Select Page

For some supporters, none of the endless scandals that seem to shake Washington and the media on a weekly basis matter

This feels like the end of something.

As the mainstream media and beltway insiders once again planned Donald Trumps political funeral the quote above is from liberal TV host Rachel Maddow Trump supporter Douglas Knight sipped on Michelob Ultra at the Loft, a dimly-lit bar in downtown Laurel, Mississippi.

He was blissfully unaware that a book by investigative journalist Bob Woodward and a New York Times op-ed by an anonymous White House official were supposed to herald the end of his support for the man whom he voted for in 2016.

I hadnt heard nothin bout it yet, the 50-year-old construction worker said. You know, theyre up north. It takes a little bit for news to travel this far.

Even in the age of the internet and 24-hour cable news?

Oh yeah, it still takes time.

Strikingly, when Knight did learn of the op-ed, the impact was minimal.

I dont pay a lot of attention to the news, cause they dont tell you the truth anyway, he said, echoing a sentiment common among the Trump faithful about the fourth estate, or the Fake News Media, as Trump calls it.

Knight gave no credit to special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Its just bullshit, he said, rejecting not only the idea that the president colluded with Russia to sway the election in his favour, but the notion that Russia interfered in the election at all.

The people of the United States aint gonna let that happen, he said.

For Knight, none of the endless scandals that seem to shake Washington and east coast media on a weekly basis register. All that matters is that Trump went in to make America like its supposed to be.

Section break

Some of Trumps supporters may have missed the dramatic headlines of last week, but Trump did not.

On Tuesday, excerpts from Woodwards book, Fear, painted a portrait of a White House in chaos: Gary Cohn, Trumps former economic adviser, supposedly swiped documents from the presidents desk to stop him from tearing up trade agreements; the defense secretary, James Mattis, allegedly ignored an order to have the Syrian president assassinated; and the chief of staff, John Kelly, apparently called Trump an idiot, said Were in Crazytown and called his position the worst job Ive ever had.

That evening, Trump tweeted out statements from Kelly and Mattis denying Woodwards reporting. But the next day an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, gave credence to Woodwards version of events. Senior officials are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations, the author wrote. I would know. I am one.

Republican state senator Chris McDaniels campaign signs. McDaniels signature issue is a promise to preserve the state flag, which bears the Confederate flag. Photograph: Ashton Pittman for the Observer

But in Jones county, Mississippi which includes Laurel and the college town of Ellisville and which Trump won with 71% of the vote the presidents supporters paid little mind.

The countys most famous contemporary resident 47-year-old Republican state senator Chris McDaniel lives in Ellisville. He is mounting a second bid for the US Senate and his signature issue is a promise to preserve the Mississippi state flag, which bears in its upper lefthand corner the Confederate battle flag. McDaniel took up the cause in 2015, when several high-profile Republicans called for change after a neo-Confederate shot dead nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

A politician climbing to power on the rickety rungs of the Lost Cause is nothing new for Jones county: Laurel was the home of Carroll Gartin, an unyielding white supremacist who, as the states lieutenant governor, fought to preserve racial segregation until the day he died of a heart attack in 1966.

Section break

At the Loft, Ron Maxey a wealthy 68-year-old retired oil field worker showed up, greeted Knight and joined the conversation. Maxey also voted for Trump and was eager to discuss why.

Maxey knew about the op-ed and he didnt doubt its veracity. He even had a theory about its authorship.

I think Pence probably wrote that, Maxey said, seeming unfazed by the idea of a vice-president conspiring with other cabinet officials to sabotage a president considered too erratic to be left to his own devices. Instead, he mused about a theoretical Trump-Pence hybrid.

Mike is a really Christian, straightforward guy, Maxey said. Im not sure we need Mike Pence as a president. If you could cross Mike Pence and Trump, you would have the ultimate president, right?

While he wished Trump would stop tweeting and provide a more stable work environment, Maxey extended grace to the man he voted for as the first person to be president thats not a politician; hes a businessman.

My investments are through the roof and unemployment is at a record low, he added, praising Trumps economic policies.

Maxey anticipated questions about racism and pre-empted them.

I am not a racist, said Maxey, while sharing his views on immigration. I am not against immigration. Some of my best friends are black.

As evidence, Maxey told the story of how he sponsored a Kurdish doctor from northern Iraq to come to the US. That doctor, he said, now works in rural Kentucky.

Gartin was popular and wouldve been governor, he said. Yes, he was a segregationist, but so was everybody else back then.

Section break

In Hattiesburg, 30 miles south of Laurel, Trump supporters are not so easy to find. Between two universities the city is home to more than 20,000 students; Hillary Clinton comfortably beat Trump there in 2016. Still, one night early this week the only bar patron at Izote Mexican Cuisine was Mark Tullos, 63, a Trump supporter sipping a pint-sized margarita.

Mark Tullos: If [the anonymous op-ed writers] not fake, its not an elected or an appointed person. Photograph: Ashton Pittman for the Observer

He said he supported Trump because Clinton was going to be a total and complete disaster for this country financially, military and for our standing in the world because she did not know what in the hell she was doing.

So what did he think of the anonymous op-ed?

Yeah, I think thats fake, he said in a low voice.


I just do. I think its fake. The language that was used in it. It was fake. If its not fake, its not an elected or an appointed person.

I asked about the family separation policy that saw thousands of undocumented immigrant and refugee children separated from their parents over the summer.

Obama was the one that instituted it the separating the children, Tullos said. Obama had done it for six years, nobody said a word.

The claim was misleading; while some families were separated under former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, the Obama administration never had a blanket policy of family separation as the Trump administration did and often attempted to detain families together.

Tullos segued into a broader discussion of immigration.

The point, he said, is the only way youre gonna cure the problem is to build the wall, whether its a real wall or an electronic wall or whatever it is.

Even though he said he was motivated to vote against Clinton rather than for Trump, Tullos who watches Fox News and listens to Rush Limbaugh couldnt think of anything Trump had done in office that he was unhappy about.

The job Robert Mueller has done as special counsel, though, was a different story. Mueller, Tullos said, his quiet demeanor giving way to Trump-like rage, is totally phony totally deep state obviously doesnt care anything about his country [he] emboldens our enemies [and] borders on being a traitor.

Section break

Back in Laurel, Roxanne Dunn, a first-grade teacher and New Orleans native who moved to the city four years ago, said she had not heard about the op-ed. It didnt surprise her, though. Everyone is out to get Trump, after all.

She said she voted for Trump because the children she teaches at Waynesboro Riverview school about 30 miles from Laurel are some of the poorest children in the country and that we need to take care of our children before we take care of illegal children.

Roxanne Dunn: Obama to me caused a lot of racism in his identity as president. Donald Trump took that on. Photograph: Ashton Pittman for the Guardian

Asked what she makes of accusations that Trump voters are motivated by racism, she replied: Obama to me caused a lot of racism in his identity as president. Donald Trump took that on.

I teach in a totally black, federally funded school. Everything is given to them. Breakfast, lunch there are no parents. Get ready when the grandmother dies, because when the grandmother dies, you think its bad now, its going to be worse.

In her school, she said, we have no thinkers or dreamers.

Nobodys sitting in my classroom going: Hmm, I wonder if I had a rocket ship, what would I do or invent? They dont do this. Theyre worried about what theyre gonna eat, where theyre gonna sleep, whos gonna pick them up.

Dunn cited no ways in which Trumps presidency has alleviated those issues. Nevertheless, she said she felt very good about his presidency because the economy is growing.

Does she, I asked, believe, like Trump, that the press is the enemy of the people?

To a certain degree, she said, yes.

Read more: