Life at the Trump Tailgate: Spiked Slurpees, Culture Wars and the Coronavirus Hoax (Politico)


    Life at the Trump Tailgate: Spiked Slurpees, Culture Wars and the Coronavirus Hoax – By Tim Alberta (Politico) / May 21 2020

    Michigan is beset by disease, floods and joblessness, but it’s voter fraud conspiracies that really frighten the president’s supporters.

    YPSILANTI, Mich.—At the intersection of Rawsonville and Textile Roads, on a slender stretch of turf that runs the length of a half-deserted strip mall, Kathryn Prater and Kelra Rise are dancing.

    The longtime friends, white women in their early 40s, haven’t had much to celebrate recently. Rise lost her job as a shipping clerk two months ago and is now uninsured and struggling to get by; Prater, a school bus driver, will receive her final paycheck in two weeks with no obvious prospect of income thereafter. Their pain is representative of Michigan on the whole, a state battered by Covid-19 to the tune of 5,000 deaths; a state crushed under the weight of a 22 percent unemployment rate; and now, a state reeling from a 500-year flood in mid-Michigan that has displaced tens of thousands of people. If America has a headache, Michigan has a migraine.

    But in this moment, none of it matters. For the masses gathered on the side of the road, the sight of a presidential motorcade—and the knowledge that Donald Trump himself has come to their backyard, to visit the local Ford plant and pay homage to the old “Arsenal of Democracy”—is sufficient to distract from the suffering of the day. Country music blares from the back of a parked pickup truck. Giddy customers fork over $5 bills and pull MAGA shirts over their outfits. One man hoists a Betsy Ross-era flag from his fishing pole, with a naked brunette doll—“Governor Half-Whit!” he cries, echoing a presidential putdown—dangling from a noose.

    Prater and Rise—both of whom voted for Gretchen Whitmer in 2018, and both of whom are siding now with Trump in his beef with Michigan’s governor—toast their spiked Slurpee cups from the nearby 7-Eleven. With no sports to watch, politics are the only game in town—and this is Trump’s tailgate, an experience as unique as the times, the closest thing to one of the president’s signature rallies at a moment when large gatherings have been banned.

    “You know, I actually did this once before, when George W. Bush came to Michigan in the early 2000s. It was just a fun thing to do—go see the president’s motorcade,” Rise says. She chuckles. “Trust me, it was nothing like this.”

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