When it comes to this year’s election, it wasn’t the Hollywood big wigs or the power brokers of Wall Street that had the influence. Instead it was the connection Donald Trump made with people in often overlooked small towns that made the difference. Full Measure correspondent Joce Sterman visited rural Mississippi to find out why.
Poplarville, Mississippi is hardly a place you’d consider powerful enough to sway an election.
There’s exactly one stoplight. The courthouse sits across from a water tower that proudly proclaims their status as the "Blueberry Capital of Mississippi." And when you want to know what gets a long-shot candidate elected president, you go to Dimples Fried Chicken.
Dimples is the center of small town life in this part of Mississippi. It’s also a classic example of Donald Trump’s America. Owner Jason Meador says in the days following the election, the town has felt a sense of calm and a shift that shows life has changed.
“We’re all probably still in shock,” Meador explained while serving diners during the lunch rush.
For some, the resonating feeling following the election is that Trump, the anti-candidate, the man they say shares their language and their concern, has actually won the White House.
It’s what they point to as a sign the country is moving in their direction for the first time in years. Nick Gonzalez, a Trump supporter, said there is a sense of hope, “I just feel like people have something more to look forward to, something new, something different. There’s something to bring jobs back. I feel like it’s a fresh start kind of.”
In Poplarville, and other towns like it, issues like the economy, the border wall, ditching Obamacare and many of Trump’s talking points struck home. In one day, with one election, these folks say they finally see a turning point. That includes Max Smith, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump. He said, “There ain’t no way he can straighten out the mess that’s there in four years. Eight years ain’t going to get it done. But it’s got to start somewhere. The taxpayers, the blue collar worker, the working people cannot continue to support 2/3 of the world.”
Support for trump is not universal, even in rural Mississippi. Even in the reddest of states and towns like this one, some say they have also felt a shift. Business owner Katrina Mizell says it’s not a positive one. She owns a coffee shop in Poplarville that she says has taken heat for its stance on diversity. Mizell, who did not vote for Trump, admits she is scared.
“I’ve just seen more division and more hate,” Mizell explained while serving up cappuccinos, “I hope it will die down but I don't think its going to change.”
The change-maker this time around was the new approach to presidential politics. Small towns like Poplarville weren’t impressed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign coffers. They couldn’t be swayed by celebrities like Beyonce. Simply put, in places where faces are so few you know them all by name, Donald Trump didn’t need the political machine. His supporters say they just needed to feel he was one of them.
“All the fakeness, all the packaging, the pre-canned stuff. I think its what cost her the election.” Meador said, “I think she has herself to blame for that. But what do I know? I just sell fried chicken.”