They voted for Obama twice and now back Trump. Inside purple California
Earlier in the election cycle, Georgette Belcourt weighed whether to post a Trump campaign sign in front of her Lancaster home.
“I had to pray on it.”
By then, her support for the president was steadfast — the retired nurse had already voted for him once, as had her husband of 40 years, Larry, both longtime Democrats who made the switch four years ago. But as a Christian, she decided that the only thing she would proclaim so boldly as to post it in her front yard was her faith.
Then, at a recent gathering of Trump supporters in the Antelope Valley, she spotted a flag that read, “JESUS IS MY SAVIOR. TRUMP IS MY PRESIDENT.” The woman carrying the flag noticed Georgette admiring it and offered to give it to her with one condition: You must hang it outside your home.
Larry felt nervous someone might egg the house or toss a brick through the window. But so far, he said, he’s only noticed a few smirks and lingering stares from passersby.
“If they don’t agree,” Georgette said, glimpsing at the flag hanging above their porch, “they just ignore us.”
And in this neighborhood — a pocket of purple within a deeply liberal county — there are certainly some residents who don’t agree.
As you scan the almost-all-blue electoral map of L.A. County, you’ll spot a few sprinkles of red — an oceanside sliver of Palos Verdes Estates, the little chunk of East Hollywood that’s home to the Scientology building.
But as you pan north toward the high desert communities of Lancaster and Palmdale, the map looks more like an Impressionist painting with alternating splotches of red and blue. It’s an area with true diversity of political thought, home to a mixed electorate that promotes dialogue among neighbors, but can also foster a certain wariness over how others down the block might react to bold displays of support.
As you head east in Lancaster, past an expanse of Joshua trees, a row of telephone poles decorated in orange letters reading “MAGA” and a field of solar panels, you’ll eventually arrive at a subdivision of tidy homes built about a decade ago and painted earth tones.
There, across a street and two doors down from the Belcourts, sits a tan-colored home with an American flag flying above a yard sign that reads “BIDEN-HARRIS.”
“My own little symbolism,” says Tiffany Countryman. “I’m putting country above party.”
The 51-year-old lifelong Democrat said that publicly signaling her preferred candidate is important to her. She left her Hillary bumper sticker on her car, she says, to send a message about the current administration’s failures: “I didn’t cause this.”
Putting up her sign this year was a bit nerve-racking at first.
She hadn’t seen any others like it in her neighborhood and wondered what kind of attention it might draw. In pockets of the Antelope Valley, particularly the outskirts, she said, some people have views that are “more right-wing than conservative.”
And although she sometimes wonders if spending so much time reading Twitter and the news whips up her fear too much, she knows there’s truth to the stories about some Americans becoming radicalized — look at the recent plot by far-right armed extremists to kidnap Michigan’s governor, she noted.
While working from home recently, Countryman, a human resources manager, noticed a man walking toward her yard, snapping photos. Concerned the stranger might try to yank out her sign, she walked outside.
“Can I help you?”
“No, no, no,” he said, taken aback.
“You’re not taking anything from my yard.”
“I just wanted to take a picture of your sign, cause I haven’t seen one.”
“OK, I’m just being careful, because of this neighborhood.”
Maybe the man hadn’t disliked her sign, she later thought to herself. Maybe he really had just been curious? She’s not sure, but in that moment, she said, she told herself she needed to be a little less quick to make assumptions. She’s friendly with a neighbor who she knows is conservative because she talked politics with him ahead of the last election and she makes an effort, she said, to follow people with an array of political views on social media.
“I don’t want to fall into a vacuum.”
One reason she put up the sign, Countryman said, is to signal to like-minded neighbors, especially those who might be more private about their views, that they’re not alone. She knows it can sometimes feel that way, she said, noting that she recently downloaded a canvassing app and was surprised to see that several other registered Democrats lived in the area.
On a recent afternoon at a home two streets over, Jazmin Banda answered the door, holding her 10-month-old on her hip. Asked about the “TRUMP Keep America Great” flag flying outside, the 24-year-old responded matter-of-factly.
“Not my flag.”
Her husband put it up, she said. He’s strongly pro-military and pro-police and believes Trump will best support both groups. For her part, Banda said, she disagrees with how Trump has handled immigration, saying she’s been concerned, in particular, by accounts of children held in detention facilities.
To tease her husband, she sometimes tells him she’s going to hang a Biden flag next to his. But, in reality, Banda, who believes she’s registered as a Democrat, said she wanted to do more research about both candidates.
“I’m undecided,” she said, adding that, for the most part, she and her husband steer clear of talking politics.
“We avoid it.”
Back at the Belcourt home, the couple was outlining their political evolution.
“We were hardcore Democrats,” says Larry, who’s wearing a “NATIVE VETERAN” hat, a sign he hails from the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana.
He was a member of the Teamsters and his wife was in a union for nurses and, with the exception of Ross Perot in 1992, the couple always supported the Democratic candidate, including Obama for both terms.
But they struggled in the years after the Great Recession, sometimes wondering if they’d lose their home, and ahead of the 2016 election, something Trump said kept echoing through Georgette’s mind: “What do you have to lose?”
At first, she wondered if he was sincere or simply a good con man, but they both ultimately voted for Trump and now they’re big fans.
Larry loves that the president moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Georgette says she’s impressed by his interactions with leaders in North Korea and Iran — he has exhibited strength, she says, without starting any wars. Asked what they thought about criticisms characterizing the president’s actions as racist, Georgette shook her head, saying she vehemently disagreed.
“I do have one prejudice and my one prejudice is ignorance.”
The couple — who used to watch CNN and Rachel Maddow, but now prefer Fox News — said supporting Trump has caused tension with some of Larry’s relatives. During one gathering, Georgette said, her sister-in-law laid down a nonnegotiable rule: “We were not to discuss politics.”
They obliged, Georgette said, noting that, although she’s not afraid to tell you where she stands, she’s never been one to shove her ideas on others.
“I’m a ’50s girl,” she says, “so I’m raised to not discuss politics or religion.”
And they know the president has made mistakes, Larry adds.
“We realize Trump isn’t Jesus Christ,” he says, noting that, during the first presidential debate, he thought Trump interrupted Biden too often. Still, they certainly plan to cast their votes for him — in person, Georgette stresses.
Larry nods, saying he expects that the results will be contested. Then he pauses.
“But not here,” he said, pointing down at the ground and shrugging. “California will stay Democrat.”
Times graphics/data journalist Priya Krishnakumar contributed to this report.
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