Dave Krupa and Edna Bice in front of a polling place in Clearing
Everyone knows that Chicago is an indigo city in a solidly blue state. This is the land of the Democratic primary that's treated like a general election
. But there are Republicans even here. And three wards on the southwest side saw a majority of those registered with the GOP vote for Trump in the primary.
The 13th, 14th, and 23rd Wards, gerrymandered into skinny puzzle pieces through the neighborhoods of Clearing and Garfield Ridge, are where a lot of the working-class white people Trump was banking on reside.
This is the land of trucks with White Sox vanity license plates, warehouses that go on for blocks, Polish bars, and Midway Airport. Little yellow brick bungalows fill the spaces between aging strip malls. You can still meet old men with Irish brogues, but Latino families have also made a home for themselves here, and the local grocery stores now carry Mexican products alongside every variety of canned vegetable and nonorganic meat.
Upon arrival Tuesday afternoon, I didn't have to search long for ardent Trump supporters. Eighteen-year-old Dave Krupa and 53-year-old Edna Bice were standing in front of a polling place at a Centro Cristiano. Krupa waved a giant Trump flag, while Bice worked with a sign reading "Hillary for prison 2016" and a flag with a patriotic collage of stars and stripes, a bald eagle head, and military insignia. Many a passing car and semitruck honked at them in appreciation. Some people honked and flipped the bird.
Krupa was happy to have the day off from school due to a parent-teacher conference. He describes himself as a "day-one Trump supporter" and hopes Trump's law-and-order politics will shake up both the "inner city" (which he defined as "State and Madison") and his own neighborhood.
"In the inner cities, if you've got your pants down to your ankles, and it looks like you're a shady character, stop and frisk is the way to go," he says, "because chances are if you have a gun you don't have a license to carry that."
Bice come out to support Trump after completing a 12-hour shift at her job as a scale clerk weighing tanker trucks at a chemical company. She's with a group called Overpasses for America, which decorates highway overpasses with political messages as a way of "defending the Constitution."
"We're patriots," she explains.
She hands out candy—"treats for Trump"—to voters exiting the poll, and identifies military aircraft as they take off from Midway. Bice loves that "Trump loves the troops," and the fact that "the man cannot be bought."
A few blocks west, on 63rd Street, three old-timers gather at the "asshole corner" of the bar, as the patrons put it, attached to Miska's Liquors, cracking jokes and watching Jeopardy
. They sip beer and munch on chips and hummus set out by Kathy, the bartender. Drew, a Polish-American fireman, says he wrote in a candidate for president. Joe, an Italian-American barber, admits he voted for Trump. Ray, an Irish-American retiree, stayed mum on his choices. No one seemed enthused about the election, which feels like choosing between "shit and diarrhea" according to Drew. "They don't talk about anything! They talk about what she did wrong, who he groped, how many e-mails—let's talk about the issues!"
Ray, Joe, and Drew gather at the "asshole corner" at Buddies, the bar attached to Miska's Liquors in Clearing.
The biggest issues in this neighborhood, they all agreed, are drugs and rats, neither of which politicians ranging from aldermen to the president are doing anything about, they said.
As night fell, lines at the polls thickened and election judges in precincts around the 13th Ward were reporting a robust turnout. Most of the voters were white. Many of the election workers were Latino. Around 5 PM Krupa was still waiving his Trump flag in front of Centro Cristiano, joined by his little brother and a neighbor's kid. Bice had gone home, taking with her her Trump lawn sign—the only one I spotted anywhere in Clearing.
I stopped by two more dive bars along Central Avenue, hoping for a heated conversation as states began to report results. But at the Chicago Bear, enthusiasm for the election was so low that the bartender switched the TVs over to the Cavaliers game. None of the Irish men at the bar would reveal whom they'd voted for. Neither would a black man from Cleveland who voted early before coming to town to visit a friend. Down the street at Duffy's Place, a family of blue-collar Democrats bemoaned the lack of good choices, but thought it was obvious that Clinton would clinch it.
Still, as polls close around the country, a Trump presidency looks more and more likely. And although Illinois has proved once again to be a reliable blue state, the Trump supporters here seem to no longer be in the minority.