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Political Beliefs Divide Small Town in Wisconsin


Dick Becker, a sales associate at Walker's Clothing and Shoes, says things are going well in Lancaster, Wis., and Grant County as a whole.

Editor's Note: VOA reporters recently traveled to rural areas along the Mississippi River to speak with the "forgotten men and women" who are supporters of President Donald Trump. They spoke to farmers, factory workers, and retirees in largely white, Christian middle class communities. This is one of their stories.

Dick Becker is hopeful about his hometown of Lancaster, in Grant County, Wisconsin.

He also feels hopeful about the United States under the leadership of Donald Trump.

“They need to give him a chance!” he said.

Becker says that most voters in Lancaster supported Trump in the 2016 elections because he promised to change the direction of the country. He adds that many people who had voted in earlier elections for President Barack Obama were dissatisfied with him.

“People I talk to did not like the way things were going,” he said. “People were fed up with politics as usual and they wanted a change.”

Becker says he hopes Americans get behind Trump, “because if he does well, everybody does well.”

Becker says he and other Grant County voters supported candidate Trump at a time when the local economy was expanding.

Becker sells clothing and shoes at a store in Lancaster. He sees people spending time and money in the store where he works. He also sees them at a local jewelry store, gift shops, the drug store, and restaurants.

Many people in small, rural communities drive an hour or more to buy things in a larger city. But Becker says Lancaster -- with a population of 3,868 -- has changed that trend. He says people come from as far away as Madison -- Wisconsin’s capital -- to visit his store and to experience the friendliness of a small town.

The massive red brick Grant County Courthouse towers over Lancaster’s main square. On the streets, shoppers spending time and money in Walker's Clothing and Shoes, a jewelry store, drug store, gift shops and restaurants.
The massive red brick Grant County Courthouse towers over Lancaster’s main square. On the streets, shoppers spending time and money in Walker's Clothing and Shoes, a jewelry store, drug store, gift shops and restaurants.

Becker says, “You can’t get the customer service and the quality you have here.”

But while Lancaster’s economy is good, many smaller towns in Wisconsin are suffering. Becker says Grant County has been helped by economic development that was begun with federal and state money. He says some small manufacturers and food-processing centers opened nearby, creating hundreds of jobs.

But he says the area has the same political disputes as many parts of the country. Some people defend President Trump as a businessman who speaks plainly. Others dislike the words he uses and his budget plans, which they believe will harm social services.

Becker said he also does not like some of the things the president has said. But he likes to think mainly about Trump’s hopes for the future.

Grant County’s overall prosperity is helped by economic development, spurred initially by federal and state funds, that drew some light manufacturing and food-processing plants to the area.
Grant County’s overall prosperity is helped by economic development, spurred initially by federal and state funds, that drew some light manufacturing and food-processing plants to the area.

“I agree with what he says -- I want to see businesses come back to this country,” Becker said.

He also agrees with Trump’s energy policies. Energy is an important subject in rural areas, where farms need fuel and nitrogen for fertilizer.

Becker notes that Trump “wants to tap into more of our energy reserves.” He says, “I like that because I don’t want to give our money to other countries. Why should we buy oil from Iran or Venezuela when we have our own?”

But Becker, like most other people in the county, said he does not like to talk about politics too much with his neighbors and friends. He says he wants to avoid arguments and keep a feeling of unity in the community.

VOA Correspondent Greg Flakus reported this story from Lancaster, Wisconsin. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

fed up – adj. very tired of something; angry about something that has continued for a long time

get behind – phrasal verb to support (someone or something)

shop – n. a building or room where goods and services are sold

trend – n. a general direction of change; a way of behaving, proceeding, etc., that is developing and becoming more common

plainly – adverb in a simple, honest and direct way

tap into – expression to understand and express something such as people’s beliefs or attitudes

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