Sunday, December 8, 2013
The Washington Post
(Continued from page 1)
Washington Post photos
"The first time he won, I really just considered him inexperienced and misguided," Sally said. "This time I think he is purposely taking us to a place we don't recognize."
Cathy Morris, an Arm & Hammer quality supervisor, had worked alongside Bill for every one of those years without ever speaking to him about politics. She had overheard enough of his conversations to know: "He's way over on the other side," she said -- and she preferred to associate only with her own side whenever possible.
She picked out an elliptical machine at the gym farthest from the TVs, because they were always tuned to Fox News. She deleted conservative friends from her Facebook page. In what increasingly felt like a fight over basic American principles, she decided her role was to reinforce the stakes with liberals already on her side.
How, she wondered, could anyone not see the proof? The local unemployment rate had dropped from 13 percent to just more than 6 percent. The nearby National Machinery Plant, which had nearly closed its doors a few years earlier, now had trucks lining up at the loading docks. The two colleges in town had become more diverse, and Arm & Hammer had begun offering benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Because of health-care reform, Morris' youngest daughter, 22, has been able to stay on her mother's health insurance plan. Morris decided to repay the president by doing something she had never done, making regular donations to his re-election campaign.
In this county of 50-50, she had decided there was no more room for ambivalence. "You are all in for him or against him, and you have to commit," Morris said.
Local membership had risen for both the tea party and the Democratic Women's Club, and one disagreement on election night had resulted in an assault charge. Even the area's once-tranquil town hall meetings had devolved into a shouting match, with one woman suggesting that liberals in Washington should be "shot in the head," prompting local Democrats to demand a police investigation. Ever since, local politics had all but come to a standstill.
But the line at Arm & Hammer had to keep moving, 270 cartons a minute, so employees had decided to guard the peace by talking sparingly about Obama or his second inauguration.
So they stood together in polite silence and watched baking soda roll down the manufacturing line and onto the trucks, where it would be delivered into an economy that was improving or combusting, in a country where life was getting better or worse.