The AmericansOs anos Trump

Over the course of 11 days, Folha drove through four states of the Rust Belt, a crucial region in deciding whether the most controversial leader in US history remains the White House

El rencor empuja a Trump a la reelección en EE UU

Marina Dias e Lalo de Almeida

U.S. MidwestJudy Phelps, a 71-year-old social worker from Pennsylvania, voted for Barack Obama twice. But in 2016, she was tired of traditional politicians and feeling helpless, so she supported Donald Trump.

Votes like hers spread throughout the Rust Belt, an industrial area of Democratic tradition that switched sides and led to the victory of the current president of the United States.

This phenomenon, common among middle-class Americans, will likely affect next year’s election again.

Inspired by Swiss photographer Robert Frank, who traveled throughout the United States in a Ford Business Coupe in the mid-1950s, Folha drove through four Rust Belt states in the region over the course of 11 days.

Frank’s images in “The Americans” showed the sad reality of the country—a drastic contrast to the optimism of the American dream propagated on TV at that time.

On the road in a Ford (Fiesta), we also saw paradoxes. We ran into striking workers, forgotten communities amid coal mines and well-off women who had no idea that in a town near their country club, people had to line up for food and clean water.

With less than a year to go, Trump’s support is still strong in the region. Democrats are disheartened because the same issues that pushed Hillary Clinton into bitter defeat in 2016 may prevail again.

Trump supporter at a GOP campaign office in Eire, Ohio
Trump supporter at a GOP campaign office in Eire, Ohio

Trump supporter at a GOP campaign office in Eire, Ohio - Lalo de Almeida/Folhapress

Things can still change, but so far, the president has managed to unify his speech in the Midwest.

From the owner of the Pennsylvania coalmine to the young homeless man in Wisconsin, many repeatedly said that Trump must be reelected because the economy is doing well, and if the opposition wins, the United States will become socialist.

Democrats, for their part, fall into two groups: those who see no reason to go to the polls and those who threaten to abstain if they dislike the party candidate—and here is the repetition of those who denied Hillary.

We found the apathy in the first group among those who rely on water and food donations in Flint, Michigan, and the rebellion of the second group at a rally of Bernie Sanders in Detroit, the state’s largest city.

The Vermont senator and his congressional colleague, Elizabeth Warren, are the ones who drive the opposition on the Rust Belt a little more.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, centrist and poll favorite, is strong in those states, but still has no clear advantage over the Republican to be considered a certainty by Democrats.

To win the election, Trump needs to keep this thermometer amidst the impeachment process and its low popularity - it has lost its breath in conservative suburbs such as Kentucky and Virginia.

But in a country where voting is not mandatory, and the indirect system of the Electoral College defines White House command, the atmosphere of the Rust Belt again seems conducive to the president.

Text: Marina Dias / Fotografia: Lalo de Almeida / Infografia: Catarina Pignato / Edição de fotografia: Fernando Sciarra, Lalo de Almeida e Daigo Oliva / Edição e revisão de texto: Daigo Oliva e Beatriz Peres / Tratamento de imagem: Edson Salles / Desenvolvimento: Pilker / Design: Fernando Sciarra e Irapuan Campos / Coordenação de arte: Kleber Bonjoan e Thea Severino / Edição e coordenação: Daigo Oliva