Ahead Of The Iowa Caucuses, Decatur County Voters Talk About Their Choices

Feb 1, 2020
Originally published on February 1, 2020 10:38 am
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Iowa caucuses have almost arrived. They're on Monday. And the focus will be on Democrats and who they pick as their preferred candidate to take on a Republican president who won their state overwhelmingly four years ago. Morning Edition host David Greene is on the road there. And he's traveled to a county that backed Trump big. Good morning, David.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Hi there, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The Democrats, of course, are mobilizing where you are.

GREENE: Yeah. I mean, I've - Democrats are are feeling very energized, I think, as they go into Monday - a lot of strong views about getting President Trump out of office in 2020. But the conversations here, they're not like in some other parts of the country that feel very polarized - you know, your next door neighbor, the person you sit next to a church might have completely different political views. And so you really do hear people trying to talk things out.

MONTAGNE: So it's not like those Thanksgiving dinners we've heard of or even experienced, where people have to leave the table?

GREENE: It's not like that. At least it wasn't in Lamoni. It's this little town in Decatur County, down by the Missouri border that Trump won by 30 percentage points - this county. We hosted a roundtable there with voters. It was pretty powerful, Renee.

There were four Democrats, one Republican sitting with me. I was asking them what they were basing their choices on in these caucuses Monday. Matthew Kolb (ph) was sitting there. He's 18 years old. He's a high school senior. And he brought up that he has a speech impediment.

He told me that and says he spent much of his life being pretty quiet. But he really wanted to speak out today. And he made it clear that he doesn't want four more years of a president who he sees as a bully.

MATTHEW KOLB: I just can't support a candidate who goes and talks down and insults and name calls because I don't want anyone to be treated like that. And I don't think that anyone wants to be treated like that because folks have opinions. And whether they're right or wrong, they deserve to be acknowledged and debated, not yelled at.

GREENE: And so, Renee, just to my right was Marjie Foster. She's the county Democratic chair. She's also a pastor. And she was speaking about why she wants Trump out of office.

MARJIE FOSTER: I have two grown children who owe more for their college loans right now than I have ever owed in my life - with the exception of my mortgage. I have family members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community whose lives have been jeopardized by some of the policies of this administration. To have any policies that benefit one socioeconomic class, one gender, one sexual orientation over another is just so abhorrent to me.

MONTAGNE: And, David, you said a Trump supporter was right there listening to all of this.

GREENE: Yeah - Republican sitting right near Marjie. They're actually friends. His name is Les Gardner (ph). He's 90 years old. He's going to be caucusing on Monday for the president in the Republican caucus, although there's not much suspense there. He is all in again for Donald Trump. And he said that all the noise has obscured this administration's accomplishments.

LES GARDNER: If we hadn't been so distracted by political nonsense this last year, we'd have seen these extraordinary accomplishments.

GREENE: You know, he spoke about the economy humming along, low unemployment. But given what I had heard before him, Renee, I had to ask him this.

You're sitting at a table with people who feel that he has done things that hurt them to their core. What do you say to them?

GARDNER: They are valid issues. And they should be discussed. And we should look at them. We might also look at what he's doing.

GREENE: But I pressed him, Renee. I asked Les, you know, what about the president's divisive tone?

GARDNER: If tone really matters that much - you mean the sweet talker? I don't know. That's nice. But as we've seen in the eight years before the current president's term, that didn't bring the benefits to society, the economic benefits to our society that our society needed.

GREENE: You know, listening to Les there made me want to turn back to Matthew, the 18-year-old. And I wanted to ask him about the tone from some Democrats, you know, who are pretty dismissive of Trump supporters. He said those Democrats could take an example from him.

KOLB: Both of my grandparents voted for Trump. That doesn't make them any less my grandparents. Like, I may disagree with them on some political things. But they're not racist. But just know all Trump voters are not racist. Again, we just have to talk to folks like they're people.

MONTAGNE: So, David, what did you take from sitting there listening to this mix of voters?

GREENE: I mean, it was interesting to hear who the Democrats are caucusing for, I'll say that. Matthew, the 18-year-old, is backing Pete Buttigieg. Marjie's supporting Amy Klobuchar. But beyond that, I was just struck by the neighborly tone - I mean, you know, that this group could be at the table sitting together talking about stuff, you know, during these very angry times. It was something kind of refreshing.

MONTAGNE: And that's Morning Edition's David Greene joining us from Iowa this morning. Thanks very much, David.

GREENE: You've got it, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.