Conservatively, yet elegantly dressed, not a hair out of place in her slightly-big-Texas hairstyle, wearing too much make up for her naturally beautiful face. That is how I remember modern-day southern belle, Jayne Christianson, when I met her over 3 decades ago sipping sweet tea deep in the heart of East Texas. Me, being a newbie Chicago transplant to that uniquely conservative part of the country, she became a fast friend and mentor for someone who “ain’t from around here”.
We drifted apart after I defected across the “pine curtain” to the capital city of Austin. Just a 4+ hour drive away, but it might as well be on the other side of the world, psychographically speaking. Then social media came along and we reconnected. She is still that beautiful soul I remember: Involved in making her community a better place, deeply devout in her Christianity, and welcoming to new arrivals in town. She and her husband still live on the ranch where they raised a family on the outskirts of an East Texas town. An avid deer hunter, she is as comfortable holding a rifle as she is the Bible.
She didn’t have to tell me, I knew – without a doubt – she voted for Trump. No, she doesn’t troll social media. She doesn’t argue her beliefs citing alt-right conspiracy theory websites. However, she fit the profile I had in my mind of a white woman voter in small-town East Texas. In our private conversations, my beliefs were confirmed. However, much of what I learned was a surprise. I asked her if I could quote her for an article I wanted to write. She laughed and said in her Texas drawl, “Darlin’ you can quote me all you like, but please change my name and where I live. I don’t want some crazy coming to find me.” Fair enough, Jayne.
“My mama and daddy were hardcore Texas Democrats when I was growing up here. We were proud to have a Texan in the White House,” she told me – referring to LBJ, “But somewhere along the way, my folks actually realized that they were Republicans.”
In doing some research, I came to find the southern democrats were actually the ultra-conservative party from post-civil war up to the 1960s – 70s. Which is confusing when you see the name.
“We all voted for Jimmy Carter,” Jayne continued, “It was my first time to vote since I had just turned 18. He was a southerner and a good Christian. But then we realized his politics really didn’t align with our values, I guess you could say. I voted republican in every election since Reagan.”
I had to know. Did she think candidate Donald J. Trump would make a good president when she was considering her 2016 vote? Did she like him?
She paused. She sighed. She laughed. “You know he’s got more bluster than a Texas twister.” But I pressed on, wanting to know if she liked him.
“My parents taught me long ago that voting is not just a right. It is a civic duty. There was absolutely no way on God’s green earth I was going to vote for the democrat, Clinton.” Jayne said her name with the slightest hint of venom in her voice. “Not that I wouldn’t vote for a woman. I think it would be great to have a woman president. But not that one.”
“Did I like him? Honestly? No, not really. I could see he didn’t really live his life by the teachings of Jesus Christ our savior. Actions speak louder than words. Pence would have been a better presidential choice for that. However, he did promise to bring conservative values back to our country. That was important to me. I want to return to the days when men held the door for women and children said, ‘yes sir, yes ma’am’. His talk about bringing back jobs and respecting our country resonated with me. Partnering with Pence as VP I knew we could put the conservative judges on the Supreme Court to change abortion laws. And that was my most important objective.”
I asked her about the now-famous Hollywood Access tapes.
“Actually, we called a prayer group together that evening. I remember it well. It was appalling what he said. Several of us cried. It was disrespectful to women and frankly, disgusting. Did I want a man like that leading our country? I thought he might step down and let Pence run. But we all know now his ego was too big for that. I dug deep into my faith for forgiveness and we set our resolve. If he stayed on the ticket, we would all hold our noses at the voting booth and click his name. There was no other choice. You know, like that old game, gun to your head?”
I knew the game, but more in the ‘truth or dare’ style, not at the voting booth. But I got her drift.
What about now? Did she want to grade his performance?
“Listen, the economy is good. We’re near retirement age, so we’re happy as pigs in mud about our stock performance. It’s never been better. I’m happy with his supreme court choices and the new abortion restrictions. We are one step closer.”
“Now, you leave my guns alone!” she retorted playfully.
But what about assault rifles?
“The mass shootings have been tragic. I do think poor parenting and mental illness play a part in it. I also think there needs to be stricter regulations and background checks just for automatic and semiautomatic weapons. I do. I think of my children and grandchildren every time I hear of another mass shooting. I pray for all the families in mourning.”
“More needs to be done. Weather change is real, and I believe humans are partially to blame. We see it each year – sometimes brutally – affecting our ranch.”
“One of our missions at our church is to help migrant families in the area. From my experience, they are good people, hard workers just trying to make a better life. They don’t qualify for any social services and don’t create any problems in our town.”
“I don’t agree with the wall. There, I said it. I have been to the Rio Grande in West Texas. That part of the border is so naturally beautiful. I think there is already enough partial wall, fencing, officers, whatever, in place. I would rather see the budget go to other important things.
“Oh, and no children should be taken away from their parents at the border. Hold them together or send ’em back together. Period,” she added.
White supremacy? Racism?
“It’s an uncomfortable topic isn’t it?” She paused. “As you know from living here, East Texas was once Klan country. It’s our dark history in an otherwise beautiful story. I mean, East Texas is paradise. But I strongly feel we are all God’s children. I condemn hate crimes against anyone.”
But what about Trump’s rhetoric? His administration sets the tone.
“I do think he can fire up his followers at his rallies in a good way and in the wrong way too. You know, like have you ever been in the crowd at a football stadium? The ref calls a penalty against your team when you were about to score from behind to win the game with a few seconds left on the clock? The crowd feeds off each other booing and yelling obscenities in anger. That must be what it’s like. But once you leave it calms down again.”
Or does it? I wondered. I loved her football analogy. So Texas!
The 2020 election is fast approaching. Political messages are bombarding us from every direction. What I really wanted to know is if she was happy enough with his performance to return to the voting booth and plug her nose once again. There was temporary silence as I could feel her calculating how to answer my question.
“I honestly don’t know at this time.” Jayne eventually confided. “I like some things and I don’t like some things. I think we need someone who will lead by well-behaved example and encourage congress and all of us as a country to work together so we can get things done. I don’t feel like that is happening right now. Both sides – left and right – are to blame, in my opinion. What happened to compromises? And it breaks my heart to hear families and friends torn apart after this election. People who used to love one another.”
Would she *gasp* consider voting for the democratic candidate?
“Daddy would roll over in his grave, bless his heart,” she lamented. “Darlin’ most likely not, but the jury is still out, I would say. Depending on the candidate and what happens up until the election. I pray. A lot.”