Clinton country vs Trump country

Clinton country

When presidential elections roll around every four years, Ohio becomes known as the kingmaker state. That's because its voters have a proclivity for picking the winner, and no Republican, especially, has ever entered the White House without taking Ohio.

The divide in Ohio's electorate this year is mirrored across the United States, and in two neighbouring suburbs in the state's Cleveland area.

One of them, Garfield Heights, has always been home to the lower middle class. Chevies and Fords are parked in the driveways of the modest, closely packed homes of residents, most of whom vote for Democrats who they feel better know their needs. When voters in similar cities come out in droves for presidential elections, the whole state of Ohio turns blue. US Correspondent Paul Zach grew up in Garfield Heights and returned to find his old home town is a veritable capital of Clinton country.


Trump country

On the other side of the divide, the Cadillacs, the Lincolns and the sprawling homes on manicured landscapes always made Brecksville the kind of suburb that people in blue-collar corners of Ohio aspired to move up to. Many did. The children of some families who lived in Cleveland area suburbs like Garfield Heights became engineers, doctors, lawyers and financial consultants. That was their ticket to a home in Brecksville, to the golf club at Sleepy Hollow on the picturesque cliffs above the Cuyahoga National Park. Major companies such as AT&T and Lubrizol also moved here, filling stylish offices.

Favouring hands-off government and lower taxes on better-off Americans like themselves as well as their businesses, most Brecksville residents have tended to be a bright Republican red. No surprise that many plan to vote for Mr Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election.


Hopes, votes on Clinton for a better life

Clinton supporters, many from the working class, turning up in force at a recent rally in downtown Cleveland. ST PHOTO: PAUL ZACH

When Mrs Helen Schroeder Haney graduated from Garfield Heights High School in 1969, it was home to mainly the lower end of America's middle class.

Fathers took buses and lunch boxes to work in the steel mills and auto plants that once fuelled the growth of the Cleveland area and turned Cleveland into one of the top 10 cities in the United States. Many mothers carried heavy trays as waitresses in restaurants patronised by gangsters straight out of The Godfather movies.

The grandparents had emigrated from Poland, Italy, Ireland and other parts of Europe and voted Democrat as religiously as they went to their Catholic churches - it was standing room only at St Theresa's, St Monica's and St Peter and Paul's every Sunday.


For Trump supporters, the economy is key

A woman showing her support for Mr Trump before his campaign event in Springfield, Ohio, on Thursday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Gary Kasmer moved into his one-storey ranch on a sprawling piece of property under tall oak and maple trees in Brecksville 11 years after he graduated from Garfield Heights High School.

Even then you could have hung a Trump Country sign on this suburb, where today lawn signs touting the New York billionaire outnumber those for Mrs Hillary Clinton.

Growing up in the Democratic heartland of Garfield Heights, Mr Kasmer had seen his attorney father always support the party. But the 65-year-old retired electrical engineer prides himself on being an an independent and has voted for Republicans like former president Ronald Reagan. On Nov 8, he will cast his ballot for Mr Trump.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton country'. Print Edition | Subscribe