Watching the end of the world with Ohio’s super conservatives

‘You stand next to me, to cover my arm fat’

On Tuesday night I watched as Donald Trump became this nation’s 45th President with a restaurant of Ohio’s most prototypical conservatives.

Wealthy divorcees snapping selfies in skintight red dresses.

Paunchy middle aged white men in ill tailored suits openly ogling these women as they flit around and pose with people they think might be important in the community.

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Teenagers donning “Make America Great Again” hats as they yawn at the gargantuan projector and stab at a cheese cube with a toothpick.

A lone Latino man in a leather cowboy hat situated in a darkened corner staring at his snakeskin wingtips, a plate of congealed meatballs sits beside him.

The only other people of color in the room are in various states of schmooze.

I must admit, it wasn’t entirely disheartening. At one point I manage to strike up a decent conversation with a man called Mark. He tells me he was so excited to vote he did it two weeks early. I ask if that was something he’d done years prior to which he enthusiastically shakes his head no. Why now?

“I just think he signifies change. I don’t necessarily agree with the social viewpoints, but I’m willing to sacrifice that for policy. I truly do believe we need an outsider to move forward.”

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We speak for another few moments before we’re interrupted by his bespectacled friend. He hands Mark a Budweiser declaring, “The most American drink just for you, my friend,” before fixing his attention on me. He asks who I am, and what degree I graduated college with. English Literature and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, I inform him.

“Well, what’s to learn about that? It’s pretty damn uncomplicated. In my day, we took Chemistry. Now that was hard.”

Because there isn’t a whole lot to say after that, I wish them well, take a celebratory picture of them clinking their beers and relocate.

News of Ohio pro-life Sen. Rob Portman‘s defeat of his pro-abortion rival Ted Strickland begins to stir buzz around the bar but before I am able to ruminate on this, I’m grabbed by a cluster of the red dress divorcees and demanded, not asked, to take their picture.

They huddle together and proceed to spar with one another for several minutes about who should be in the front. Finally, the ladies decide upon one long row instead. I take at least ten before they snatch their phones back and declare that all of them are terrible. The process begins again except this time I’m asked to pose alongside them.

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“You stand next to me to cover my arm fat,” a bottle-blonde instructs me.

“But she can’t stand in front of me because I want one with my tits out,” whines another.

“Here, crouch down in front of us over here. That way our belly fat is blocked,” the clear alpha ultimately decides.

25 pictures later we have a winner. I laugh and comment that it’s the worst of me.

“Majority rules,” alpha shrugs. I feel like I’m back in high school at an all-girls prep.

More announcements are made on the television to some light cheers. I look to the group of women for some reaction but they’re all too consumed with posting said photo to some form of social media.

I close my tab in preparation of relocating to another party but not before one of the ladies asks if I have a boyfriend. I tell her I’m too busy to pay that much mind.

“Honey, you are so beautiful. Don’t worry. One day, you’ll be more than a reporter. You’ll be someone’s wife.”

“My life’s dream finally realized.”

***

By 11pm I’m at a different bar downtown. Instantly I spot two college-age women clad in all white with hats and sashes, a clear nod to the suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The presence of more than a few “Make America Great Again” hats make for a polarizing image.

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Unlike the last gathering, it’s certainly more diverse but recognizably more grim. Less of a party, more of a funeral. By midnight, two young women weep openly at the bar. One refuses to speak to me, but the other, Lauren, is eager to work through her tears to tell me that she is “terrified.”

“As a woman from Ohio, I think that Trump winning is a huge step backward for humanity. I think the rest of the world looks to this country as a gauge for progress so I think this will hurt America’s stance in the world for a long time to come. I am devastated.”

I continue to mill around the bar asking for reactions but I am denied each time. Partly because the end for Hillary supporters is near and most have already left, but also because no one is willing to, “get too political.”

Even the Trump supporters are quiet. I overhear one man in a “Hillary for Prison” t-shirt tell the bartender, “I just can’t believe this is happening,” before putting his head in his hands.

It’s not until 2am that I decide to pack up. The bar is announcing last call and more and more forlorn faces are leaving. On my way out I speak with a couple called Naomi and Paul. They are Green Party-turned-Hillary supporters. I ask them how they think this happened.

Naomi speaks first, “ I think people, especially young people, were confident based on what they saw on social media. Maybe they didn’t realize how truly vital it was. No one considers what’s outside their bubble anymore.”

Paul agrees before verbalizing what I’ve thought all night. “The concept of change from an outsider is what sells people. It happened with Obama, so it’s no surprise it’s happening again. He definitely will bring change. I just can’t think it’ll be good.”
I watch from the parking lot as the bar empties itself onto the street. Laura cries harder. Couples hold one another tighter. Even the “MAGA” men appear forlorn.

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No one can know for sure what got us here. Maybe it was the intoxication with the promise of “change” or the refusal to get “too political.” Or perhaps it was the fact that all of us were caught looking down at our phones, consumed with our own bubble. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Because the only thing more concerning than how we got here, is what we’ll do now.

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