Illustrations: Melanie Lambrick
The distraught wives and girlfriends of Trump voters have built a community around my radio show
In 2012 they became engaged and were living together but set no wedding date. They began fertility treatments, and Alison gave birth in 2014. During her pregnancy she learned one of the twins had a metabolic condition. That?s when health care became a major issue for Alison.
?I didn?t pay attention to his politics,? she said of the time long before the election, noting he didn?t discuss political issues. She said he only registered to vote for the first time ? at the age of 38 ? a few months before the election, just to vote for Trump.
?He has this one photograph where his dad was at a party with Donald Trump, from the ?80s, in New York,? Alison said in describing what, at least in part, drew her former fianc to Trump. He ?liked Trump as a celebrity,? she said, and he ?watched ?The Apprentice.??
?He would call me a ?libtard.? He was never like that before.?
The day following the election, ?on his Facebook page, he posted that picture of his dad with Trump,? she said. ?I was devastated.?
They separated and tried, unsuccessfully, to reconcile several times. As Trump took office, they argued intensely about the president?s actions, especially Trump?s assaults on Obamacare. Alison couldn?t fathom how he didn?t see the threat to the health of his own daughter, who had a pre-existing condition.
?I saw [his] language change, even towards me,? she said. ?He would call me a ?libtard.? He was never like that before. I didn?t see racism in him [before], and homophobia, but I saw it afterward.?
She still sees him regularly because of the girls. He lauds Trump?s support of Israel, Alison said, but when her synagogue was recently vandalized in an anti-Semitic hate crime he refused to speak with her about how Trump emboldens white supremacists.
And when she dressed the twins in t-shirts that say, ?She won? ? because the girls saw Alison wearing one and wanted their own ? he threatened to put MAGA hats on them (something Alison vowed will never happen). She?s aware the incident is likely just a taste of battles to come as the girls grow up.
Her husband voted for Clinton too, but later regretted it. He came to support many of Trump?s policies and ideas, she said, including on immigration, often lauding Trump and belittling Joanne?s concerns. Though he now threatens to vote for Trump in 2020, Joanne doesn?t think he will ? not if she keeps working on him.
In looking at the 2020 candidates, Joanne said her husband favors Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They?re both ?not too fond of Biden? and are ?worried that the same thing that happened with Hillary is going to happen with Biden, where the DNC is going to ignore the primary vote and force Grandpa Joe on us.?
That?s a scenario she doesn?t want to think about because then all bets are off regarding her husband?s vote.
?I?m just hoping that once Trump is gone, everything goes back to normal,? she said.
While some of the women leave their husbands, others make a go of it, explaining that the connection they have with their husbands is stronger than their political differences. Still others say they want to leave, but don?t think they can do it and so have found a way of coping.
Andrea, who lives in the small city of Ottumwa, in southeastern Iowa, goes on the offensive against her husband, a former military intelligence officer.
?I try not to pick fights with him, but if Trump has done something extra-stupid I will lay into him,? she told me after reaching out recently on Twitter, describing herself as the ?aggressor? in these exchanges.
Andrea is 48 and married for 11 years, in a second marriage. She was a Republican from the time she was 18 and had always voted GOP, as did her first husband. But she went back to school a few years ago, got her BA and, as she put it, ?my mind opened wide!?
She became a Democrat in 2015, caucused for Sanders in 2016, and voted for Clinton in the general election. She plans to caucus for Warren in 2020.
?You suck it up and grit your teeth and every once in a while absolutely blow a gasket.?
A few months back, Andrea had her bags packed, ?ready to walk out the door.? He ?begged me to stay,? she explained. ?We can have a good time together as long as we are not talking politics.? And when she does feel compelled to raise it, she said, ?I can counterpunch anything he throws my way.?
Rae Ann, a suburban Ohio homemaker, told me after reaching out to me on Facebook: ?If it were just me, I?d have thrown in the towel long ago.? But she has a daughter and a mother to care for, she explained, and believes she doesn?t have the skills to get a job.
?You suck it up and grit your teeth and every once in a while absolutely blow a gasket and accuse him of being racist,? she said. ?It?s fairly miserable.?
Listening to women with similar experiences has been a lifeline for her and others. And hearing me vigorously doing battle with Trump supporters who call in at least once per show ? most of them angry men who hurl insults ? helps too.
?You?ve given me some ammo to use at home,? Joanne from Michigan told me. ?When you get all riled up and start yelling back at them, I just love it. It sure does make the day so much better. It gives me relief and gratification. I live for those moments.?
And in the Trump era, as these women face hostility at home while working hard to change the political reality in 2020, living for the moment goes a long way.