Jamie Ruppert and her husband Jesse Ruppert live in White Haven, Pa. Jamie voted for Barack Obama twice but switched parties and voted for Republican Donald Trump this election. She hopes Trump will bring more good-paying blue-collar jobs to communities like hers.
This story is part of Kitchen Table Conversations, a series from NPR’s National Desk that examines how Americans from all walks of life are moving forward from the presidential election.
Pennsylvania surprised a lot of people in November when voters abandoned a long history of electing Democrats for president and chose Republican Donald Trump.
Jamie Ruppert, a 33-year-old mother in Luzerne County, is among those who switched parties and voted for Trump.
It’s an exciting time in Ruppert’s life: She has two toddlers and a baby due this summer. Her husband recently started a promising new job in the fossil fuel business — one that pays well enough that she can stay home with the kids.
Ruppert and husband Jesse bought a modest house a bit over a year ago. It sits on two acres in a rural neighborhood outside Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Life is pretty good; still Ruppert thinks the country needs a change.
“I was always raised in a Democratic house,” says Ruppert, “both of my parents voted Democrat for a long time. I voted Democrat for both elections for Obama.”
But when Ruppert looks around her community, she sees a lot of problems. And she thinks Trump and his policies can help fix them.
Jesse Ruppert empties a 40-pound bag of local coal into a hopper on top of their new coal-burning furnace. Jamie Ruppert is proud that her home is heated with a resource that is extracted locally. She’d like to have more products made by neighbors who earn good wages, rather than importing items from other countries.
The coal industry is a good example. On the campaign trail Trump promised to put coal miners back to work.
It’s not just the coal industry that has declined in northeastern Pennsylvania: There used to be garment factories, too. They relocated in search of cheaper, non-union labor in the South.
For blue-collar workers in Luzerne County today, options are limited.
A lot of Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton heard the slogan “Make America Great Again” and recalled the country’s history of racism, gender inequality and opposition to LGBT rights. But many in Luzerne County, including Jamie Ruppert, heard that slogan and imagined the return of blue-collar jobs that pay enough to support a family.
Still, Ruppert worries about that different view of Trump’s message; she doesn’t want to be seen as a racist or a homophobe.
“I’ve always been for gay rights and always will be,” says Ruppert. She doesn’t support everything Trump said during the campaign but feels like he was being more authentic than Clinton.
“Tax cuts and helping the ‘failing’ middle class is what got me behind him,” says Ruppert.
Asked how her life would be different if Trump succeeds, Ruppert holds up a plastic container for toys. On the bottom it says “made in U.S.A.” She says it would mean that her neighbors make more of the products she uses.
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