Tom Quigley points to a black and white picture above the door of his general store in the historic village of Virginia City and begins to cry.
The image is that of his father, a veteran of World War II.
“He fought for this country and what for? It’s lost, it’s lost man but this is why I wanted Donald Trump because he is going to give us this great nation back,” he said with his voice trembling with emotion.
“He loves American, he hates corruption and doesn’t owe anybody anything and that’s why people are scared of him because he is going to flip the tables over and the cockroaches and rats are going to go running everywhere. People don’t like losing power, it’s human nature, and that’s what they (Hillary Clinton) supporters are worried about.”
On Friday it was Veterans Day and across the country millions came out to honor those who fought for the US Armed Forces. The national annual holiday could not have been more timely.
In many respects heartland America feels as if it has been in a war, during what has been one of the ugliest, bloodiest presidential election campaigns in living memory.
The contest was bitter and long, votes were finally cast and a victor sent to the White House for his spoils but it could be years before the fog of this war clears.
What the election of the 45th president has done is expose the schism in American society, the haves and have nots and everything that comes with that including bigotry, racism, sexism and deep-seated hostility and frustration in a divided nation.
The divisions — economically, socially and racially — have always been there but the divisiveness of both Republican and Democrat campaigns have exposed the real state of America and locals are worried for the future.
The post-election speeches from Trump, Clinton and Barack Obama all were heavy on appeals now for unity, for the sides to make peace again with family, friends and neighbors but that could take a while.
“This was a rebellion against the elites, true, it was a reinvention of politics but it was also something else,” political commentator Van Jones said. “We haven’t talked about race. This was a ‘white-lash’ against a changing country … against a black president in part and that’s the part where the pain comes.”
A lot of that frustration was in rural heartland America, whose vote counts showed overwhelmingly they backed Trump while the east and west coasts supported Clinton.
Indeed the day after the pronouncement of a President Trump there were widespread protests and demonstrations along the coasts, notably in California where garbage bins were set alight and windows smashed while hundreds marched in Seattle, Pennsylvania and Portland. Part of their anger was directed at the pollsters who got it all so wrong predicting a Clinton victory and not the 290 electoral votes trumping of Clinton’s 228.
Trump’s victory was fueled by a surge of working-class whites in the Midwestern states whom for a generation past had helped anchor Democrat presidential victories. Notably Trump took Iowa and Pennsylvania both of which had been believed to be Democrat strongholds. Clinton was perceived as lacking personal and professional integrity and not even her appeal to women to smash the glass ceiling worked for her with exit polls showing women thought she was the wrong woman.
According to strategists from both parties and national analysts Edison Research, exit polls and unofficial returns reflected deep racial, gender, economic and cultural divides across the region and nationally.
Statistically Trump supporters were 74 per cent “angry” about the federal government worked compared with Clinton supporters 17 per cent; on whether financial position was better or worse exit polls showed Trumpers felt they were 76 per cent worse compared with 19 per cent (Clinton) and 78 per cent of Clinton backers thought the country was going in the right direction compared with 20 per cent of Trump voters.
A USA Today poll also found contrary to reports of Trump supporters just being lower socio-economic whites with almost half (48 per cent) being educated “middle class” earning more than $100,000.
So generally it appeared there was an eagerness for change and Trump offered that albeit in a rough way.
Trump in his acceptance called for a healing of the “wounds of division”, a toned response praised by Obama.
“It’s time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said.
His campaigners though were thinking he was being too conciliatory.
“After what he has been put through and the things they said about him, well I wouldn’t have been so conciliatory,” Nevada’s director of the Democrat office management team Jim Benthin said yesterday.
“But look there is nothing to worry about here, he will bring America together and he will keep his allies like Australia close, there is not going to be a break from friends and those alliances.”
Sitting in the historic Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, Joe and Sabrina Comaianni were worried about the future before the election but now believed people would come together under Trump.
They said they would put bumper stickers on their car and shocked co-workers and friends but they told them they were the same people and the country needed change.
“If Trump had just walked into the White House and kept his mouth shut that is not who he is, he is not a politician,” Joe, a Michigan firefighter said. “Politicians are groomed, they have surveys to give them the right words to say in every situation, Trump is more real and if he wasn’t so raw perhaps people wouldn’t be afraid of him.”
He added the introspection of the nation would continue but as always only until the next big issue comes along.
“We are American, our attention span is very short, there will be another reality show in a month’s time and that will take everybody’s attention and this will be in the past,” he said. “Maybe that new reality show could be set in the White House, monitored 24/7 — that would be interesting, I’d watch that.”
But no everybody is as confident that the country can move on so quickly. Indeed there is a tenseness on the streets of America, some talk of migrating to Canada or Australia and many feel the result cannot go unchallenged even though many believe Trump — both praised and trashed as an ‘outlier’ — will not follow his more extremist rhetoric on immigrants, Muslims and putting up a wall with Mexico.
This article was originally published on news.com.au