If I were a Democratic strategist, I would spare no expense to persuade these Orlando retirees to vote for Bill Nelson this fall:
“I love it when he says: Fake news!” Sturgess says. “I only watch Fox, because they’re the only media that tells the truth. Hannity especially.”
Sturgess told me he’s doesn’t think he’s ever met a Villager who protested or even opposed the Vietnam War, and he wouldn’t know what to say if he did. The Villages represents the traditionalist side of a cultural and political war that began in the ’60s and never really ended, an us-against-them battle over values between conservative Red America and progressive Blue America. At the Legion post, it almost goes without saying that Hillary belongs in jail, the Russia investigation is a witch hunt, the Democratic Party is a treasonous band of communist hippies, and the president is bringing back the good old days. “We’re proud to be deplorables. We’re proud to have a president who gets things done and doesn’t take any crap,” said Louise Kneisley, a 69-year-old Villager from Rock Hill, S.C. “All Obama did was play golf.” When I pointed out that Trump plays more golf than Obama did, she didn’t miss a beat: “OK, but then he goes to work!”
Kneisley and her boyfriend, 78-year-old former Marine Joe Campbell, believe Obama dragged America into a virtual state of anarchy. Even though crime rates have been dropping for decades, they carry .380 Berettas when they leave The Villages in case they encounter carjackers. “Damn right—it’s dangerous out there,” Campbell says. And even though the population of undocumented immigrants did not increase under Obama, Campbell is sure they’ve been pouring across the border: “We need the wall, because a lot of them are rapists and killers — and the ones that aren’t, I’m tired of paying for them.”
Less than six weeks ago, after writing about this phenomenon, I got resistance from a couple of wonderful friends who saw no reason to give up on reaching every available voter. This approach led to startling consequences in 2006 and 2008 when then DNC chair Howard Dean, using the so-called Fifty State Method, made Democratic congressional candidates competitive in almost every district. But no strategy comes without a price: so-called Blue Dog Democrats were most resistant to the Affordable Care Act and were most attracted to balancing the budget. To dilute liberalism for the sake of former Marine Joe Campbell is folly: Campbell ain’t voting for a Democrat, ever.
These dispatches, though, like a similar one published in The New Yorker last summer, are instructive. That these seniors sound like our aunts, uncles, and parents makes them no less repugnant. Our parents, aunts, and uncles are often repugnant people. How do you persuade a person so oblivious to the privilege of leaving in a “planned community” that he thinks a lazy black president encouraged rapists and killers to prowl the borders of The Villages like a wolf pack? Death when it comes, to quote Citizen Kane, as it must to all men, is our only reprieve.