CLEVELAND, OHIO — Jim and Lorraine Morrison left Chino, California two weeks ago in a 2003 Peterbilt and a load of dry goods and tires with the hopes that other truckers would join them in Cleveland to support the unlikely billionaire hero of the white working class.
Just one trucker showed up, but the Morrisons were joined by a few hundred bikers in the Flats neighborhoods of Cleveland, just across the Cuyahoga River from the convention center where Donald Trump will accept the Republican nomination for president this week. On Sunday night, Jim and Lorraine strained to hear Lynyrd Skynyrd playing to a crowd dressed in Joseph A. Banks inside the convention center before heading to a nearby bar.
“Do you want 500,000 refugees coming into this country?” Lorraine asked as the conversation quickly turned to politics, which it always does with Jim and Lorraine. “I’m Mexican, but I live in America. This is where I live and this is where my kids live. This is where my dreams are and we need America to be safe.”
Only Trump can promise that for Jim and Lorraine.
It has been a long two weeks for the couple, or at least it might appear that way for those who don’t live their lives on the road. After Chino there was Arizona. Then Vegas and a trip to the Trump Hotel.
“If you’re not a Trump supporter,” Lorraine remembered asking guests there, “then why the fuck are you staying here?”
On to Utah, Colorado, then, selling Truckers for Trump shirts and communicating with fans and friends on their Facebook page.
“People say they want to come see us but by the time they got there we’re gone!” Lorraine said. The road and the work it requires doesn’t allow for long stays or leisurely visits.
They stop for the bathroom, fuel, or food. They eat while driving and sleep in the cab. In Colorado Lorraine woke her husband with screams of “Jim! Jim!” as a hydraulic line hissed and power went down somewhere in Colorado, just as it did this week, Lorraine explained.
Then Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and, finally, Ohio.
“Might leave tomorrow, might not,” Jim said on Monday, noting there is money to be made.
For the past year as Jim and Lorraine have been on the road working and making a living, coastal media have been dropping in at Trump rallies asking the same questions and trying, desperately trying and often failing, to understand how a blue-blood plutocrat with the baby-soft hands of a banker has managed to capture the support of men like Jim, who has a portion of a finger missing just below the silver skull ‘n’ crossbones ring he wears. How many times do you have to hear, “He says what I’m thinking” before you understand that Trump is a simple man with simple ideas, and that those thoughts are shared by millions?
“He never said you can’t come in here if you’re a Mexican or a nigger or whatever,” Jim said Sunday night of Trump. “What he said was you gotta come in legally. And if you somehow took from that that he’s racist I have to question your sanity.”
Jim, who is white, and Lorraine, who was born in Mexico, are not racist, they said. As for the epithet, Jim explained that there is a difference between a black person and a “nigger”—and President Obama is most definitely the latter.
“Ever since, excuse me for saying this, that nigger got into office, this son of a bitch did everything he could but come out here and shut my truck down,” Jim said, pointing to his rig.
Obama oversaw an increase in taxes that affect men of the road, Jim lamented, while Trump has promised to do away with regulations, vaguely explained by the candidate as, well, he hasn’t really ever explained what he means. But Jim doesn’t need an explanation. Just the fact that someone is saying what he’s thinking has him sold. Trump will help men like Jim simply because he says he will. Trump is not a racist because how could he be? Lorraine is Mexican and she supports him.
“We talked to these black guys in the parking lot today and they told us they were for Trump, but that they just couldn’t tell anyone that because they’d be shunned or something,” she explained on Sunday night.
The fucked up dichotomy of America sometimes means that a trucker from California can use a racial slur in reference to the president and in the same breath describe his black “brother” who supports Trump.
Jim and Lorraine talk openly about race. There are bad and good people of all colors, they say, and we as a country should be more open with each other in order to understand one another. Sometimes that means offensive bluntness—a presidential candidate calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants because people of that faith are often the ones who commit acts of terrorism, for one. Jim saying a racial epithet is acceptable because it only applies to a certain kind of black person, for another.
Donald Trump didn’t bring us to this place, either; he simply brought men and women like Jim and Lorraine into the media’s crosshairs. After being ignored for years by the media they increasingly were coming to mistrust, suddenly reporters began coming around, asking them their opinions, finally giving them a voice.
But Jim doesn’t support Trump just because of his promise to erode the regulations that Jim says are holding him back from making more money, or the candidate’s promise to make immigrants enter the country legally or else—it’s his business acumen that Jim has great appreciation for. The same goes for Mike Jackson, who Jim might call his brother over his support for Trump as he sold pro-Trump t-shirts at the Monday noon rally Jim and Lorraine helped to organize.
“He’s a capitalist,” said Jackson, who is black, of Trump. “When he looks at me he tells me ‘Go get your money.’”
Which is exactly what Jackson has been doing for the last five months as he’s followed Trump on the campaign trail, selling shirts for $20 a pop. One reads, simply, “Bill Rape"
Trump is the fuck you, pay me candidate, and he is about three things in the minds of men like Jim and Mike: get money, go with your gut, shake things up. Jim Hassinger, a Navy veteran from Cambridge, Ohio, said as much at the Monday rally.
“I think there’s a thousand other people more qualified but he’s the outsider,” Hassinger said. “I think it’s good to shake it up every once in awhile.”
He’ll vote for Trump, but he doesn’t hold out much hope the presumptive GOP nominee will win.
“With all the career politicians pulling every goddamned trick in the fucking book, I don’t think my vote really counts for shit,” Hassinger said.
Later this afternoon the 73-year-old will hop on his Harley and ride two hours back to Cambridge.
“Too old to stick around for whatever happens later,” he said.
Tomorrow, Jim and Lorraine will be back on the road, heading to pick up whatever load can make them the most money based off what a smart phone app Jim uses to find work tells him. Hopefully there won’t be mechanical problems, as there were on the way out here a few times. Hopefully Jim won’t lose another load like he did in Oregon last year—the trailer of tomato paste he lost on a snowy hill cost him nearly $100,000, he said, dropping his net income for the year to just more than $20,000 after grossing $200,000.
And hopefully for their sake, no protesters try to get in Jim’s way.
“If they did that locking arms stuff on me,” Jim says of protesters blocking roads and highways, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, purple, whatever, I’m gonna flatten your ass.”