Almost 80% of voters in Butler County, Nebraska, voted for Donald Trump
Trump's approval in the state averaged 52% over his first six months in office
Any mention of Russia to these resident prompts bristling and instant dismissal
A gleaming series of pipes and engines tower over one corner of Bob Hilger’s acres of alfalfa fields. Hilger sold the land for a new pump station for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project President Donald Trump revived that had been halted under President Barack Obama.
“I’m really impressed with all of the things that (Trump’s) accomplished,” the 72-year-old farmer said, looking over the chain-link fence securing the installation. “Energy security is one of his big things, and that’s what this is all about.”
Hilger is one of the almost 80% of voters here in Butler County who voted for Trump in November’s election, out of a total of 3,770.
“You won’t find much buyer’s remorse around here,” Mayor Alan Zavodny of David City, the county seat for Butler, told CNN.
Polls show Nebraska is solidly Trump country. A recent Gallup poll shows Trump’s approval in the state averaged 52% over his first six months in office, tied for 12th highest in the country.
Miles of cornfields dominate the landscape on the roads into David City, which are lined with religious and anti-abortion rights billboards. Calling it a city is generous; just one intersection in the center of town has stoplights, there’s one bar and a handful of restaurants and shops. One storefront window features a handwritten list of 22 reasons to vote for Donald Trump: “1. Barak [sic] Hussein Obama does not support Donald Trump.”
Asked why their support for Trump is still so strong despite no concrete legislative successes in his first six months, supporters here quickly blame “obstructionists” for failing to enact what they see is the President’s aggressive agenda.
“He hasn’t had the accomplishments because he hasn’t had the cooperation of the majority in Congress, and they need to get on board with him,” said John Svec, who teaches high school government, standing on the side of the town’s pool, which he manages during the summer.
Most of the frustration is directed at members of the President’s own party, particularly when it comes to repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“That’s what many of them were elected for. Change health care, get something done for immigration and taxes,” added Svec. “I just wish they would be able to get together and be statesmen and legislators and get done what’s good for the country.”
Any mention of Russia to these resident prompts bristling and instant dismissal. The federal investigations into Moscow’s alleged effort to influence last year’s presidential election and any alleged collusion in that effort by the Trump campaign is “small diddly stuff,” fake, a media obsession, residents say. Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with an apparent “Russian government attorney” wasn’t about Hillary Clinton but adoptions, as Trump Jr. originally described.
“Did (Russia) purposefully change any votes?” Svec asked CNN. “They may have changed some minds but did they change any votes? I don’t think that they did. It’s not something that’s a concern of mine.”
Crowds are modest at the opening night of the annual Butler County Fair, in part because of near 100-degree temperatures and stifling humidity. As children load cages with rabbits and chickens for later judging, a half dozen veterans dressed in camouflage fatigues open the fair with small ceremony, retiring several US flags by burning them in a barrel.
Larry Sabata, a Vietnam War vet, led the ceremony as his wife Ann looked on. Their son, Kevin, served in the army in Iraq, and Trump’s promise to pour money into the military’s budget was a major reason they supported him.
“If they just let him be a president, if the media would leave him alone, if they come together, it would be okay,” Ann Sabata told CNN. “But he always has to sidestep something, explain something. Just let him be president. We voted him in, let him be in. Let him go. He knows what to do, he’s a businessman.”
Those members of Congress – particularly Republicans – who aren’t letting Trump do what he wants, Larry Sabata says, are going to face a tough time getting re-elected “when they make a campaign promise and vote exactly the opposite up there.”
“I think these people are getting tired of being fooled and we’re gonna see what’s going to happen,” Sabata said. “I think there’s going to be some changes.”
If there’s one thing die-hard Trump voters across the country have routinely faulted the President for, it’s his habit of taking to Twitter to vent and attack opponents, often quite personally. The Sabatas would urge him to “tone that down a little bit,” to “write it down, look at it, put it away.”
But for Hilger, the alfalfa farmer sitting on the tailgate of his pickup truck next to the Keystone pump station, Trump’s speaking and communication preferences are exactly what he wants to see in a president.
“It’s a non-ending effort to find something wrong with the way he’s doing things,” Hilger said. “He’s doing things like a business man. The people in Washington DC, they feel threatened. This is not the politicians’ way of getting things done.”