NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. ― If Donald Trump manages to eke out a victory in the fiercely contested swing state of Nevada, it will be thanks in part to this sun-blasted Las Vegas suburb, one of the communities hit hardest by America’s most recent housing crash.
The Republican nominee’s grip on certain segments of the populace seems to have grown here, even as his standing has weakened elsewhere in the state and country. Hours before the final presidential debate last week, four paid canvassers knocking on doors for Hillary Clinton confronted just that.
Though registered Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans in the area, all four Clinton canvassers said they’re finding increasing support for Trump.
It’s not just door knocks that suggest that Trump has gained ground here. Donation patterns tell a similar story. In both 2008 and 2012, about twice as many residents in the area donated to Democratic presidential campaigns than to Republicans. This year, more residents are giving overall ― and they’ve donated to Trump by a ratio of 5-to-1.
We need a little chaos, to shake things up.
The appeal of Trump in these parts offers one of the best illustrations of how the recession altered modern electoral politics. President Barack Obama may have stabilized the housing market and sparked a modest economic turnaround. But progress has been uneven. And frustrations have boiled over.
The housing market in North Las Vegas, Nevada’s fourth-largest city, has recovered since 2011, when one of its zip codes had more foreclosures than any other in America. Yet it is increasingly beset by squatters living in still-vacant properties. Local police received more than twice as many squatter-related calls last year than in 2012.
And according to the canvassers, election tensions are running especially high.
Ashley, a 20-year-old working for the local Democratic Party, said an older man became enraged when she put campaign materials on his door. “He was like, ‘Don’t leave this on my property! That’s trespassing. I’ll call the police on you!’ Then he went and opened his garage door and flashed a gun.”
Another young canvasser, Kia, said a woman chased her after she left a flyer. “She threw it at me, she tried to push me and she told me she was going kick my ass.” (The canvassers I spoke with said they were afraid to give their last names.)
The Clinton campaign has sent its highest-powered surrogates to North Las Vegas in recent weeks, including Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Following Wednesday’s debate, Hillary Clinton made a surprise stop to address a rally at the city’s largest park.
At that same park, earlier in the day, I chatted with Kyle Chirnside, an audio engineer who self-identified as a conspiracy theorist and former punk-rock anarchist. We watched his 2-year-old daughter frolic around the playground.
“I didn’t like the policy that Secretary Clinton put in place about the foreclosures with the banks, the deals that she made with the banks,” he said. “I thought that was kind of abrupt because it left a lot of people without houses.”
(It’s unclear what policy he was referring to, as Clinton did not play a significant role in any housing legislation that passed while she was in the Senate.)
Chirnside was coy about which candidate he supported. But he said he’s rooting for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and questioned why Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been “silenced” in recent months. (I mentioned that Sanders has actually been on the campaign trail supporting Clinton.)
“I’ll vote for anything that brings about chaos at this point,”Chirnside concluded. “We need a little chaos, to shake things up.”
Elsewhere, I met Shannon Barton, a real estate agent who said he’d previously backed Obama. “I feel Hillary’s a crook. I’m a registered Democrat. I will not vote for Hillary. I’ll vote for Trump, someone different, just because of all the lies she’s done.”
Barton said he felt locals were primarily concerned about the economy, though he acknowledged he was doing well himself. “The housing market’s actually gone up. It’s pretty stable. I’ve had the best year of my career this year.”
Nevada voters gave Barack Obama a striking 12-point win in 2008, though his margin of victory dropped to 6 points in 2012. State polls this year have shown a consistently tight presidential race, with Clinton currently enjoying a modest lead.
Many of the Clinton supporters I talked to in North Las Vegas sounded like Contreal Lyles, 44, a truck driver, and Julia Lyles, 42, his wife and dispatcher.
It’s true, the economic recovery has been slower than they’d like, but things are unquestionably on the mend, they said. Yes, Obamacare’s been too pricey, but it’s a step in the right direction. And Clinton might not be their ideal candidate, but she’s grown on them, and the alternative is unacceptable.
“We have two sons in the Air Force,” Julia Lyles shared as she gazed at her younger son playing basketball nearby, explaining why she could never vote for Trump. “We’re going to have war if he gets in.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
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