This weekend, The New York Times published the latest in its endless series of articles in which the paper checks in with ardent Donald Trump supporters to reveal the fascinating discovery that they still support Donald Trump. What follows is a dispatch from two years in the future.
SCRACKNECK, KENTUCKY, AUGUST 21, 2019 — Doris Kerflupf has heard all the arguments, from neighbors, friends and relatives. "He started a nuclear war." "He brought on a global apocalypse." "His decisions led to the breakdown of human society." "He tweeted that shockingly inappropriate thing about Malala." But Kerflupf, a 67-year-old retiree now making it on her own after her husband George was carried away by one of the packs of feral children that roam the streets of this former mining down, won't hear any criticism of the commander-in-chief. "I voted for him and I'm still glad I did," she says. "He gets us."
As Donald Trump's approval ratings descend to single digits in the wake of the series of events now being referred to as The Fall, he has few friends left in Washington, particularly after Friday's summary executions of allegedly disloyal White House staff carried out on the South Lawn. That was the culmination of an usually tumultuous week for the president, one that started with the firing of his 12th communication director, which was followed by the declaration of martial law and his decision to dissolve Congress and all federal courts. Not surprisingly, the suspension of any semblance of democratic accountability produced a storm of criticism from pundits, Democrats, and even a few Republicans. But there's one group that's sticking with the president: his base voters, the ones who catapulted him to a surprise victory in 2016 and continue to shore him up.
Among the lunch crowd at the Tasty Time Diner, the last commercial establishment still operating in downtown Scrackneck, there was plenty of support to be found for Trump. "You elitists up there in Washington just don't get it," says Mitch Flipple, who owned three dry-cleaning stores before The Fall, and who now spends much of his days fortifying his tidy ranch home with a cordon of razor wire and pointy sticks. "This is what we elected him for. Did you see those libtards freaking out when the first nuke hit Los Angeles? Hashtag liberal tears, my friend, hashtag liberal tears."
Flipple's friend Louis Gorknuckle is even more emphatic. "After Trump intentionally released the zombie virus, I was like, 'Damn right my man! That'll show Kim Jong Dumb!' But right away I knew those college kids were going to be all, 'Please call them Americans with zombification, zombies is offensive.' Well shut your trap, snowflake." Asked whether in retrospect he thought it was a mistake for Trump to release the virus that has turned one-third of the world's population into a mindless horde of undead with an insatiable hunger for human flesh, Gorknuckle pauses for a moment and says, "Look, I'm sure he had his reasons. The guy is really smart. You know he went to Wharton, right?"
Kerflupf nods her head. "What really bugs me is when all those establishment types said he hasn't accomplished anything. OK, so nuclear war has caused some problems, and I'm not saying I'm pro-zombie, but what about Gorsuch?" she says, referring to Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump appointed early in his term. When a reporter observes that the Supreme Court no longer exists as of this week, she is undeterred. "That's not the point. What matters is that Trump is looking out for us, not the elites."
"And you can't say he didn't shake things up. That swamp is drained all right!" adds Gorknuckle to the chuckles of his companions.
Around Scrackneck, though, there are signs that Trump's administration hasn't been able to deliver on the elaborate promises he made in 2016. The old coal mine, shut down in 2002, hasn't restarted, though some local residents now make it their home. The wave of new jobs many were expecting hasn't materialized; indeed, with the collapse of the global economy the idea of a "job" is becoming a relic of the past. People in Scrackneck, like those elsewhere, have found useful labor in activities like possum trapping, arrow crafting, and prostitution, enabling them to function in a barter economy that operates with surprising efficiency.
But their loyalty to Trump remains firm, as does their contempt for Republican politicians who won't stand by him. "I saw how that traitor Lindsey Graham said we should have a commission to investigate The Fall," said a man walking down Main Street who refused to give his name. (It was unclear which senator he was actually referring to, as Senator Graham of South Carolina was bitten by a zombie and is now chained up behind Tortilla Coast, a famous Capitol Hill watering hole that currently serves as the headquarters of the MAGA Murderers, a gang that some claim operates with the tacit support of the White House.) "That's just going to be an excuse for Democrats to run wild. How about instead of complaining all the time they work with the president to solve some problems?"
Indeed, if there's anything stronger in Scrackneck than support for Trump, it's contempt for Democrats. "I'm not blind, I see the mistakes he's made," says Doris Kerflupf. "But nobody's perfect. And just think what would have happened if we had elected Hillary Clinton."