After chasing stories all over the United States, I found Faith — a town in South Dakota with a population of 421.
It turns out I'm not the only newspaper reporter drawn to Faith.
Funk's Faith story tackles questions perplexing many this election season: Who are the people supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump? And why? (In all fairness, the exact same questions could be — and should be — raised concerning those on Democrat Hillary Clinton's bandwagon.)
Here's what I like about the Charlotte Observer's story (and regular GetReligion readers will note that I'm praising a newspaper I've criticized in the past): The reporter goes to a Republican-leaning town, paints a vivid portrait of it and actually listens to the people he meets.
But back to the Charlotte Observer piece: Funk's lede nicely sets the scene:
FAITH — If Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump carries North Carolina in what could be a squeaker, it’ll be because of people like Gary Dillon.
A 54-year-old operator at a chemical company, Dillon says he hasn’t voted “in a long time.” But this year, he’s eager to go to the polls to try to send businessman Trump to the White House.
“He’s not a politician, so maybe he can get something done. Like bring jobs back. American jobs,” Dillon says as he fills up his Ford pickup at the A&L Mini Mart. “I grew up in textiles and I hated to see them go in the ’90s. We need to get the economy back.”
Dillon’s anxiety about the loss of factory jobs in small-town North Carolina – and his hope that Trump can reverse that decades-old trend – was echoed again and again last week in this Rowan County town 40 miles northeast of Charlotte. Other people interviewed in Faith also seconded Dillon’s low opinion of Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Prior to Friday’s announcement that the FBI would review newly discovered emails in the Clinton server investigation, Dillon called her a politician who “keeps getting away with lies.”
In the battle for North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes, the Trump campaign is counting on places like Faith, home to 815 people, three churches, a soda shop on Main Street and a July 4 celebration that goes on for five days and attracts more than 40,000 people. The town, which stretches 1 square mile, is also predominantly white – more than 95 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
During the town’s annual July 4 parade, which mostly salutes patriotism and the American flag, some have hoisted Confederate flags to honor what they call their Southern heritage.
Keep reading, and the newspaper quotes a variety of Trump supporters in Faith and doesn't shy away from seeming contradictions in logic. Take the section of the story with barber Tom Jones, for example:
In fact, Jones, now 71, has already voted for Trump by absentee ballot.
“He’s right about getting the businesses back in our country,” said Jones, a Republican. “I think that’s great. We’ve been downhill the way we’re going. Our businesses are leaving. ... He’s got a big mouth, but I think he’s doing good.”
Jones, who served in Vietnam in 1967-68, says he wants to see “Made in America” on clothes and other products again.
“I went to buy a shirt one time and it said ‘Made in Vietnam,’ ” he says. “I thought it looked good, but I threw it on the floor.”
But what about the line of Trump clothes – including ties, suits and dress shirts – made in places like China, Bangladesh, Mexico and Vietnam?
“I’ve heard that he’s invested overseas. But he says he’s going to bring all those businesses back,” says Jones. “Now, they can tell you anything. You don’t know if they’ll do it. ... But I don’t have much use for Hillary. And you’ve got to trust somebody.”
Is this a perfect story? Probably not. But few are.
What could make it better? I wish that in addition to the bicycle shop, the soda shop and the barber shop, the writer had chosen to highlight one of those three churches mentioned in the lede. I wonder: What are the town's pastors saying about the election? What is faith's role in Faith's political perspective?
But overall, this is a story worth your time: Have Faith.