The Creeping Weirdness of a Trump Town in a Pandemic
I’ve come to discover that suddenly I’m the stranger in the place I’ve called home.
About a year ago, while riding bikes to the nearest park with my two daughters, the first flag went up. Fluttering in the wind, just below the U.S. and Texas flags that it shared a pole with outside the home, there it was: Trump 2020.
“It’s a little early for that,” I thought to myself.
It really shouldn’t have surprised me. Although I spent most of my working career in Austin, often called the political blueberry in the red soup that is Texas, I now live about 45 minutes south of there in a quickly growing town called New Braunfels. It’s home to Schlitterbahn, a gargantuan set of three water parks; every fall, a massive 10-day salute to sausage called Wurstfest draws 100,000 people to the town; parks and rivers seem to be everywhere. Since 2004, the year that I moved here, the tourist-friendly city has accumulated craft beer pubs, a hip Alamo Drafthouse cinema, and endless new housing subdivisions where Texans from smaller towns and transplants have settled.
I figured the town leaned conservative — all of the state and U.S. representatives and senators for the area chosen by voters are Republican, from Ted Cruz to State Board of Education member Ken Mercer — but local politics haven’t been on my radar. I don’t go to city council meetings; I tend to ignore the election-season yard signs. So I wasn’t troubled when I saw the Trump flag. I was just surprised that it was there so early in the election cycle, before the campaigning on any side had begun, with so much left to happen and figure out.
It was under those circumstances, under those dark clouds, that we rode our bikes through a neighborhood about a mile away from ours, a neighborhood where we saw a guy in his twenties mounting a Trump 2020 flag above his house’s garage.
It struck me as a little bold; this was a resident of the town where I lived announcing that they’d already chosen the candidate they would back, and it didn’t matter who came along to run against…