In the US presidential election, the vote in some states is predictable. But in others – known as swing conditions – there may be surprises.
Our correspondents Jessica Le Masurier and Céline Bruneau traveled to the major battlefield states of Minnesota and Wisconsin to see if voters in the heart of America will choose Donald Trump or Joe Biden as their next president.
It’s dusk in Mountain Iron, a town in northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, and Junior Kolterman is getting ready for bed. The third generation of mines, who have been using heavy machinery for 25 years, relax in front of the history canal with his wife and children before an early bedtime. He starts his 12-hour shift at 6.
Junior lives in a region that was historically democratic until 2016, when miners voted hard for Donald Trump.
Miner Junior Kolterman stands in front of his home in Minnesota’s Iron Range on October 5, 2020. © Jessica Le Masurier
Junior, whose front yard is adorned with “Steelworkers for Trump” signs, explains why he gave up the Democrats. “Many years ago, this whole area was democratic, and in fact I also voted for all Democrats many years ago. They say they are for the working people, but if they continue to push their radical environmental agenda, it will put us right out. in the field of iron. ”
Junior voted for Trump in 2016. “I liked that he was not a politician; he is a businessman and it was time for a change in this country. ”
Junior is one of many defectors on the railroad and plans to vote for Trump again this time, despite union leaders saying the Republican candidate is spoiling lies.
“How anyone can support President Trump after attacking our way of life for the last three and a half years goes beyond me. He’s a friend of the companies, he’s a friend of his rich friends. He is not a friend of the working men and women. He has not done a damn thing. We are not doing well up here, “explains an excited John Arbogast, staff representative for United Steelworkers, District 11.
John Arbogast, United Steelworkers Staff Representative, District 11, Eveleth, Minnesota, October 5, 2020. © Jessica Le Masurier
John’s union office is in the town of Eveleth. Its entire economy was built on the mines, but as the industry declined, it became a ghost town. Shops are closing, the only places still open appear to be a few bars where miners drink after their long shifts. Mines in the region have been closed one by one due to a number of reasons, including low foreign steel prices, automation and outsourcing.
John cannot believe miners are fooled by Trump.
Miners’ votes nearly gave Trump a victory in Minnesota in 2016 – he ended up losing the state to Hillary Clinton, but only by 45,000 votes.
One of the reasons he lost was because people in urban areas like Minneapolis still vote Democrat.
Four years later, Joe Biden beats black voters in urban areas who turn out to vote. In 2016, many abstained, another reason why the vote was so close.
But African Americans may be more motivated this time around thanks to the civil rights movement that has received support over the past year in the United States.
The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May has led to anger and calls for an end to systemic racism and police violence against African Americans.
At the intersection where Floyd died under police officer Derek Chauvin’s knees, African-American pastor Rozenia Fuller explains what is at stake. “We are fighting for our very lives in this election. We have a president who has shown full whiteness of white supremacy. And so our vote counts. I know some of us are very sad. Some of us have given up. But it is not time to give up. ”
Rozenia Fuller joined millions of other Americans by taking advantage of early voting and has encouraged other members of her community to do the same.
Urban concerns seem far removed from rural voters. Trump has been successful in seeking out farmers and loggers in neighboring Wisconsin.
Logger Jeremy Miller makes goal practice in a Wisconsin forest on October 7, 2020. © Jessica Le Masurier
Jeremy Miller, a 41-year-old logger living in Barron, Wisconsin, supports Donald Trump. Sporting with a “Making Logging Great Again” baseball cap – which he got at a Trump rally in Duluth, Minnesota – Jeremy explains why he does not like “big government”.
“I do not want free handouts, free health care – I do not need any of that. I just want to be allowed to pave my own path.” Jeremy fears Democrats will impose environmental restrictions on his industry that will threaten his livelihood.
Jeremy and his friend Dave Cox also value their right to bear arms. They explain over a game pool at a local bar, decorated with the taxidermy bodies of animals native to the surrounding countryside, that they are ready to fight back with their weapons if they feel threatened. “We need to take our country back from the liberals who want a socialist country,” Dave Cox said. To him, socialism is a dirty word.
In 2016, Wisconsin turned to Republicans for the first time since 1984. Trump won by just 23,000 votes. These votes came mainly from rural areas and especially from farmers. This time, Trump has tried to ensure that farmers in the state, known as America’s dairy, continue to support him.
Yet farmers have suffered during Trump’s term as president, largely because of his trade war with China. Problems for milk producers started in 2018 when the president in an attempt to protect US production closed the door on Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated and exports of U.S. dairy products to China fell by more than 50 percent, with milk prices falling. Many farmers went bankrupt, including Lynn Hicks, who runs her own family business, along with her husband Nick in Gilman.
Despite their financial problems, Nick continues to support Trump. He explains that he believes Trump had to trade hard with China to get a better deal in the long run. “Why would you run a business where you send your stuff to someone else and they put huge taxes on it, but with everything that comes in from them, you do not put anything on? Put no tax on? How can you run one? There is no way you can continue to do that and not have millions or trillions of dollars in debt. And that is what happened to this country. ”
Nick says that if Trump gets another term, “we will realize that the things he did were actually the right things to do”.
Since farmers’ fortunes were affected by the trade war, Trump has sent them stimulus control.
Fifth generation milk producer John Rosenholm is an outlier in a region where highways are lined with Trump signs.
John, who owns a farm with 700 cows in Cochrane, Wisconsin, says he lost $ 400,000 because of Trump’s trade war. Since then, he has received a number of government checks.
John believes Trump is trying to buy farmers’ votes: “It’s a little funny because they always say they’s anti-socialist and anti-this and anti-communist, and do not want the government to do all this, but anytime we have “a Republican president, we get into a financial bind, and then they start pushing money out and borrowing money like crazy. And none of us know how to pay it back. I find that a little ironic.”
Milk producer John Rosenholm in Cochrane, Wisconsin on October 7, 2020. © Jessica Le Masurier
A few miles from the Rosenholm farm in the town of Alma, located on a stretch of the Mississippi River that runs between Wisconsin and Minnesota, Lori McCammon described how she lost faith in Trump. The 65-year-old grandmother lived in California in 2016, and afraid of illegal immigration, she voted for Trump. With tears in her eyes, she explains why she has regretted that voice ever since.
“When I saw the children in the cages … I’m a mother and I’m a grandmother. Taking children away from their parents … Some of these were breastfeeding babies, taken from their mothers. Some of these children will never be reunited with their parents because we do not know where their parents are. It’s beyond cruel. ”
Lori has joined “Republicans against Trump,” a group of disillusioned voters who support Joe Biden. Lori tries to convince other Republicans, like her retired friend Frank Zacher, to skip the ship as well.
Lori McCammon and Frank Zacher take a walk along the Mississippi River in Alma, Wisconsin on October 8, 2020. © Jessica Le Masurier
The two friends talk about politics as they stroll along the Mississippi River. The conversation remains civil, but they do not see eye to eye. Frank’s own family is torn apart by this election. “I have a 39-year-old daughter who said that if I vote for Trump, she will never talk to me again for the rest of my life.
And elections should never be like that. I think adults should be in able to vote on who they want to vote for, and you know, the day after the vote, we’ll find out who won the election, and we kind of go together and try to make things better. ”
Lori blames Trump for poisoning people against each other: “He created the divided states in America.”