This devil’s triangle of a married couple and a president has taken one of Washington’s standard story lines — the madcap misadventures of a mixed marriage — and twisted it into something unrecognizable, cringey and on display for an audience of millions.
On Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted this about the husband of one of his most trusted — and effective — aides:
“George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”
What fresh insanity is this? It’s not even a story about politics in the bedroom. It’s not even the saucy love triangle of the District’s beloved bald eagles Liberty and Justice with their third wheel, Aaron Burrd. It’s a marital mess, and the president of the United States just put himself in the middle of it. And the weirdest thing of all about the Conways: They’re both conservatives who started out on the same page about Trump and then diverged in fairly dramatic fashion.
Political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin talk about their roles in HBO’s “K Street” in 2003. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
This is how it used to go in the nation’s capital, when it came to complicated marriages:
“Oh. She’s in a mixed marriage, isn’t she?” a parent said to me at school drop-off years ago, after the mom in question raced past us, on her way to work at a well-known publication, across the street from her Republican-appointee husband’s office. “They must have great sex.”
A mixed marriage is one of those D.C. cultural curiosities, normally a red and blue pairing, a Capulet and a Montague, a fiery, bipartisan union that means every Sunday brunch is their own, private, “Meet the Press” panel, and it’s passion, not politics, that keeps them together.
Americans aren’t that into these kinds of mixed marriages; just look around your own peer group to verify that.
What you need to know about George Conway’s criticism of Trump
George T. Conway III, conservative lawyer and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, is a frequent critic of President Trump.(Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
Numbers tell us this, too. In 2016, voter records in 30 states showed that at least 70 percent of American households headed by registered voters are a political match, according to research by Eitan Hersh, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University, and Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at the data firm Catalist.
The rest of the households are mixed marriages, but most of them are an independent hitched to a D or an R. The rare Republican/Democrat union is less than 10 percent, according to those numbers.
The ultimate mixed Washington marriage used to be the Mary Matalin/James Carville show, which stood as the pairing of political opposites, a lesson for all of America that we can disagree on politics, but back at home, we’re all human, in love and arguing over the toilet seat and loading the dishwasher.
They wrotebooks and had a movie made about them. They’re still married!
But this latest D.C. marriage show — the triangle of the Conways and Trump — is dark dysfunction, not lovable sitcom. A twisted reality show that’s appalling to watch.
The Conways are both Republicans, both big players in Washington. He went after President Bill Clinton as one of Paula Jones’s lawyers. She founded her own polling firm and became a sensation as one of the conservative female stars of the pundit circuit, along with Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Barbara Olson.
The Conways backed Trump together until Trump’s travel ban in 2017, something that George Conway did not support. And that’s when he began publicly critiquing his wife and Washington looked on in awe — with a little bit of respect — that they seemed to be handling it so well.
They’ve got four kids. Of course, they’re keeping it civil, people thought, though we hungered for insight into how.
Last summer, Kellyanne Conway gave us a little when she told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris that “I feel there’s a part of [George Conway] that thinks I chose Donald Trump over him. Which is ridiculous. One is my work, and one is my marriage.”
Trump responded with the “loser” tweet and then, Kellyanne Conway did it. She chose Trump over her husband.
On Thursday morning, she declared that she wasn’t going to follow her husband’s advice and resign.
“What message would that send to the feminists everywhere who pretend they’re independent thinkers and men don’t make decisions for them?” Conway said during a morning television appearance on Fox Business Network. “They can talk it, and I can walk it. I can live it.”
She said she appreciated the way Trump was defending her: “[The president] is protective of me, that’s what people really should take from this. I’m not being asked to choose between my marriage and my job. Donald Trump has never made me feel that way.”
This kind of can-this-marriage-survive spectacle isn’t entirely new to Washington. We can reach back to the Nixon administration — as we do so often these days — to find the battle between a vocal spouse and a surly president.
Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon reelection campaign director and former attorney general John Mitchell, was already known as the “Mouth of the South” when Nixon put a hired security detail and ex-FBI agent on her.
Martha Mitchell was in her bedroom while the couple was on a campaign trip to California when she learned who was arrested in the Watergate break-in and immediately got on the phone with Helen Thomas, from United Press International.
The security detail, Stephen King, “rushed into her bedroom, threw her back across the bed, and ripped the telephone out of the wall,” reporter Winzola McLendon wrote in her biography of Mitchell, according to a Newsweek story about King. “The conversation ended abruptly when it appeared someone took away the phone from her hand,” Thomas reported. “She was heard to say, ‘You just get away.’ ”
This year, a projected 27.2 million passengers are expected to set sail on cruises, up from 25.8 million in 2017. Cruises are popular, increasingly so. According to Travel Agent Central, cruise-going increased 20.5 percent from 2011 to 2016. And it’s not just seniors who are interested. A study by the Cruise Line International Association found that the demographic with the highest growth in bookings is people ages 30 to 39. From 2016 to 2018, this demographic booked 20 percent more cruises. But cruises are still uniquely polarizing vacations.
Despite steadily climbing ticket sales and evidently broader appeal, there is a vocal contingent of anti-cruisers — people who take pride in saying they would never book one, citing their refined tastes and disdain for being ferried from port to port on a floating amusement park.
But there are bigger problems than being trapped in a consumerist funhouse. Ships can also be dangerous, with high sexual assault rates, frequent poisonings, and the ever-present possibility of going overboard. And, of course, cruises are horrible for the environment: Their heavy and growing use of fossil fuels means someone on a seven-day cruise produces the same amount of emissions as they would during 18 days on land. And they can damage fragile ocean ecosystems, due to practices like irresponsible disposal of sewage.
Cruises are regimented and creepy
In his essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” first published by Harper’s in 1996, David Foster Wallace describes his cruising experience as a “special mix of servility and condescension that’s marketed under the configurations of the verb ‘to pamper.’”
Through the piece, he exhaustively recalls every event, person, and feeling he has during his seven-night voyage on the ship he rechristens “the Nadir.” His experience gets to the heart of what is so insulting about what a cruise offers — you are told what to eat, what will entertain you, what will relax you, all in the name of “luxury.” Instead of creating serenity, the repetition of activities can be quite maddening, no matter how much you may like unlimited lobster or the thrill of slot machines. A trip without agency feels too Wall-E-esque to be peaceful.
Even cruise enthusiasts recognize how limiting the onboard activities are. Miami resident Carolyn Smith has been on 32 cruises since 2002 and says being a captive audience has led others she knows to hate cruising. “While on a land-based vacation, you can branch out for meals and other events from your hotel or resort; at sea on a cruise ship, that is not an option,” she says. “I have friends who never cruised again for this exact reason. I have actually heard comments like, ‘I didn’t enjoy feeling like I was being herded like cattle!’”
Crime is rampant on cruises
The creepy captivity of cruises is actually not the most potent case against them. Ross Klein, a Canadian academic, studies corruption surrounding cruise corporations and logs all the misfortune that happens on and off board.
Although he is blacklisted from many cruise lines for publishing information from his studies in books and on his website CruiseJunkie.com, Klein says his website has no agenda other than to report the facts. In fact, as a former cruise enthusiast, he doesn’t find his site inflammatory at all. “My page is not anti-cruising; it’s just information you won’t find at the cruise line website,” he says.
Visit the site (Klein denies its name was chosen to troll cruise-lovers), and you are confronted with the Comic Sans header “cruisejunkie dot com your resource for the other information about the cruise industry.” Below that are a handful of links such as “Persons Overboard, 1995 – 2018” and “Ships that have Sunk, 1979 – 2013,” which lead readers to charts with staggering numbers.
Since 2000, apparently 322 people have gone overboard or just went missing while cruising. Klein says about 20 percent of those who go overboard are rescued.
On the night of October 18, a crew member on Celebrity Reflections went overboard, but no one searched for them until the next morning. In May, a 50-year-old Carnival Paradise passenger went missing. After searching for 55 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search; the man has still not been found. In January 2015, a Mexican newspaper reported that a Disney cruise ship rescued a passenger who had fallen overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise. Royal Caribbean had not even noticed a passenger missing.
In 2011, a cruise waiter on Costa Atlantica threw himself overboard and was found face down in the water, dead. Apparently, he was being investigated for sexual assault at the time of his death, which was suspected to be a suicide. And sexual assault is a problem on cruise ships. As of September 30, there were 60 reported sexual assaults this year on cruise ships, according to the Department of Transportation. NBC noted a 2013 congressional report found that minors were victims in one-third of assaults.
Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer, echoed that statistic on his site Cruise Law News, writing that most reported cases are not investigated. According to his site, one-third of the 100 victims he has represented in the past 15 years were minors. He writes that one of his clients was drugged and raped by a cruise line bartender. The employee was fired but then hired again to Princess Cruises. Walker contacted Princess Cruises’ in-house legal team and informed them they had hired a rapist, and the man was fired once again.
Cruises shake down local economies — and their own workers
Klein is also the author of the book Cruise Ship Squeeze, which details how cruises take advantage of local economies. As opposed to working with the places they port, many cruises invest in terminals that only benefit their own economic interests.
According to Klein’s book, cruises threaten to boycott destinations if they attempt to raise their port charges, which can be as little as $1 per person. In 2004, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Associations’ 12 members threatened to boycott Antigua and Barbuda because the countries raised their port charges to $2.50 per person. The threat worked, and the ports backed off.
Another way cruises turn a large profit is by investing in port terminals. For example, in Belize, Royal Caribbean invested $18 million for co-ownership of the Fort Street Tourism Village. The port charge is $5 per person, $4 of which goes to Tourism Village, meaning Royal Caribbean recouped its money in six to seven years.
When a ship docks for a few hours, cruise lines give passengers suggestions of what to do with their time before returning to the boat. But instead of offering sincere recommendations, cruise lines employ a certain pay-to-play model in which vendors on the island can pay to be recommended.
Crew members are known to be overworked, which, according to Klein, is because cruise ships are not beholden to US labor laws. According to Cruise Law News, crew members could work 10 to 12 hours a day for up to 10 months of the year. “If you’re a cleaner on the Grandeur of the Seas, there are 35 public bathrooms,” he says. “You’re making about $560 a month and you may have an assistant, you may not.”
According to CruiseCritic.com, a laundry attendant makes $700 month, a cabin steward makes between $650 and $1,150 per month, including tips, and a kitchen cleaner may make as little as $600 per month. Wages for customer-facing jobs are often dependent on gratuities. Crew members in housekeeping or food and beverage may only be promised $2 a day, and tips often make up 95 percent of their income. CruiseCritic.com also notes that these numbers may change based on where the crew member is from.
“Carnival will earn $3 billion and they’ll pay no corporate income tax at all,” Klein says. “That’s $3 billion net profit. Why would they would they want pay their workers a little extra money and make only $2.9 or $2.8 billion?”
Along with the moral implications of low wages and high profits and how little ports benefit from cruise tourism, the cruise industry has a severe impact on the environment. These ships are essentially floating cities, and many of them produce as much pollution as one. In 2016, the Pacific Standard reported that “each passenger’s carbon footprint while cruising is roughly three times what it would be on land.”
However, instead of paying for more expensive but less sulfuric fuel, such as liquefied natural gas, ships are installing “emission cheat” systems, called scrubbers. A scrubber allows ship to wash cheap fuel and meet the IMO requirements, then discharge the pollutants from the cheap fuel into the ocean.
This will just add to the fact that a 3,000-person cruise ship generates 210,000 gallons of sewage weekly. All cruise ship sewage goes through what is called “sewage treatment,” where solid and liquid waste is separated and sterilized, then the solid is incinerated and the liquid is released back into the ocean.
Apparently, it’s just like clean water. But in 2016, Princess Cruises was fined $40 million for polluting the ocean by dumping 4,227 gallons of “oily waste” off the coast of Britain. According to Klein’s website, just this September, two cruise lines were charged with “unauthorized discharge of untreated graywater,” or a stream of sewage that comes from everywhere but the toilet.
Cruises are unique in their negatives but also their positives — what else ferries you to and from picture-perfect destinations in a vessel dedicated to pampering its inhabitants? Cruise fans may well just elect to ignore all the aforementioned dangers and repercussions, as Michael Ian Black wrote that he did in the New York Times in July.
His justification was that he was “a monster,” which is perhaps what we all are on vacation. Besides, planes are also bad for the environment (although perhaps not quite as bad), and people fly frequently. But there is something wildly unnecessary about a cruise that makes them both appealing and offensive. It all depends on how guilty you feel about devouring an endless shrimp buffet in the middle of the ocean.
Located along a canal on the Thonburi side of Bangkok, the Artist’s House (Baan Silapin) is a difficult attraction to find and just finding it has a little taste of success. A couple centuries ago, this kind of old Thai wooden house was very typical along the klongs but today these are becoming rare, inexorably replaced by concrete buildings. Not only has this one been beautifully restored, it also has some unusual features that always catch the eyes of tourists passing by on speeding boats: Several human-sized statues painted in white, red or black sitting by the water, endlessly staring at life passing by, like the ghosts of the original occupants who probably used to do the same, when smartphones didn’t yet distract us from the real world around us.
Koh Samui is een van de populairste eilanden van Thailand. Er zijn twee manieren om er naar toe te komen. Een directe en wat duurdere manier. En een goedkope, maar ook langere reis.
Koh Samui is een eiland in de Golf van Thailand. Het ligt zo’n 700 kilometer ten zuiden van Bangkok en 80 kilometer vanaf de oostelijke kustlijn in het zuiden van Thailand. Het is een groot eiland met veel toeristische stranden, zoals Chaweng Beach en Lamai.
De noordelijke stranden met de rustieke dorpjes Mae Nam, Bophut, Bang Rak (de grote Boeddha) en Choeng Mon zijn lieflijker, terwijl de stranden aan de westkust bijna (vrijwel) uitgestorven zijn. Hier vind je meer informatie over Koh Samui,
Naar Koh Samui
Vanaf Bangkok kun je een rechtstreekse vlucht boeken naar Koh Samui. Bangkok Airways vliegt 15 tot 20 keer per dag op Koh Samui en Thai Airways 2 keer. De vliegtijd bedraagt 1 uur en 20 minuten. Het grote voordeel van deze reis is direct is en je slechts twee of drie uur kwijt bent van hotel naar hotel.
Omdat het vliegveld van Koh Samui een privé-vliegveld is, moeten de vliegmaatschappijen een aardig bedrag neertellen voor landingsrechten. En dat zie je dan weer terug in de ticketprijs. Het vliegveld van Koh Samui ligt op het noordelijk deel van het eiland, tussen Chaweng Beach en Big Buddha Beach.
Een goedkoper alternatief is om naar Surat Thani te vliegen. Dit kan in Bangkok ook vanaf vliegveld Don Muang met bijvoorbeeld Nok Air. Maar er ook andere maatschappijen vliegen op Surat Thani. De vliegreis duurt een klein uurtje.
Vanaf het vliegveld te Surat Thani rijden er (mini)bussen naar de pier van Donsak. Die rit duurt ongeveer anderhalf uur. In Donsak stap je dan op de boot naar Koh Samui. Je vaart ongeveer twee uur voordat je bent aangekomen op Koh Samui. Nok Air biedt voor de reis van Bangkok naar Koh Samui een speciale pakketreis aan (vlucht, transfer, veerboot).
Het grote voordeel van niet-direct naar naar Koh Samui gaan, is dat het een stuk goedkoper is dan een directe vlucht. Het grote nadeel is dat het een dag kwijt bent aan reizen. Van hotel naar hotel bedraagt de reistijd al snel zes uur.
“I love you,” Chera Sherman’s mother told her before driving away in her Jeep Cherokee, leaving her daughter, then 19, bawling fat tears in front of her boyfriend’s home in Laurel, Mississippi.
It was 1994, and Sherman had made the life-altering mistake of falling in love with Jerry Breland, a lanky, black 19-year-old she’d met through a friend back when she worked at Kmart.
Her mother had finally told her stepfather about their six-month relationship earlier that day after a local cop pulled Breland over while he was driving his girlfriend’s yellow Sunbird. When her stepfather heard she was violating his code against race-mixing, he drove to her job to tell her she had to move out.
“White men aren’t going to want you,” her father told her.
They allowed her to collect only what she could carry. The teenager couldn’t take her bedding or her jewelry – she even had to leave her car. “I love ya, but I just can’t have this,” her stepfather said as she grabbed random items.
In the car, the teen was hysterical the whole way; she was crazy about her boyfriend, but she didn’t want to be an orphan. She loved her family, too. “You made this decision,” her mother said, adding that she didn’t agree with her husband but had no control over it: he was the man of the house. And with that, she drove off.
Racism was the required way of life in Sherman’s mostly segregated community. When she was four, she had called a black man the N-word in public because that’s what she believed black people were called. The man was mortified, and her family members had laughed.
Inside, her boyfriend’s father told her she could sleep on the couch until the couple could get an apartment. They found one, but the owner kicked them out after a month when he realized Breland was black. They then landed a rental house where the landlord only cared about the color green.
Although she’d made good grades and planned to enroll at a community college that fall, higher education never happened for Sherman due to the obligations the couple took on to be together. He now works offshore on an oil rig; she takes care of their two boys.
‘Gaslighting is an art form perfected by conservatives’
Still happily married after 25 years, Sherman-Breland now believes many women pay the price – through abuse, rejection or public humiliation – for rejecting America’s rat’s nest of conservatism and racism that has exploded into full relief in Trump’s America.
“I can’t tell you the countless number of times younger Caucasian girls who are going through the same exact thing have reached out to me for advice,” she says now.
The south isn’t alone in its paternalism and sexism, but it is still a high art form here. “It is absolutely taught,” Sherman-Breland says. “You understand as a young girl that your place is behind your man, not in front or beside him. You cannot have your own opinions. That’s the most prevalent way they keep you in check.”
Sherman-Breland gradually went against her family’s broader conservative political beliefs as she became concerned about the future of her biracial sons, but it took hearing people she knew calling President Obama “the devil”, and Donald Trump’s open bigotry and birtherism, to electrify her. She now calls herself a proud liberal.
Most conservative wedge issues trace back to racism and sexism, she argues, adding that those poison beliefs take many shapes: abortion and immigration might make white people the minority; affirmative action gives the supposedly inferior an equal shot at jobs and education; public assistance benefits “freeloaders” of color.
White women continue to embrace such prevalent mores. “We’re helping you be a better woman. You’ll be stronger as a submissive Christian,” she says, mocking local white conservatives.
Sherman-Breland used to be anti-abortion herself, and while she doubts conservative men would actually overturn Roe v Wade – abortion is useful to them if they get the wrong women pregnant – she says they instead use it to get religious women to vote against their best interests. Abortion, she says, is what keeps many women she knows from quietly pulling a more progressive voting lever, especially after hearing Trump or Roy Moore next door in Alabama seem to justify sexual assault.
“Gaslighting is an art form perfected by conservatives in the south,” she says, wrinkling her nose.
The hypocrisy kills her. College wasn’t an option for her parents, either, who worked at garment factories. “We relied on social programs to eat,” she says, her smirk dripping with irony. “Not that they were lazy.”
No free pass for white women
White supremacy and all its destructive deep-seated beliefs are, like other forms of barbarism, usually ascribed to men. But historian Elizabeth Gillespie McRae warns that it is a mistake to give white women a pass while ignoring their role in America’s systemic racism.
“What’s wrong with white women?” – a common question after the 2016 election – is due to an amnesia, according to McRae, a history professor at Western Carolina University. McRae’s 2018 book, Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy, illuminates powerful grassroots alliances of women across the country that worked to keep segregation alive in the 20th century.
“Segregation’s constant gardeners,” as McRae calls those women, distributed myth-filled textbooks and created student essay contests justifying white supremacy in public schools. They also enforced “racial integrity laws” used to kick someone who had “non-white” blood out of school, or have their marriage license refused.
Many of them were educated – some suffragists and newspaperwomen or even union advocates – and they purposefully helped create the twisted race politics that Sherman-Breland describes.
As the civil rights movement gained power, southern segregationists knew they were going to lose, McRae says, and they joined forces with conservatives nationally who coded their own racism. “Outside of the south, they needed to minimize overt racial language and instead talk about ‘constitutional government’,” McRae says. “Campaigning against social welfare and the safety net served their segregation purposes, too.”
Segregationist women used black-inferiority myths to bolster explosive anti-busing protests in Boston in the 1970s, McRae adds. “It’s not to say that all conservatives are white supremacists, but that white supremacists and segregationist politics animated and shaped the new right,” McRae says. “Folks advocating various forms of segregation were all over the nation.”
And they still are. White women, she says, are still often the loudest voices in these battles to keep children of color and/or poverty from “tainting” schools.
‘I wasn’t taught real history’
Lynne Schneider, 49, grew up in Lawrence county, Mississippi. Schneider’s early views were shaped in the Southern Baptist church, but saying the N-word was frowned upon by then, and her working-class parents didn’t allow it.
But in her public school, which was about two-thirds white, black kids sat on their own side of the cafeteria, and white children like Schneider went to a “private” pool that didn’t allow African Americans.
Young Schneider believed her elders when they said everything was equal between races, or that the south fought the civil war for honorable reasons and not over slavery. “I wasn’t exactly an examining person. I wasn’t taught real history,” she says, adding that her textbooks were filled with romantic myths about the Old South.
That wasn’t by accident, historian McRae says. Starting in the early 20th century, a well-funded group of women descended from Confederate soldiers, were desperate to rewrite the reasons why their fathers and grandfathers fought in the civil war. Daughters of the Confederacy leadersworked diligently to ensure that textbooks pushed “happy slave” lies and pride in European colonialism. They even worked with new teachers’ unions to pass on revisionist books to black public schools.
As an adult, Schneider emulated women around her, voting Republican when she was 18. She married a conservative man and became a teacher. By the time she came to Murrah high school in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2001, the formerly all-white school was majority-black. Today at 95% black, it is, astonishingly, the whitest public school in the capital city.
There she met an English teacher, a white woman, who challenged her to think deeper on issues such as abortion and gay rights. Later, her black students helped change her “small government” conservative beliefs which, she realized, keep schools underfunded and subject to constant attacks.
The students also pushed back when she messed up.
One day, Schneider told a class to “stop acting like BeBe kids,” a term used in the black community to reference misbehaving kids.
“You’re calling us ratchet ghetto kids,” they charged.
Schneider apologized for hurting them. “I still make mistakes,” she told them.
To “step out of the ignorance and blinders” of her upbringing, Schneider attended race dialogues and trainings such as Teaching for Change, but she warns other whites not to get high-and-mighty. “When a white person decides they’re so ‘woke’, they can be a little too quick to know more about black people than black people. No matter how clued in you are, you’re still white,” she warns.
She knows plenty of white women who are scared to reject their conservative upbringing, even if their beliefs have morphed, too. “They don’t want to fall out of favor, not be accepted,” she says. “Mississippi is like a football game. People want to be on the winning team. If you’re not conservative here, you have to get used to your side losing.”
‘I had $100, a suitcase and a child’
Anna McNeill’s first husband punched her in the hip one day, leaving a bruise the size of a grapefruit. He told her later she must have run into a piece of furniture.
He soon made it clear she had to mirror his beliefs. That included voting the same. Both were religious conservatives – he had attended seminary – so the compliance did not immediately seem onerous. But she soon learned what complete control felt like.
“As long as he didn’t cheat on me, beat me or spend all of our money on gambling or whatever, he said I should count myself lucky,” McNeill, now 39, says. He told her he was the only one who would put up with her, and quoted the Bible to ensure that she was fully submissive to him and isolated from friends and family.
“The gaslighting was the main thing, right?” she says. “I doubted myself.”
She finally left him. “I had $100, a suitcase and a child. I didn’t have resources.”
Therapy helped her question the family-values party line she and her husband followed. “I was conservative but starting to feel pretty disenfranchised by the Republican party,” she says.
McNeill soon remarried and had two more children with a second husband. He was ultra-conservative and his views on race disturbed her. “If I contested, I worried he would make my children suffer. Depression will suck all the fight out of you.”
She eventually left him, too. Now, she is happily alone with her children and involved in causes she believes in, trying to do domestic-violence advocacy work full time. “My interest in criminal justice reform came about because of my interest in domestic violence,” she says. “I started realizing a lot of these people that were incarcerated came from traumatic backgrounds.”
Still deeply religious, McNeill believes in “limited government” and says Trump proves how dangerous too much power can be in a bad leader’s hands. “I tend now to lean more toward libertarian, which is big enough for both liberals and conservatives,” she says, adding that the government should stay out of all marriage decisions, including same-sex.
McNeil is still anti-abortion. She says probably nine out of 10 white women she knows who voted for Trump in 2016 backed him only because of his stance on abortion, looking past his distasteful traits because the issue is “ a human rights issue” to them. “If you believe that is a person, then you have to protect that person,” she says.
Do anti-choice voters believe Trump really cares about abortion? “Oh, no,” McNeill says, laughing. “They thought he was more likely to appoint judges who would address that issue. Almost every single person says, ‘I will hold my nose. He’s in there four to eight years, but those judges are for life’.”
The fear of communism and socialism
In the late 1960s, Jan Levy Mattiace’s half-Jewish father and Methodist mother pulled her out of public school and enrolled her in a new segregation academy. Although her father was more progressive than most, many white parents then rejected public schools due to the red scare, during which white leaders, segregation academies and the Ku Klux Klan drummed up fear of the supposedly putrid mix of civil rights and communism.
“As children, we did not realize what was going on,” Mattiace says now, adding that she’s happy to see racial diversity in her alma mater today. The most recent US Department of Education numbers show Mississippi’s Canton Academy was 85% white, 12% black, 2% Hispanic and 1% Asian as of the 2015-16 school year. The town of Canton is 71% black.
In the 1980s, Mattiace became the political director of the Mississippi Republican party before, she says, the extreme-right took over the GOP. She recruited more black members even as national strategists like Lee Atwaterhelped perfect the bigoted “southern strategy” to draw racist voters from a shifting Democratic party to the GOP.
Today, at age 55, Mattiace is on the board of Dialogue Jackson, which hosts race conversations across political divides. She voted for the black Democrat Mike Espy against Cindy Hyde-Smith for Senate last November and now calls herself a “centrist” who may vote for a Democrat for governor this year.
“I land between Colin Powell and George Herbert Walker Bush,” she says. But, she adds, “I am not a feminist.” She is for equal rights, respect and opportunity for women, however, and is now married to a commercial developer who decidedly does not tell her how to vote.
Polarization between the left and right have long worried her, but Donald Trump concerns her more. Many of her friends may vote for him a second time in 2020. But for them it’s not about abortion, or following their husbands’ orders. “It was a vote against Hillary. Or against the Democratic agenda. They feel like that’s a danger,” Mattiace says. They find Trump better than the communist horrors many learned about at home and school.
“There’s a fear of moving into a socialist society,” Mattiace says. “They’re people that may have relatives in socialist countries … that are grasping for groceries and have to take a number to buy food. Trying to redistribute wealth fairly like that, it becomes chaotic, a war zone.”
Can people truly change?
People can change, as Sherman-Breland and her husband have learned. They stayed in the same county, marrying a decade after her mother dumped her in front of Breland’s house that day.
Over time, Sherman’s family fell in love with their grandchildren and with Breland – even her stepfather. “When he died in 2014, he was probably closer to Jerry than anyone else in his life,” she says of her stepdad.
Her husband never got nor expected an apology, however.
Sherman-Breland is concerned about Trump dragging old-school racism out of the hall closet. He is making people backslide into open hatefulness, dividing families like hers around the country, she says.
She worries especially about what Trumpism is doing to her own family’s loving detente. “When my family started supporting Trump and the ideals of all his rhetoric, it was literally like reliving all of that hurt again,” she says.
“I know they love us. But their support of this rise in white supremacy is devastating all over again. It has ripped my family apart. Again.”
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders swept through New Hampshire on Sunday, making his first stops as a 2020 presidential candidate in the state that established him as a force in Democratic politics in 2016— and could play an outsize role in his ambitions next year.
“This is where the political revolution took off,” Sanders said to a crowd of several hundred who braved a snowstorm to see him in Concord. “Thank you.”
Sanders hopes to recapture that spirit, and those votes, in his second presidential bid. He won the New Hampshire primary by a whopping 22 percentage points last time, and his path to the Democratic nomination in 2020 would be blunted if he is unable to post a second strong showing.
The Vermont independent’s two rallies on Sunday were throwbacks to the events he became known for in 2016, which included several hundred supporters and featured Sanders speaking for over an hour and cycling through his favorite topics, including income inequality and the high costs of prescription drugs.
Sanders took no questions from voters or the media attending the events. He paused only briefly after each stop to pose for photos with a few supporters who muscled their way to the candidate.
In contrast to his formal announcement eight days earlier, Sanders only lightly touched on his biography at stops, another similarity with 2016.
In Keene, speaking to a crowd of several hundred seated in an auditorium, he drew a contrast between himself and Trump, saying that the president was born rich, while Sanders grew up in a working-class family, which lived paycheck to paycheck and allotted him a weekly allowance of just 25 cents.
He also showed the occasional flash of humor as he explained his goals.
“When we talk about ‘Us, not me’ it’s not a bumper sticker,” Sanders said. He paused a beat and added: “Although it might become a bumper sticker.”
Sanders’s ability in 2016 to move the Democratic Party toward his positions was central to his arguments Sunday. His ideas, he said, were considered “radical and extreme” two years ago, but now the party largely has embraced increasing the minium wage to $15 an hour, reducing the costs of college tuition and pushing universal health care.
Sanders in 2016 lamented his opponent Hillary Clinton’s connections with the Democratic establishment, but this time his allies have gained more influence within those circles. In elections Saturday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party voted two of his prominent 2016 supporters to the organization’s rules committee.
The Sanders campaign announced that their New Hampshire state director will be Joe Caiazzo, who worked in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Sanders in the 2016 primary and was Clinton’s Rhode Island state director for the general election.
Carli Stevenson, another veteran of the Sanders 2016 campaign, will be his communications director in the state.
The 2016 campaign was still very much on Sanders’s mind Sunday. He recounted how the New Hampshire win catapulted him to victory in 21 additional states, leading him to win 13 million votes.
“Most importantly,” Sanders said, he won “more votes from young people, black, and white and Latino, Asian American and Native American than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.”
He also claimed credit for successfully pushing the Democratic Party to reduce the influence of superdelegates, party officials who in 2016 were largely supportive of Hillary Clinton.
The last election also was on the minds of some Sanders supporters: T-shirts for sale in Concord showed Sanders’s frowning face with the phrase: “Hindsight is 2020,” a message to those who might regret not supporting him last time. A woman who introduced Sanders at the Concord rally won applause when she held one up to the crowd, but a Sanders spokeswoman later said the T-shirts were not officially approved.
“I just worry that the DNC is going to rob him again,” Nicholas Shaw of Concord said before watching Sanders speak. He was referring to accusations that the Democratic National Committee tilted debate rules toward Clinton.
Shaw said Sanders is his “number one” choice because of what he sees as an unimpeachable anti-corporate message.