A Visit to Trump’s America

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Courtesy / Edward Speed

An Upton County ranch family looks out over the land.

Two months ago, when I was in Ohio visiting my daughter, I was given an insight into the early indicators of a Trump victory. The clues were there, but I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing. At that time, I had no inkling of the depth and breadth of rural dissatisfaction that would elect a Donald Trump as President.

I’m a photographer and the coordinator of The Texas Farm and Ranch Photography Project, photographing the daily lives of farm and ranch families, their work, meals, worship, and family life. In September, I drove almost 300 miles up and down the rural roads east of Dayton and south of Columbus, Ohio, to add some farm images to my portfolio.

Mile after mile, farm after farm, town after town, ag business after ag business, I saw only Trump signs. It was obvious that if Ohio was going to block Trump, it would have to be in the cities because agricultural Ohio was overwhelmingly Trump country. This mirrored the same Trump support that I saw in the agricultural communities I have been photographing across Texas for the past year. 

As I engaged in countless conversations in both rural Ohio and Texas, I tried to understand how any farming or ranching family could even remotely identify with a brash, thrice-married, womanizing, bankruptcy-declaring, New York billionaire. 

What I learned is that agricultural America felt not only ignored and forgotten, it felt rejected and despised by America’s political elite, and that any candidate who could hurt that elite was worth their vote.

No story brought this home to me more powerfully than a grandfather who spoke of national news stories about what he described as the whining and crying on elite college campuses by those who demanded “safe places” and “safe zones” where they will be sheltered from anything that remotely offends them. He spoke of ingrates wanting special “only me” safe places where they do not have to do anything, hear anything, see anything, or be around anyone or anything they don’t like.

In that farmer’s mind, while the safe-space crowd whined about its “offendedness” and demanded entitlements, children of agricultural families were up early in the morning working on their chores and projects, followed by a full day at school, coming home to more work – all while being part of a family, a community, and a nation.

He described watching youngsters at county fairs and livestock shows hauling feed, cleaning stalls, washing and grooming livestock, shoveling manure, unloading and loading their family trucks and trailers, and trying to sleep in uncomfortable chairs – all while ungrateful elite college students failed to appreciate their pampered lives.

An abandoned Ohio farmhouse.

Courtesy / Edward Speed

An abandoned Ohio farmhouse.

In this gentleman’s world view, it was not black versus white, rich versus poor, feminism versus patriarchy, illegal versus citizen; rather, it was those who produce nothing believing themselves entitled, without appreciation, to the goods produced by others versus those who actually produce.

Although this grandfather did not use the exact words, he pretty much described a political elite and liberal establishment as thinking of American agriculture families as nothing more than serfs in a self-protecting, self-serving feudal system.

A ranch mom whose family I photographed in far West Texas alluded to the Black Lives Matter movement by telling me that unless America starts recognizing that Farm Lives Matter, no lives are going to matter.

Rural and agricultural America has revolted against this perceived feudal system in an unimaginable way. It voted not only out of feelings of rejection and abandonment, but also out of the sentiment of being taken for granted. The result was an agricultural electorate that rose up against urban elites who they believed show only disdain and ridicule to those who endure the back-breaking work and financial hardships required to feed our nation.

As a result, hard-working, long-suffering agricultural families sent Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and the perceived political establishment to bed without their supper.

They also sent a powerful message and reminder that our food does not spring magically from grocery stores.

Agricultural America helped deliver the White House to Trump, then got up early the next morning and went back to its daily, unending chores.

26 thoughts on “A Visit to Trump’s America

  1. Gee, Speed sounds like he is part of the elite he describes and now like Trump he is trying to be act like he is part of rural folks. He romanticizes the rural landscape. Agriculture is no longer mom and pop. It is huge company owned farms and corporations like Monsanto and Dow manipulating them into producing more and more for less and less. It is the liberals and the college kids (oh and how many of their sons and daughters go to college using pell grants and Government insured loans?) who are leading the movement into local produce, farmers markets and organic farming.

      • Agree with Mike Thomsen above. Plenty of farmers in my family. Detasselled, rogued, and hand pollinated for seed corn companies. Walked beans. If anyone reads this and doesn’t know what that work is, you’re not a small town Midwest person.

  2. As Mr. Speed observes, in the bright light of hindsight, we see that Trump owes his victory to people who feel abandoned and looked-down-upon, either by the political establishment or the Democratic Party. American farmers who (please pardon the pun) have deep roots in the Republican Party, are not a surprising Trump support group. The group who felt most abandoned, and so decided to return the favor, are disaffected voters in the rust belt….people who yearn for the good paying union jobs that used to exist. Clinton, who I believe cares deeply for this group told them the truth…in post-industrial America, muscle jobs have gone where they are cheap…off shore…but she would prepare them for the good paying post industrial jobs of the clean planet information economy. Trump told them his truth…that America can be an industrial powerhouse again and bring their jobs back. It seems clear they liked his truth better.

    As for the point the ranching Grandpa made about the spoiled kids who insist on their “safe zones” where nothing can offend them: while it true that an insistence on “political correctness” in our public speech can seem like a hardship, it is also true that the people who aspire to be our leaders must not behave in a way that belittles others or foments ridicule, bullying or hatred….We cannot tolerate offensive behavior about women, the disabled, lgbt individuals or anybody else. It’s a slippery slope and one trip to the Holocaust Museum will show you where it leads.

    • I won’t comment on your first paragraph, since it contains remarks such as “Clinton…cares deeply for this group [and] told them the truth…”

      Insofar as your second paragraph is concerned, until we reach the point where your statement regarding mutual kindness can end with out qualification – “We cannot tolerate offensive behavior,” period – Political Correctness will continue unabated and I will continue feeling disgusted by it.

    • “it is also true that the people who aspire to be our leaders must not
      behave in a way that belittles others or foments ridicule, bullying or
      hatred”. BS. I don’t reciprocate bullying or hatred. However, I will jump right in there with the ridicule, reciprocal disgust and a visceral self defense when I, my family, my friends, my Country are threatened with destruction. I’m not a leader, nor follower. Just a regular American that worked over 50 years paying my taxes, enjoying my family and America and was mislead my our so-called leaders.

  3. Thank you for the article. Farmers values are very similar to the value of hard working immigrants in San Antonio. I understand our Farmers may feel rejected by the political elite however I don’t believe the business elite of Trump is any better. Trump will soon surround and immerse himself in the DC political elite becoming what he ran against. “Youngsters” working the county fairs are not the same as college students working in the classroom. In fact many of those “ungrateful college elite students” were once farm children themselves. And how much do our farmers depend on educated college students? Our farmers have benefited immensely from our educated “elite” students efforts in medicine and technology. You do not have to look any further than farming techniques in developing (ox & plow) countries vs. America (vast farming land with efficient large air conditioned tractors with coffee cup holders). Our farmer are also very well subsidized by our federal government and according to select data, are the largest welfare recipients in the country. One of the reason I am upset about Trump as our president is how he sold himself to the American people. For me, I can’t be Trumped into believing nonsense. You can’t make me fall for Trump University or that he will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. This is what half of America believed in yet Trump probably cannot relate to most of their experiences because he has always been a 1%.

    • Actually food stamps are a major portion of the farm bill. Farmers get a very small portion of farm bill dollars. Check it out.

  4. How I wish those who categorize agriculture as factory/company farms could walk in our shoes. That would be akin to us thinking all city folks are robots, snooty and wildly liberal. Yes there are company farm

  5. My vote for Trump wasn’t for him, it was against Hillary and all she represents. The lies and deceit she has based her life on. Her opinion that an unborn child has no value or rights. Her willingness to turn her back on soldiers in need, for whatever reason. Her disdain for the laws of this land. My vote was against a media that ridicules conservatism and goodness and applauds violence and mayhem for the ratings it brings.
    It was for at least a chance my family will have a free country to raise their children in. Not one that chooses Iran over Isreal. One religion over another. That sees schooling as a way to improve minds, not just as a source of income from data mining them for 13+ years. Or uses families need of medical care as a way to tax every available penny.
    I voted for Trump. I wish I didn’t have to but I was left with no choice.

    • Good observations. But respectively request you to re-evaluate the, “Not one that chooses Iran over Isreal”, quote by considering the following if current Israel “is REAL” biblically: 1) why has Israel not called for the arrest and adjudication of one, George Soros, a jewish SELF-ACKNOWLEDGED Nazi collaborator? 2) what about the 5 “dancing Israelis” celebrating the destruction wrought on 9-11who were arrested and then quietly wisked out of the US? 3) why is Israel considered the world leader in promoting the LGBTQ[xyz] agenda?

    • Iran hasn’t invaded any country in 300 years. Americans don’t like Iran because of the embassy hostage crisis. –but the U.S. supported the corrupt, brutal dictator, (the Shah) until the Iranian revolution. The U.S. should have expected blowback.

      Now about Israel… In its short history, it has started a few wars unilaterally attacking its Arab neighbors, built housing settlements in the Palestinian “occupied territories’, seized the Golan Heights from Syria. Is this the sort of violent country that we should support?

      Getting back to invading countries…. Look up the almost countless countries that the U.S. has invaded in the last 50 years. After watching “The Descendants starring George Clooney”, I researched Hawaii and learned that was also invaded to protect the Dole (and other) plantation owners.

      So, which country (countries) are the violent, invading countries again. Right. Thought you’d agree after this short lesson.

      • Yes, it’s all the United States’ fault – and our Jewish friends, of course.

        Still, doesn’t that bring an entirely new meaning to your rhetorical question? Based upon information contained in your “lesson,” what other type of country could the U.S. possibly be expected to support other than one as similarly “violent”?

        I thought you’d agree. Now, go back to watching your movies.

  6. Same here in south central Pennsylvania, with its dairy farming, light industry, feeder corn and soy, varied mix of the Christian faith but most wanting or needing to be followers of Christ.

    A
    PUMPKIN PARADE

    The
    marching bands come trooping down the street

    The
    floats, the clowns, the zanies throwing sweets,

    Fire
    engines and the businessmen

    Beginning
    from the Diamond to the end

    It
    is the twenty-ninth day of October

    Now
    we can confirm we are together,

    Farms
    and towns and countryside we are

    Where
    families and friendships are not far

    This
    will be our fortress if it happens

    That
    stress and deprivation is our commons,

    No
    clowns but saints and shepherds must appear

    When
    dust and shadows smut the atmosphere

    But
    in the cities what will be must be

    If
    none will tell their neighbors “join with me”

    Pavel

    October 29, 2016

  7. Thanks for that enlightening and informative story. I live in the East and I believe you are correct in your observations on why and how Trump became President. A Good story that I feel and think rings true in America. Thank You!

  8. The premise of this article is preposterous. That “farmers”, which these days are a tiny minority of mostly “ag businesses”, work and that those who go to college or work in urban areas shun work and traditional values, and think farmers are worthy of being “ignored and forgotten”. That farmers feel “rejected and despised by America’s political elite” is absolutely right on, but brothers and sisters it’s not the urban working class and college educated that are the “political elite”. Those people are the 1%, the CEOs, the Banksters, and the TwoParty duopoly that has destabilized and victimized America’s bottom 90% for the last 45 years. The inclusion of the “entitlements” and “those who produce and those who don’t” are code words used by the elite on the right, to divide and conquer the working classes of the US and make them artificial enemies of each other. And they have succeeded.

    Those of you who think you will be getting something positive from a billionaire con-man like Trump are in for a rude surprise. He is one of the elite you all fear. He won’t build the Wall. He won’t scrap NAFTA. He will pander to Wall Street, He’ll saber rattle the world and pour more money into the Defense Dept.. He’ll privatize schools. He’ll give huge tax breaks to corporations and defund public services. Instead of rooftop solar and wind and wave, FREE ENERGY, he will sell off US natural resources to Big Energy and Big Corp to sell back to us that which was ours. He will attempt to install the most unconstitutional and egregious surveillance and national security apparatus worse than Obama and Bush. And… he will subside corporate farming and try and destroy the return of small family organic farms that are happening all the country.

    We need to send a message that the TwoParty1% elite free-for-all is over. But Trump is not the way. I didn’t vote for president because i realize the 1% have rigged the entire system from City to State to Federal government and we need a new direct democracy government ruled by the 99%. I vote for Initiatives that come close to direct democracy and take decision making out of the hands of 1% owned politicians. Jerry Brown was elected governor of California in 2012 by less than 1% of eligible voters. By not voting we can deauthorize these tyrannical governments.

    We the People need to create and vote in the policies we want, and our EMPLOYEES, the government and officials, must implement or be fired. Direct Democracy. We can do this.

  9. Trump is basically a giant, clown shaped Molotov cocktail hurled at Washington. Don’t try to romanticize it or make it sound altruistic. It was destructive and counterproductive and isn’t going to help the people you described in this lackluster essay. We don’t need your Stockholm syndrome embrace of this travesty thanks.

    • But, of course, The Progressives [tm] WERE going to help farmers and ranchers and small town residents and others living within the boundaries of our so-called “fly-over country.”

      Yeah; right.

      I voted for Donald Trump and I’m glad he won. Might I eventually wish to eat my words? Surely; but, that remains to be seen. In the meantime, watching respectable fellow citizens begin this new era by lobbing a few Molotov cocktails of their own makes me very sad – and quite unlikely to embrace any of the opposition’s points.

  10. I hope the farmers were also motivated by the prospect of Monsanto being put out of businesses, ie: their poisons being mandated to cover their crops, so countries (think Russia & China) are refusing our GMO and Round-Up soaked food! I fully agree with comments here such as johnbachman’s. I live in the northern NM mountains and our community has been growing our own organic food on our properties and in our small greenhouses for the past 5+/- yrs, knowing what’s in WalMart and even local grocery stores isn’t fit for human nor animals. I raise horses & chickens, and spend the extra money to feed them organic and non-GMO as well. Hope Trump appoints an anti-GMO head of the FDA. After all, he loves to eat and has restaurants in his hotels, right? We’ll see.

  11. Having read your “Visit to Trump’s America”, I was
    surprised by your erroneous conclusions. What you saw happen
    on November 8th was absolutely not about rural “hillbillies”
    vs “educated and modern” urban dwellers; the implied meme.
    We are at war sir; not with each other, but with the global
    central banking system. This is a fight to the death between
    all of humanity and the globalists who have enslaved the
    People and wish for their destruction. The majority of
    Americans know they are being robbed and destroyed culturally
    although most may not fully grasp the monetary machinations of
    fake fiat currencies. I do believe that lesson will be coming
    up very soon however as the dollar has been destroyed by a
    private, for profit, branch bank of the Bank for International
    Settlements we call the ‘Federal Reserve’. The denizens of the
    Fed have debased the currency [as all central banks; or branch
    banks of the BIS, are destroying the global fiat currency
    system] and when it is replaced the People will learn another
    part of the game that is afoot.

    Most of the People know they are being subjected to a spew of
    wall-to-wall propaganda and those are the people who
    voted for Trump; the people who are desperately sick of the
    overwhelming corruption; the destruction of the Constitution
    and our rights under its protection along with the absolutely
    grotesque perversion of legality and blatant absence of the rule
    of law. No greater example could be offered than for the
    People to be told they will be “allowed” to “choose” between
    the Bush crime family or the Clinton crime family to “lead”
    them to their final destruction. Trump voters also realized
    this might be their last opportunity to avoid civil war so
    they came from every corner of the nation to vote for this man
    in an effort to save their country.

    You sir, are not helping.

  12. My vote for Trump was for him. There were 16 other representatives of all ideological republican flavors running in the primary to Oppose the progressive globalist, corrupt, fraudulent, to the bone America hating democrats and rino undocumented dims. None chose to speak the truth. The democrats have embraced a suicide pact with the islamic cult. The democrats, in the last 8 years have added more debt to America’s ledger than than the last 44 presidents, combined. The democrats have made a mockery of the rule of law, our Founding Fathers and our Constitution. The dimocrats have sold our law to the highest bidder. The democrats have initiated unbridled immigration into our country of people whose ideology is the antithesis of American values and that is destroying our culture, our education system, our medical system, our welfare system, our legal system, and our government. Donald Trump was the Only Man out of the 17 that put America First. The democrats have….. Pick your poison. Aided and abetted by the so-called Republican Leadership; as represented by the other 16 primary contenders. Donald Trump is the only Man that stood up for all Americans, American exceptionalism, and what is Right.
    God Bless America, Donald J Trump, and those that voted for 1 last chance to save America.

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