National Politics

TMS still Trump Country despite president’s low approval ratings

Atop the platform on which Danny Carter and Steve Burns stood to watch Sunday’s Monster Energy O’Reilly 500 from the infield at the Texas Motor Speedway were symbols of the institutions very near and very dear to them.

Flying all the more proudly in a gusty wind were the Stars and Stripes, representing the country they love. The Lone Star waved vigorously, it on display in honor of the state they adore. A flag emblazoned with “NASCAR” let the passersby know of their devotion to their sport of choice.

Finally, and hardly the least important to them, was the most recent add, a flag adorned with the words “Team Deplorable,” a mantra they have embraced with the deepest satisfaction.

It is meant to inform that they are still very much on board with President Donald Trump.

Despite what seems to be controversy daily — stemming from either a tweet, a policy position, decision, or executive order — the hint of scandal looming over Russian intrigue, and recent polls showing his poll numbers dipping into the 40s less than three months into his presidency, Texas Motor Speedway is still Trump Country.

“We need eight years of him,” said Steve Burns, 57, from the town of East Texas’ Joaquin. “He’s getting beat up daily, but he’s a big, strong man. He’s a workaholic. And he can handle it.

“He’s going to work for us, me and you … the working people. He’s our guy. He’ll do what’s right, like Syria. You killing babies over there? Really? What did he do? Taking care of business … that’s our guy.”

NASCAR fans carry with them the reputation of being red from head to toe. It would seem logical for their politics to be the same.

But the assumption is wrong. Political leanings are a mixed bag in NASCAR, particularly in the Deep South, where Yellow Dog Democrats still roam.

In 1976, Cale Yarborough said he was casting a ballot for Jimmy Carter. Junior Johnson, one of NASCAR’s original bootleggers and Hall of Famer, was a Barack Obama man.

Obama won North Carolina, a hub of the NASCAR organization, in 2008, though the state went with Mitt Romney four years later. That despite a Zogby poll showing that Obama enjoyed the support of NASCAR fans nationwide over Romney.

Trump won the state in 2016.

Moreover, on Sunday rocker Ozzy Osbourne, the “Prince of Darkness,” was welcomed with cheers from the crowd just before giving the order for drivers to start their engines.

They seemed to hold no hard feelings (or didn’t remember) that during a concert Osbourne compared George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler through a video montage to introduce his song “War Pigs.”

It’s a diverse group, this NASCAR Nation.

In a survey of fans on Sunday, many said they most admire that Trump has done what he said he was going to do.

And in fact, the first 80 days of the Trump Administration have been marked by a consistency between campaign rhetoric and enactment.

Trump signed an executive order trying to limit travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. He has moved aggressively to enforce immigration laws and moved to build the wall he said he would erect during the campaign. Gone are many environmental regulations put in place during Barack Obama’s eight years.

Rudy Bernal, a native of Puerto Rico, termed the wall a “fabulous idea as long as it’s done the right way.”

“They’re here to work, 99 percent of them,” said Bernal, now a resident of Galveston. “Play by the rules, that’s the only way to do it. I came here as a 14-year-old, didn’t speak a word of English. I learned. There’s no reason for us to change our ways.”

Said Carter: “There are a lot of people upset about the wall. All he’s saying is come over here legally. He’s not saying he doesn’t want immigrants over here. Come over and get your papers like everyone else.”

Trump campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare, but failed to coalesce a majority in Congress in efforts to repeal and replace it, something a faction on the right did not want.

But in foreign affairs, he promised to follow more closely the advice of George Washington and avoid foreign entanglements. Trump said he would be an “America-first” president.

The bombing last week in Syria — in retaliation for Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons during an attack on civilians, which included women and children, the latest in a string of tragedies in the wore-torn country — defied that commitment and was met with mostly approval, but also scorn. It was typical of his opposition on the left, but also from his base of supporters, who swept Trump into office by approving of his America first message.

Trump’s decision to unleash Tomahawk missiles into Syria appeared to earn the overwhelming support of fans at TMS.

Burns said his son, Lane, 30, was greeted with loud cheers while wearing a shirt expressing support for Trump’s action.

“I firmly, say, yes, Syria, needed action,” said Reece Brundrick, 45, of League City. “And North Korea is next.”

“I haven’t seen anything that they had dealings with the election, but Russia is someone that needs to be dealt with as well. I don’t trust them at all, and I don’t think Trump should. And I don’t think he does. He’s a different president.”

Diana Everman, 59, of Austin was one of the few nonbelievers in the new president. She was a conscientious objector in 2016, sitting out the election, citing an inability to pull the lever for either Trump or Hillary Clinton.

She said she would do the same today and stay home.

“I really was hoping for the best … that he would make the right decisions for the country,” said Everman, a self-described “liberal.” “But I’m not certain it’s going to work out.

“I really believe that we don’t take care of people in our country. Instead we stick our nose in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now Syria. A lot of people I’ve spoken with out here say, ‘well, we’ve got to stick up for the underdog, and people who need our help.’ There are a lot of people here that need help.”

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