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Election 2016: Historic upset has some voters seeking solace

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Worshippers at Holy Cross- Faith Memorial Episcopal Church gathered Wednesday in the chapel to pray for the nation’s healing.

“There’s work to do,” said the Rev. Wil Keith.

The mood was post-apocalyptic among those who came to pray, some still being moved to tears at the thought of a Donald J. Trump presidency. These were certainly Hillary Clinton supporters, fearful of what might happen if his promises prove to be more than just campaign rhetoric. One woman began her silent prayer with a cleansing sigh. Trump’s supporters probably didn’t feel as sharp a need for a service at noon on Wednesday. Their prayers had been answered just 12 hours earlier.

Small parties of Democrats had gathered in private homes Tuesday evening to celebrate an expected victory in the presidential race. Slowly, the states Trump needed for his unlikely run to victory fell into place: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Even reliably Democratic Michigan was too close to call. By 11 p.m. the television pundits were convinced Trump would win. It was time to turn out the lights, the party’s over.

At the Georgetown County Republican Party campaign headquarters at the old Waccamaw Library, about 20 people gathered to watch the early returns, but were mostly focused on the results of the local races.

The comfortable margins for local candidates drove the conversation even as the numbers coming in from the swing state of North Carolina showed an election shifting toward Trump’s favor. Local GOP members were part of a phone network making calls to voters in the Tarheel State for Trump.

Just two weeks earlier, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice told a rally at the former library the presidential campaign had been “a roller coaster ride.”

He thought Trump could win if he just kept quiet. “Everytime he gets out front, he says something else crazy,” Rice said.

For Rice and other Republicans, the pitch for Trump came down to one thing: control over Surpreme Court nominations.

As the returns came in on Tuesday, Judy Clarke, president of the county Republican women’s club, said she didn’t support Trump in the primary. “Even if he doesn’t win, he’s come a long way and overcome a lot of adversity,” she said.

Jerry Rovner, president of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club and chairman of the 7th District GOP, will cast a vote for Trump as one of South Carolina’s members of the Electoral College. He was also a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention. He said the Trump win will help keep jobs from leaving the U.S. for other countries.

The next morning, county GOP chairman Randy Hollister was happy with the result but unsure about what to expect. He said he never worried about Trump’s famous ego. “That may be his best attribute,” Hollister said. “His ego may drive him to accomplish great things.”

Tariffs on goods made in China and Mexico aren’t likely, he said. Companies like Wal-Mart and Ford would pass those extra costs on to customers, driving inflation upward and hurting the very people who elected him. He expects Trump to “act like a CEO, appoint good people and hold them accountable.”

Jim Watkins, president of the Waccamaw Neck Democratic Club, said Tuesday’s big surprise for him was the number of people who felt left behind in rural America. “I think that was the tsunami,” he said.

Watkins, a former chief of staff for Georgia Congressman Ben Jones, said Trump is still a mystery, the lesser of two evils for many voters. “I don’t think we know enough about Mr. Trump,” he said. “You start by looking at the people advising him. I know Newt Gingrich from my days in Washington. It’s scary to have Newt. I fear it’s going to be a divisive administration. I fear our partners around the world are going to be left high and dry. I hope I’m wrong. I hope something happens to show that was just a sales pitch and he governs differently.”

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