Journey to the 80,000 votes that changed the history of the United States

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THE COUNTRY travels, four years later, counties of the three key States in the victory of Donald Trump in 2016 and in which Joe Biden plays half the presidency

A street in Kenosha, a Detroit suburb, and a beautiful town called Wilkes-Barre, where deer roam the cemetery in the heart of the city, changed American history four years ago. Democrat Hillary Clinton won almost three million more votes than Donald Trump in the 2016 elections, but the US system prioritizes the weight of some territories over others and the puncture in the US industrial belt wiped her out. In a country of 330 million people, fewer than 80,000 votes in a handful of counties in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania tipped the balance toward the Republican with margins less than one percent.

Today, those three pendulum territories, which passed from Barack Obama to Trump, return to the center of the battle. EL PAÍS begins with them a series on the States that will decide the presidency of the most powerful country in the world.

“I was a Democrat, but I have gone over to the Republicans. In 2016 I did not vote for Clinton, I did not vote for anyone, but in November I plan to vote for Trump. What happened here in Kenosha made me change my mind, in addition, people say that the rival party paid people to do the damage, ”explains Griselda Román, a 47-year-old hairdresser who emigrated from Mexico as a teenager and runs a salon of beauty.

Kenosha, in the northern state of Wisconsin, is one of the cities hit by the riots this summer. The fuse lit on a Sunday in August, when police shot a black man in the back seven times they were going to arrest, after months of protests over the death of African American George Floyd. Demonstrations against racism were met with the presence of private militias. A 17-year-old white boy came with a rifle to make order on his own and killed two people.

The great avenue 22, adjacent to the Grisela Román room, is today a path of lots, burned establishments and buildings walled up by planks. “Trump has promised a strong hand, militarily and economically he is a strong man. And I’ve heard that Joe Biden wants to raise taxes, ”explains the businesswoman.

It is Saturday, October 10, and the hairdresser is enjoying a certain rush, May water for one of those family businesses that had to close due to the pandemic. On the television the dialogue of a soap opera in Spanish sounds. 99% of its regular clientele is Latino. When asked about the president’s insulting comments towards Hispanics, especially Mexicans, she responds: “I know he doesn’t love us very much, but…” and breaks out laughing.

Kenosha County did not elect a Republican president in 44 years and in 2016 it decided on Trump, who knew how to read the frustration of the impoverished white working class, punished by the flight of industrial production, fearful of immigration.

Joe Biden seeks to reverse that vote. Nationally, he leads Trump in polls by seven points, according to the Real Clear Politics average, and in these three key sites, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, he leads him by four, five and almost eight points, respectively. After the surprise of four years ago, however, the polls arouse suspicions and the experts predict with the small mouth. Kenosha’s hair salon shows that in the face of disenchanted Republicans, the president can still seduce unexpected new voters.

“Elections are won on the margins, especially in partisan and polarized times like this one, when very few people switch sides. Trump still wins among workers in blue overalls by a wide margin, although not as wide as in 2016. Or it could be an error in the polls, “says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Policy at the University of Virginia.

Macomb County, 25 minutes by car from Detroit, Michigan, is the greatest exponent of this shift on the part of the working class towards the Republican Party. It is here that researcher Stan Greenberg identified and christened the Reagan Democrats in 1985, referring to working families who left the Democrats to vote for Ronald Reagan. Mostly white, Catholic and highly unionized, it was one of the most democratic counties in the 1960s, after the Reagan revolution it did not win a Democrat again until Bill Clinton in 1996.

A walk from Mount Clemens, one of the county’s towns, transports that golden age of the great American suburb, a powerful symbol of the thrust of the middle class. The rows of houses with the stars and stripes flags, the lawnmowers in the gardens, the delicate Halloween decorations. Middle-educated guys found a good job in some of those Detroit auto giants, they could buy a house, a car, and raise a family, no frills but no calamities.

One of the residents of that neighborhood, Scott W. Moses, 44, who makes his living repairing motorcycles, is not enthusiastic about Trump but plans to vote for him a second time. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like all your policies and I think I should stop tweeting at three in the morning, but it has changed the economy for the better.” Nafta [el tratado comercial entre EE UU, México y Canadá, que data de 1994] It’s a horrible thing that happened to us and he tries to reverse it. He wants to give tax incentives to companies that stay. It is just an example. And, about immigration, people keep saying that he wants them to stop coming, but what he says is that they come legally, “he explains from his porch, decorated with two large posters in support of the president.

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