The day after the 2016 presidential election, David Nastri, like many, couldn’t believe his candidate had won. Then he ran into one of his friends. She was crying, in disbelief that so many Americans had chosen Donald Trump.
“And I said, you know, ‘What do you think of me?’” Nastri recalls asking her. “And she said, ‘Oh, I love you, you’re awesome.’ And I said, ‘I voted for him.’ ‘How could you do that?’ she said. And I said, ‘It’s a big country, he’s not gonna break it.’ I think that’s been borne out, he didn’t break it. He’s improved a lot of it.”
There are two ways to look at the Connecticut electoral map.
Over half of all Connecticut voters -- 56% -- chose Hillary Clinton in 2016. But half of Connecticut’s towns -- 88 municipalities -- voted a majority for Donald Trump. And the majority of those towns lie in the Naugatuck River Valley, where some of those who chose Trump in 2016 are preparing their ballots for him again this November.
Nastri lives in Cheshire and works as a financial adviser in Waterbury, two blue towns in the generally red region of the Naugatuck River Valley. He’s confident he’ll be casting his vote for the next president of the United States.
“I think his prospects are very good,” Nastri said. “I would not be surprised if the Republicans do a sweep.”
Polls tell a different story: Former Vice President Joe Biden leads in most national polls, but the Senate is up for grabs. Still, there was no lesson like the 2016 election to remind people that polls are just an educated guess. But Nastri says he sees more Trump than Biden lawn signs in his neck of the woods. And he has a theory that those with signs for down-ticket Republicans are quiet Trump voters.
Nastri is used to being around Democrats -- he grew up in a family of them. He even knows U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy personally. He’s a nice guy, Nastri says, and that’s why he votes for him. But throughout the course of his education studying economics, serving in the Army and attending law school, Nastri found he aligned better with the GOP. But politics turns him off these days. He can find a lot to criticize about the president, and he believes all politicians are more interested in power than policy.
“But I also think we are seeing some of the worst parts of people,” Nastri said. “I think certainly the majority of worst parts I’m seeing are on the Democratic side. There’s been a sense of desperation for almost four years now.”
Liz Normand doesn’t like the narrative about her party.
“The Democrats think that Republicans are at fault for everything,” Normand said. “You know, that we’re all not Black Lives Matter supporters. Well, yeah, we are. I agree with equal justice.”
Normand is a nurse and lectures on nursing. She’s from deep-red Prospect, where 66% of voters chose Trump in 2016.
She loves her small town. Her community has held small block parties since the pandemic began: a circle of neighbors in lawn chairs who share her view of the president. And it seems a lot of people in town agree.
“To see a Trump flag on a pickup truck driving in the center of town just, like, warms my heart,” Normand said. “I love it. American flag on one side and a Trump flag on the other, and everybody’s beeping and waving.”
She admits that small-town life keeps her shielded from certain things.
“We’re not racist,” Normand said. “I think we’re ignorant because we come from a small town. We don’t see how the big cities are struggling. I mean, Waterbury is, you know, five minutes away, and that’s a hard town for me to go to now because there’s so many diverse things going on, good and bad. I don’t feel like I’m part of that community anymore.”
The first debate and the president’s coronavirus infection were low points for her and her friends. She worries he was too reckless with his own illness.
“He is portraying that this is not a big deal, and to people who have lost family members, it is a big deal,” she said. “And 200,000, I hate to say this, is not a lot. But it’s a lot to people that have lost people.”
The block party group tries to keep the conversation away from the election these days. “I have a feeling a lot of people are gonna vote with their hearts, rather than with their heads,” she said. “And I mean Joe Biden is a nice guy and Trump isn’t. However, if you look at what’s happened over the past four years, I’m really happy with my life.”
And for her -- and the many other Trump voters in Connecticut -- reelecting an incumbent president could keep her happy with her life.
Connecticut Public Radio will bring you the voices of more Trump and Biden supporters as part of the series, Voters In The Valley.
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.