Lisa Issenberg photo
On Tuesday, while driving to a Donald Trump rally in Grand Junction, Colorado, I pulled over when I saw a political sign that used the word “mulatto.” It was located in the town of Delta, on the west side of U.S. Route 550, at a former shopfront whose walls and marquee had been decorated with big-lettered messages:
if muslim mulatto endorses corrupt clinton
as well as he did our economy
they will both be hung for treason!
ban liberal tards, not guns! molon labe!
stand tall! vote!
or live/die on
I knocked on the front door. There was a big metal grill and a sign that said “Security Camera in Use.” No answer. I walked around to the back. Another sign, with a picture of a dog: “I Can Make it to the Gate in 3 Seconds. Can You?” I kept walking. Across a small street, an elderly woman was unfurling an American flag in front of a single-wide trailer. I asked about the building with the signs. “It belongs to Bill Pope,” she said.
I asked what she thought about the messages.
“I don’t like it.”
“Who are you going to vote for?”
“Clinton,” she said. “Oh, definitely.”
In Delta County, in the 2012 election, Barack Obama received twenty-nine per cent of the vote. In the next county to the north, Mesa, which includes Grand Junction, he hardly did any better: thirty-two per cent. This part of western Colorado represents a Republican stronghold, which is why Trump was making a visit. I asked the elderly woman why she was voting for Clinton.
“Because of her policies,” she said. “And I cannot stand Trump. His mouth. What he says about women. Oh right, he says that he likes women. I’m sure he does. Look at how many came forward!”
Her name was June Broome, and she was seventy-six years old. She used to work as a grocery-store clerk, and she told me that she didn’t like the Republican Party because, in her opinion, the leaders neglect the poor and the middle class. She led me around the back of the trailer to meet her husband, who was working in the garden. His name was Orland Broome, which made me think of the actor, except this guy was bigger. At eighty-seven, he was digging into the hard ground with a shovel.
“He’s very radical,” Orland said, when I asked about his neighbor with the signs. “All he can do is say bad things about Obama because he’s a darkie. He goes ballistic if anybody—”
“He’s only half,” June said, interrupting.
“Yes, he’s only half,” Orland said.
“Half what?” I asked.
“Half darkie,” Orland said. “Obama.”
After that had been cleared up, Orland continued to say that, until recently, his neighbor’s building had also featured a big picture that was even more offensive than the current signs. “It was downgrading the colored people in politics,” he said delicately, without going into detail. “People would drive by and stop and take pictures, and finally the authorities came and told him to take it down because it was racist.”
At the time of the last U.S. census, in 2010, the population of Delta was 1.1 per cent African-American. June told me that Bill Pope was home right now. “He’s got bad hearing,” she said. “Just rattle that chain on the gate loud enough and he’ll come out. You should talk to him.”
Peter Hessler joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2000