I grew up here, in a swing state that went for Trump by eight points in 2016, and where right now it’s anybody’s call
On Fairmont Boulevard where the broad, leafy avenue divides the upscale Cleveland suburb Shaker Heights from the more middle-class University Heights, a lady with her manicured white poodle is taking a selfie on her front lawn, in front of her Biden-Harris lawn sign.
“I’m heading to drop off my ballot right now,” she said proudly, asking a passerby to take a picture for history.
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Up and down her street and in the winding streets of gracious homes behind her, Biden-Harris lawn signs dominate the views. Over on the University Heights side of the avenue, where the lots are smaller for the rows of brick houses, there are a lot more Trump-Pence signs dotting the yards.
I grew up here, in Ohio, a swing state that went for Trump by eight points in 2016, and where right now it’s anybody’s call. The latest polls show Trump leading by two points, 52-48, according to the site 538.com.
History dangles in the balance. I grew up writing book reports about the seven presidents that Ohio sent to the White House. And I’ve watched a proud Buckeye state become hollowed out by the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas, jobs that 100 years ago made this place a magnet for industry and an engine of made-in-America growth. My own family’s plumbing and flooring products business had to do look abroad to survive, as the big-box retailers squeezed profits to impossible margins.
Ohio has struggled to pivot in this century, as the income gap has grown. Jobs have gone to service industries and the tech boom is in faraway California, Washington and New York. My 75-year-old uncle drives for Door Dash. You do what you have to do.
Governor Mike DeWine is a moderate Republican who favors masks, pragmatic politics and Donald Trump. Former Republican Gov. John Kasich, well-liked and also moderate, baldly campaigned for Joe Biden.
In two days of driving through countryside and suburbs east of Cleveland, I saw a lot more Biden-Harris signs than Trump-Pence. And maybe that doesn’t mean much.
But people are politicized. Even in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where my parents live, one neighbor has not one but three Trump-Pence signs on the lawn.
Still, not everyone is sticking with the president.
My 83-year-old mother — who has a major crush on CNN’s Chris Cuomo — has never liked Trump and didn’t vote for him before. But the transformation is notable in my 86-year-old entrepreneur father, a lifelong Republican (though he voted once for Bill Clinton) who is anti-taxes, pro-Israel and reads the Wall Street Journal like the Bible — and barely noticed when I worked for The New York Times, that liberal rag.
He bitterly curses the era that Trump has ushered in — the race-baiting, the naked divisiveness, the mistreatment of immigrants, the disrespect for the office, the posturing with China that in his view has not helped American industry.
Even with the economy in tatters, he persists in thinking that Republicans are better at managing economic issues than Democrats. But “you can’t just vote on the economy when you have someone acting the way he does,” said my dad, spewing a list of Trump qualities — liar, cheater, tax dodger, incompetent in dealing with COVID-19.
Then there’s the female population of Ohio. The New York Times recently did a definitive dive into the suburban women who Trump begged “will you please like me” in a rally last week. He’s a goner with that demographic. From a dateline of Westerville, Ohio, reporter Lisa Lerer found a host of women who have become anti-Trump political activists despite all their parenting duties and plenty of other things to do.
Kate Rabinovitch, coincidentally from suburban Cleveland, became a political organizer — “just not something that I ever would have described myself as, if you talked to me a year ago,” she told the Times. It’s partly because she felt “guilty” over having voted for Trump in 2016. “I thought, ‘Oh, what’s the worst that could happen?'” she recalled.
Well, prospective Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the possible end of Roe v. Wade might be one of the worst things that could happen to women who prefer making choices for their own bodies. Having a president who palled around with Jeffrey Epstein, who has a long line of women accusing him of sexual assault, who can be heard on tape boasting about grabbing “p—y” — that might be the worst that could happen when your children hang around the television set and overhear that stuff.
Me, I keep thinking about this one mother in that article who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, but whose desperation and disappointment in her government broke my heart. “I just looked at my daughter, who was 3 at the time, and the way that he talked about and treated women,” Andrea Granieri, 34, who lives in the Cincinnati suburb Anderson Township, told the Times. “I was just like, I cannot put a check next to his name.”
Granieri, a conservative Catholic, got politically active while juggling a full-time job at a charter school and home-schooling her own children. Meanwhile, her husband lost some of his work.
She’s at the end of her patience.
“I felt like, do you understand?” she said. “Like, I am on my last shred of sanity here. And you guys have no idea. You’re not sending help. I don’t know how much longer I have to do this.”