Jason Walker made an appointment with us at a park where he used to play as a child, near Nashville, Tennessee. A worker in the manufacture of trucks, this broad-shouldered American was a solid supporter of Donald Trump. Since the November 3 election, Jason Walker has been mostly an angry man. “You see, we are from the southern United States”, he said in a drawling accent, typical of the region. “When General Lee lost (during the Civil War), he recognized it. “ And this Trumpist would like his president to do the same.
“There is victory in defeat, you know”, insists Jason Walker, “very disappointed” by the attitude of his candidate in recent months. Like him, more and more Republicans are distancing themselves from the outgoing president, whose end of term is chaotic to say the least. According to a study by Pew Research Center (link in English), respondents close to the Republican party are only 60% to support it, against 77% in August. For some, the unfounded accusations of fraud and violence on Capitol Hill on January 6 marked a breaking point.
Everything had started well between Donald Trump and Jason Walker. The man is a Christian conservative in love with America. He voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but for Republican candidates the rest of his life. When Donald Trump entered the political arena with his slogan “America first”, Jason Walker’s eyes lit up. “He made me dream”, sums up the worker. The conservative voter of Tennessee, far from political circles, also admired his desire to do battle with Washington. He saw Donald Trump in “David against Goliath.” “He was with us, he was fighting for the workers”, he adds. Jason Walker also retains from the Trump presidency “commercial agreements”, a very low unemployment rate and the return of troops to the United States. “With him, we felt safe. He was the president of law and order”, he continues.
“Donald Trump was the return of our American pride.”Jason walker
David Martini and Hunter Baker share Jason Walker’s disappointment. The former, barely older than the incumbent president, is a former Democrat from the Bronx who has become more conservative over the decades. First a journalist, this septuagenarian from Philadelphia worked for several political campaigns since the 1980s. “libertarian”, a little “pro-life”, he believes in work, in a powerful army. He opposes allowances “too generous” and to “open borders”. Donald Trump was never his champion, “But I liked his policies and the fact that he was able to do things. He doesn’t want to hear ‘no'”, confides David Martini.
“I appreciated the fact that he moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. I applauded when he made the decision to kill Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Besides, I liked his economic policies.”David Martini
Hunter Baker, an evangelical Christian and dean of the arts and science faculty at Union University in Tennessee, was also far from being a strong supporter. “You are talking about a man who was three times married, who had many mistresses, who built casinos … A lot of things that American Christians don’t really approve of.”, emphasizes the academic. However, on November 8, 2016, this political science researcher voted for him. Everything except the left, everything except Hillary Clinton.
He even ended up embracing the Trump line, whether it was lower corporate taxes or the appointments of conservative Supreme Court judges, essential for this staunch opponent of the right to abortion. “I tended to defend his policies and I think I was wrong”, concedes Hunter Baker today. “I was quite critical of people who saw him as a threat to democracy. Very clearly, I made the wrong choice.”
For Hunter Baker, the shift happened after November 3. The conservative, convinced that Joe Biden had a good chance of winning, never believed the rumors of massive fraud, invented and peddled by Donald Trump. “I was very disturbed by his speeches and his accusations”, he recalls. Perhaps most shocking was the president’s phone call to the Georgia election official, revealed in early January by the Washington post. “All I want is to find 11,780 ballots”, claimed Donald Trump. “It was totally inappropriate, worthy of a gangster”, denounces Hunter Baker. The candidate then showed himself “immature, self-centered”.
“In the United States, one of the most important traditions is that of a peaceful transfer of power. It has violated this tradition in every way possible.”Hunter baker
Hunter Baker and David Martini do not exclude the existence of fraudulent elements in the ballot, but not to the point of tipping the result. “This call was not worthy of a president”, criticizes the conservative Philadelphia retiree. “He should have let his lawyers do their work and admit defeat after losing in court.” More recently, the former Bronx Democrat did not appreciate the pressure Donald Trump put on his vice president, Mike Pence, to prevent him from certifying the electoral college votes. “This refusal to recognize its failure cost us two seats in Georgia and a majority in the Senate”, he concludes, bitter.
In Jason Walker’s garden, only a pro-Biden sign, planted by his stepson, is still visible. The Republican preferred to withdraw the poster of support for the president. However, he believed for a time in the rumors of fraud. He even supported the appeals brought by his campaign team, because after all, the law allows it. Then there were these few words said by his father: “Listen my son, the votes didn’t lie.” Jason Walker has seen the courts dismiss the fraud charges, one by one, and Donald Trump hang in there.
“The truth sometimes hurts, but the truth is the truth. We would always have loved him if he had said he lost.”Jason walker
Yesterday’s Donald Trump voter portrays a candidate who has become “arrogant”, “who played the victim”. Even though it seems possible for him to vote for him again in a future election, Jason Walker implores: “I really didn’t like the lies I was made to believe. This must stop.”
In the weeks following the lost election, the Tennessee worker had a hunch something bad could happen. He even claims to have “saw the intrusion coming” at the Capitol. “Donald Trump did not commit any violent acts, but his words are very strong”, he confides. This patriot would have liked the president to calm things down on January 6 by calling the crowd “to make peace, to come together as Americans” and finally admitting defeat. Instead, the leader called on his supporters to march towards Congress.
“That day was probably the icing on the cake. What a shame”, comments David Martini. Without holding Donald Trump responsible for the violence, he assigns him a role in the events. “There were Trump fans who believed in a stolen election and wanted to change its result by going to threaten elected officials,” he agrees.
“He made some people mad with rage.”David Martini
“Unthinkable, unimaginable in the United States“Reacts in his turn Hunter Baker, more severe towards the outgoing president. “His responsibility is enormous. He is the one who asked people to come to the Capitol, to be an intimidating presence there!” tackle the curator.
A few days ago, the academic apologized (link in English) to the “Never Trumpers”, those Republicans categorically opposed to Trumpism. “When I heard them, I found it ridiculous. I thought they were too worried about Trump’s bad manners.”, says Hunter Baker. “In fact, they were right and I was wrong. His personal attitude clearly showed the kind of danger he could pose.”