Four years ago, 2,282 citizens of the four Outer Cape towns voted for Donald Trump: 208 in Provincetown, 361 in Truro, 515 in Wellfleet, and 1,198 in Eastham. (Hillary Clinton won 6,926 votes here in 2016.)
As the 2020 presidential election commences, this much is certain: Massachusetts will go blue. Clinton trounced Trump, with 60.8 percent of the state’s votes to Trump’s 33.5 percent, in 2016, and all indications are that Joe Biden will do even better on Nov. 3.
Many of the state’s conservative voters understand their ballot is effectively a throwaway. “There’s no sense in voting red,” one local resident said, “because the state is always handed over to the Democrats.”
The Independent wanted to know what had changed among Republican voters in the past four years and what hadn’t. Working with data from publicly available voter rolls, reporters called just over half of the 1,283 Outer Cape residents who voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary — a total of 701 people. We reached 78 of them, and asked the 44 who agreed to participate in our survey which candidate they’d cast their ballot for in 2016’s primary and general elections, and why. Then we asked whether and for whom they planned to vote this November, and why.
Many of those who agreed to participate did so only on condition of anonymity. Others consented to being quoted by name.
Their responses varied widely and revealed nothing resembling a consensus, the only conclusion being that President Trump has not united his party around a uniform set of ideas. But, of 29 people who told us they voted for Trump, 24 said they would do so again.
Their reasons for supporting Trump fell into two roughly equal groups. First, there were the true believers. These people appear to believe what Trump says, period.
Second, there are the party faithful, who say they are loyal to conservative ideas or policies. Although the Trump presidency had left some of these people unenthusiastic about the man, they said they were unwilling to cede power to the Democratic Party.
A handful of Trump’s 2016 supporters expressed dissatisfaction with four years of “chaos,” and — with just two weeks or so until the election — said they didn’t know for whom, or even if, they would vote.
Below, selected to illustrate this range, are Outer Cape Republicans, in their own words.
Keeping America Great: Accepting Lies
The Washington Post reported that, as of July 9, 2020, President Trump had made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims since the start of his presidency in 2017. Some of his local supporters don’t notice — or don’t care. In our interviews, many repeated some of the president’s false statements, including conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon.
They described a “deep state,” called Joe Biden a pedophile, and accused the Obamas of staffing the White House with “anti-American” Muslims. Some voters said they suspected the Democratic Party of advancing a Communist agenda and questioned Biden’s mental fitness. Some applauded the president’s performance in office thus far. Below, the reasons President Trump’s most fervent local supporters still stand by their man.
“I am not voting for Joe Biden because he is a criminal, pedophile, and a whole slew of other things.” —Anonymous, Wellfleet
“Biden belongs in a mental institution.” —Evelyn Broadbridge, Eastham
“I do not want the form of socialism that exists in Communist China.” —Anonymous, Wellfleet
“One of my top reasons voting for Trump was abortion. Hillary Clinton and the state of New York have allowed late-term abortions. That includes when a baby is out of the womb for less than a minute — still attached to the umbilical cord — the mother can still squash the life out of it. It’s heartbreaking to me that with a baby’s head crowning, it can be killed and that’s what Democrats want.
“All this racism started with Obama. Throughout his whole eight years, he and Michelle Obama just poured gasoline over a wound from way back when and brought it to the forefront. That’s why people say we’re racist now, the worst nation in the world … Obama filled the White House with many Islamic staff members. Now those people can get jobs anywhere. They’re in the Senate, they’re mayors — and they’re so anti-American.” —Joseph Somers, Provincetown
“Exposure and disclosure of the deep state is the most important aspect of this election.” —Anonymous, Truro
Promises Kept: Policy Over Personality
Some among the voters who spoke to us love Trump. Some like him. Some can’t stand him. But a large group was fiercely committed to a conservative agenda and said Trump has proved he will support the policies they prioritize. Over the past four years, they’ve watched him appoint a record number of conservative judges, crack down on immigration of all sorts, and make good on his campaign promises to cut taxes and deregulate the economy. They’re not all Trumpians, but they’re all Republicans — and the president has their vote.
“Trump is my guy … Under President Trump, the economy trickled down, trickled down to little old me … The Democrats have ruined my town. It was all hardworking people before. Now look at it.” —Anonymous, Provincetown
“I voted for him because of the wall. It’s absolutely necessary. I’m from Europe and came here sponsored by some family. If I didn’t pay my dues, they said I gotta be sent home — so why are all these people coming over here for nothing? That’s fine with me, but they should come through the correct channels. I like him. He’s a very strong president, a very strong personality. And who the hell wants to vote for Biden?” —Monika Wildman, Eastham
“He’s a businessman, and the country needs to be treated as a business … All the promises that Obama and Biden made the first time around about health care turned out to be lies. Joe Biden has had 47 years and he hasn’t done anything.” —Donald Macioci, Eastham
“I support his economic policies, his immigration policies, and his foreign policy. It was a policy vote, not a personality vote.” —Anonymous, Eastham
“President Trump has really taken away the power of the pharma corporate bully by lowering drug prices.” —Anonymous, Wellfleet
“I’m tired of bureaucracy, and I care about border issues and race issues … He’s done what he said he would, and he has the interests of older citizens in mind.” —Anonymous, Eastham
Undecided and Reconsidering
A May 2016 NBC poll reported that close to 60 percent of Americans said they “hated” or “strongly disliked” Hillary Clinton — and, asking about that election, we learned that, for a number of registered Republicans and unenrolled voters here, that was enough to push them to cast a ballot for Donald Trump.
Joe Biden, though, has proved more difficult than Clinton to hate. According to a June 24 Siena Poll, just 27 percent of voters today express strong negative feelings towards Biden. That — combined with what they described as four years of “chaos” — has left a handful of the Outer Cape’s 2016 Trump voters feeling unsure and generally uninspired. A few are reconsidering.
“I generally vote Republican because I am a conservative, but there is just too much chaos in the news, and I do not know what to believe anymore.” —Anonymous, Wellfleet
“I didn’t like Hillary … [Now, I’m voting for Biden], more because I can’t stand Trump than that I like Biden.” —Elizabeth Reinhart, Eastham
“If Biden is truthful about what he is saying, then, yeah, I think I could vote for him. It doesn’t mean I am going to, but I am watching him like a hawk.” —Anonymous, Wellfleet
“Well, hindsight’s 20-20. I chose him [Trump] probably because I’m an idiot. I wasn’t gonna vote for Hillary, all right? I’m a Bernie man. Once he got screwed, there was no way I was voting for Hillary. I’m an independent, so I voted on the Republican ticket … I could go either way. There’s still a lot that’s gonna come down before I cast my ballot. It’s very tough between Trump and Biden. I don’t like either choice.” —Peter Verocchi, Provincetown
“I voted for Trump in the general election, by mistake. What a mistake. I hate Trump and everything he stands for. Yes, it’s changed a lot since 2016 for me. Oh, God. I can’t have this madman be our president. He’s everything I hate.” —Anonymous, Provincetown
“Both candidates create severe problems. It may very well be that we don’t vote at all.” —Anonymous, Wellfleet
“I just wanted change. I can’t tell you who I’m gonna vote for this time, man. I’m just going to wait a little while longer.” —Anonymous, Provincetown