!” said Tracy Alvarado, 43, a stay-at-home mother who I met further up the street. “The language that he uses is repulsive and very offensive.” Standing next to her was her daughter Lily, 17, who looked as though she’d heard this line of complaint before.
“Referring to other countries as ‘shitholes’,” she added later, “is just not presidential.”
Near the entrance to the elevated station Rhalik Lunadetta, 26, was waiting with his skateboard for a coffee at Starbucks.
“If you have nothing nice to say, just don’t say it at all, really,” Lunadetta said. “Especially don’t take it to social media.”
He did, however, give credit to Trump in one way.
“His slogan is make America great again, and I feel like everybody is kind of, like, connected now,” he said. “Everybody’s all against Trump. People are more united because everybody just doesn’t like the president right now.”
Asked for specific policies that she opposed, Alvarado identified the tax bill’s heavy cuts for corporations.
Her daughter interjected. “Talk about his immigration,” she said.
“Oh my gosh, we could go on with this forever,” Alvarado replied. “I forgot, that is a big deal for us, too. I understand why we should have stricter borders but I don’t like the way he’s going about it.” Both she and Barrett mentioned their objections to Trump’s plan to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
At the Rainbow Diner just south of Pelham Parkway, nurse Robyn Pegues, 54, was having breakfast. She didn’t vote for Clinton in November 2016 after having supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the primary. But she was not a fan of Trump.
“For a democracy, you need negotiation skills that he doesn’t have,” she said. “It’s more of a dictator.”
Nonetheless, were the 2016 election to be held again, Pegues said that she’d probably again skip voting for Clinton.
“It broke my heart that I didn’t go and vote, but I just couldn’t switch to Hillary’s side from Bernie’s side,” she said.
Alvarado, Barrett and Lunadetta, all of whom voted for her 15 months ago said that they would do so again.
New York County, N.Y.
Support for Clinton: 86.6 percent
Support for Trump: 9.7 percent
Fifth-largest margin for Clinton nationally.
Phyllis Murray, 69, emerged from the subway station at 103rd and Broadway where I asked her for her thoughts on the political moment.
“I feel like I’ve lived 10 years in the last year,” she replied with a sigh.
We were speaking in a diverse pocket on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the borough that most people identify with when they think of New York City. Further south, the Upper West Side is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. Where we were, an area known as Manhattan Valley, it was more of a mix: Wealthier people to the west but a large housing project a block to the east.
As with most of the people who I approached in the places I visited, Murray had supported Clinton over Trump. Unlike many, she seemed more defeated than angry.
“There are just so many things to be outraged about,” she said. Pressed for points of contention, she isolated Trump’s efforts at deregulation. “People say they’re burdensome,” she said. “Well, maybe they are but we don’t have 2-year-olds working because we have regulations against it.” She lamented the effort to repeal Obamacare (a “debacle”) and Trump’s attacks on the media.
“The whole thing is very discouraging,” she said.
Loren Christian, 43, was smoking an e-cigarette on a bench in the boulevard on Broadway. A stay-at-home mother of two, she summarized Trump’s first year in four words: “Horrible. Terrifying. Disgusting. Embarrassing.”
She’d also backed Clinton, in part because she said she disagreed with the social policies of the Republican Party. Her dislike of Trump went further.
“I can disagree with Republican policy,” she said, “but I find Trump disgusting as a human being.”
She also mentioned DACA as a policy decision to which she objected, but criticized Trump as well for his divisiveness.
“In no way has he tried to bring people together,” she said. “In any way. In fact, I think his power comes from keeping people mad at each other.”
Further down Broadway, I spoke with Warren Cohen, 69, who explained his vote for Clinton in simple terms.
“Well, I’m generally more sympathetic with Democratic positions on issues,” he said casually, “and I hated Donald Trump and everything he stood for.” He used a four-letter word to describe Trump, a word that was popularized recently when paired with “hole.”
“I think he’s destroying the moral fabric of the country, not that it was so strong to begin with,” Cohen said. “And the world. I think he’s turning the United States into a laughingstock.”
Cohen, like Alvarado in the Bronx, criticized the tax plan’s focus on the wealthy and the president’s anti-immigration policies. But he did see some positive effects of the presidency.
“I think it’s clear the kind of level of racism that exists in the country,” Cohen said, “and I think he’s united certain populations against him that I think is important, for instance the women’s movement. But it’s at great cost.”
“Lifelong Democrat,” Kevin Smith, 40, said when I asked him why he’d voted for Clinton. “But more importantly she was a better choice for — oh I don’t know, the good of the Republic? We’ve gone beyond the ‘good of the people’ and the ‘good of politics’ to kind of existential threats to the Republic right now. Given who won.”
Trump’s first year? Went “horribly.”
“He’s a petulant child,” Smith said. “I mean I don’t know how else to describe the man. He says and does things without thinking about their implications to America, the American people, our standing in the world. You know the only thing he kind of thinks about is dominating the news cycle to make sure he’s on the front page of your newspaper.”
Smith objected primarily to Trump’s emphasis on appointing conservatives to the bench, but also expressed frustration at Trump’s foreign policy efforts. “You’re the leader of a free world and you’re acting like a 14 year old boy who just got a machine gun,” he said. “It’s appalling.”
All four expressed no hesitation about maintaining their support for Clinton. Smith went further, first saying that he would vote 18 times. Then he amended his plan.
“I wouldn’t even triple vote,” he said. “I would move to Ohio or Michigan, register to vote and vote there, if I had to do all over again. That’s what I would do.”
Support for Clinton: 84.7 percent
Support for Trump: 10.5 percent
Eighth-largest margin for Clinton nationally.
Across the street from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore is a home for seniors where Oliver Spriggs, a 78-year-old retired veteran, lives. On Wednesday he was walking his 8-year-old grandson Keishawn there when I asked him how he thought Trump was doing.
“You really don’t want to know,” he said.
“Horrible!” Keishawn chirped.
“Lousy!” Spriggs said forcefully.
“I’ll say he’s crazy,” Keishawn added.
“He may be a good businessman, but he’s a liar — and as far as I’m concerned, he’s a racist in his words and his actions,” Spriggs said.
Keishawn turned from me to his grandfather. “He’s a racist?” he asked quizzically.
“He doesn’t seem to be as intelligent as he thinks he is,” Spriggs said. “That’s bad. It’s bad for the country.”
A few blocks away in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of the mostly black city, I met retired physician Tom Powell, 85, crossing the street. Powell explained that he couldn’t stand Clinton and almost didn’t vote for her since Maryland would give its electoral votes to the Democrat. (This, too, was mentioned by several of those I spoke with, given that these conversations were in Maryland, New York and D.C.)
But he voted for her anyway.
“I thought I’d be safe,” he said. “A lot of good it did.”
How does he feel about Trump? “Words cannot describe.” He held out hope that Trump’s deregulation efforts could be helpful, but the prospect of nuclear war frightened him.
“I don’t believe most people appreciate that we could end the world this afternoon,” he said. “It’s really terrifying to think of this apparently mindless guy with his, as he says, thumb on the trigger.”
“I’m an old man so it won’t affect me, but I shudder for youth,” he added.
Another Clinton voter, 28-year-old Erika Williams, stopped to talk as she walked into a hair salon. When asked how Trump was doing as president, she scoffed. What frustrated her? Trump’s position on DACA and the wall — but, more broadly, how he handled his position.
Trump “doesn’t really seem to take the position seriously,” she said. “Take his advisers seriously. Listen to or respect his adversaries or opponents in any way.”
At an upscale coffee shop back near the museum, post-doctoral student Rene Esparza, 31, sat at a table behind an Apple laptop. He wasn’t a super enthusiastic Clinton supporter (he, too, had backed Sanders), but considered her “the better of two options.”
He saw Trump’s victory as a triumph of bigotry.
“I think it’s a testament to how racist Americans are that they would vote someone as incompetent as him into the highest office of the United States,” Esparza said, as well as suggesting “a backlash in response to the eight years of Obama.” Like Powell, he suggested that words couldn’t express the depths of his frustration.
Esparza sees some Trump policies as reinforcing racist ideas. Trump’s “stupid wall with Mexico,” he said, was “a way of prodding xenophobia and catering to his base.”
“I think that having him in office has kind of emboldened racists in a way that has not been explicit since, like, the ’60s,” he said.
Esparza, like all of those we spoke with, said he’d vote for Clinton again. Like Smith in Manhattan, though, he went further.
Were the election held again this week, “I think that I would also do more on my part to ensure that he did not win,” he said.
Prince George’s County, Md.
Support for Clinton: 88.1 percent
Support for Trump: 8.4 percent
Second-largest margin for Clinton nationally.
The food court at the Bowie Town Center wasn’t very crowded on Wednesday afternoon, probably in part a function of the cold weather and the Center’s being an outdoor mall. It sits a bit south of the city of Bowie, in the northeast corner of Prince George’s County. The county overall has a higher density of black residents than Baltimore. Bowie is a largely suburban community.
Prince Deigh, 57, sat at one of the tables in the food court with an array of cellphone parts and papers arrayed in front of him. Deigh would seem to be precisely the sort of American Trump was hoping to entice with his tax plan: A small businessman who in 2016 backed Trump’s opponent.
“I don’t know. They say the economy is good. I’m not feeling it,” Deigh said, asked how Trump’s presidency was going. (Deigh did say that it was “too early” to see what the effects of the tax plan were.)
“But I don’t like his way of saying things. Doing things,” he added. “He’s brash. He doesn’t keep to his word, his promises.”
Outside a nail salon, Kimberly Pitt, 38, was blunt in her assessment: “I don’t like Trump.”
Trump wasn’t respectful, she said — to women in particular.
“He might be an okay guy, like, just hang out with on the street,” she said. “But to run the country? No.”
She expressed frustration about Trump’s push to repeal Obamacare (she’s a lab tech) and blamed him for the recent government shutdown. But she was particularly disappointed in his treatment of immigration.
“I understand that if you’re not here illegally, the whole situation, I get that,” Pitt said, “but I feel like if you’re already here you can’t just throw people out of the country like wild animals that just jumped over the fence and you’re throwing them back in somebody’s yard.”
Despite the cold, Malachi Cutchember, 11, was clutching a soda from Five Guys as he and his mother Kartrail, 33, crossed a street nearby. Kartrail Cutchember works at a nearby Nestle ice cream factory as an industrial engineer.
She supported Clinton because she wanted her to be the first female president and because “Bill Clinton was one of my favorite presidents,” so she was confident that Hillary Clinton would have carried on similar policies.
“I do not care for Trump at all,” she said. “Not a Trump supporter. I don’t support what he stands for — especially when it comes to women. He believes that women are beneath him, and me being a woman and a single mom, that’s not anything I can support.”
She also took issue with Trump’s position on immigration, including that he wants to “stop the things we put into place to have people come over and actually become citizens.”
Trump, she said, “is just not treating them like they’re people.”
“Everything with Trump right now? Bad,” she said. “I just feel like with him in office, we’ve taken steps back. He definitely needs to go.”
Everyone I spoke with offered the same reply: Yes, they would still support Clinton over Trump.
Support for Clinton: 92.8 percent
Support for Trump: 4.1 percent
Largest margin for Clinton nationally.
Hillary Clinton beat Trump by a wider margin in his new hometown than anywhere else in the country. In our nation’s capital, he earned 1.3 votes for every one vote that went to a third-party candidate. D.C. rejected his candidacy thoroughly — but it didn’t prevent Trump from moving in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Nor did that mean that everyone who voted for Clinton did so enthusiastically.
Photographer Edward LePoulin was catching a bus near Busboys and Poets in northwest D.C. when I spoke with him. He, too, would have rather voted for Sanders for president, since Clinton “is a crook, just like the guy down there” — gesturing in the direction of the White House.
Trump’s presidency was “surreal,” he said. “The American people get lost in all this stuff, you know? It’s just all about the industrial-military complex and big banks.”
Trump did inspire LePoulin in one way, indirectly.
“The day after his inaugural I photographed probably one of the best protests I’ve ever seen, which was the Women’s March,” he said. “Was so much love at that protest.”
LePoulin was the first person I spoke with who regretted his vote for Clinton — but Trump had not earned his vote.
That was the opposite of Deborah Akel, also a Bernie supporter, who decided not to vote in the 2016 general election. If she could do it over again, she would give Clinton her support. She was open to Trump before the election because she appreciated his broader message.
“At least he was saying things that were resonating with people,” she said. “For example, bringing jobs to the U.S., bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. Stop being interventionist.”
But he’d turned out to be “worse than I’d ever dreamed.”
“If I’d known now what I didn’t know then about him being such a disaster? Yes, I would have voted for her,” she said. “But with a very shaky hand.”
Lloyd Bing, 61, who I spoke with a bit further north on 14th Street, never found Trump appealing.
“I didn’t trust anything Donald Trump or the Republicans were saying,” he said. A retired employee of the Metro system, he described himself as vacillating between being a Democrat and an independent.
I asked how Trump was doing as president, and he lamented the tax bill (which favored the wealthy) and Trump’s positions on immigration. But he summarized the presidency most efficiently with a battery of critiques.
“Awful,” he said. “He’s racist. He’s untrustworthy. He’s immature. Let me think of a few other adjectives.”
He added one: unpresidential. “He’s not what you would expect a leader of this country to be.”
Alex Mitchell, 28, was running a bit late for work but stopped to talk.
She supported Clinton because there were only two people on the ballot, and Clinton was “just less silly.”
“I know they talk about a lot of corruption and everything,” she said, “but I prefer to have someone more well-versed in politics than a joke, to be blunt.”
Trump hadn’t exceeded her low expectations.
“I feel really underrepresented as a women, as an African-American,” she said. “I just feel like overall the tensions in the country are not better.”
D.C. being D.C., I also happened to encounter a former Clinton campaign staffer on V Street. He, unsurprisingly, still supported his former boss.
As Trump prepares for his first State of the Union address, the state of Clinton country can be summarized in one word: Hostile.
Finding Clinton voters at each stop was trivial, as you’d expect, but the similarity of the complaints — regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status — was remarkable. Trump’s policy positions were consistently critiqued — immigration and the tax bill in particular — but his temperament and personality (and his perceived biases) were often mentioned first and more forcefully.
Trump theorized that he would be able to bridge partisan gaps in the country by taking an outsider’s, businessman’s approach to governance. Whether or not voters in the places that voted most heavily for Clinton were ever likely to be swayed is a fair question. Over the course of his first year, Trump hasn’t helped himself at all in that goal.
The 2016 presidential election is a political World War I, partisan trench warfare. In Clinton country, as in places that backed Trump, Americans are hunkered down for a long term fight.