SAGINAW, Mich. – For months we have heard about the "Silent Majority," the idea that the majority of our nation are conservative, law-abiding citizens who support President Trump. These Americans care about issues like jobs and the economy. They support law enforcement, disagree with Black Lives Matter rioters and, by and large, want government to stay out of their lives.
In Central Michigan, the "Silent Majority" is alive and well. The problem, however, is they're silent because they're afraid of being retaliated against.
"They know they can be humiliated and, probably, a little bit afraid of these activists coming in and doing some damage to their house and they don't want to make that statement," a 60-year-old Bay City woman said, referencing Black Lives Matter rioters.
After spending a few days in Bay and Saginaw Counties – a place both Presidents Obama and Trump won – it became apparent that the fear is real. Trump supporters would quietly make comments under their breath, but only loud enough to where someone they felt agreed with their stance could hear. Trump supporters in the area are so cautious that most weren't comfortable giving me a name or any identifying information. The ones that agreed to talk with me would only do so as long as I agreed to record audio, not video, and didn't use their name, place of business or image.
"We're very cautious on how we voice our opinions, who we voice it to, how we say it and what we say because of repercussions sustained in our employment, our friends and our friend network," a government employee in Midland explained. "We have had friends who say if you stand for a particular candidate or political position they will defriend us, no longer talk to us, take us off Facebook. They'll no longer be our friends."
One of the biggest changes he said he's seen lately is the lack of political tolerance. Instead of respecting other's political positions, like how they did when they were younger, people are now resorting to violence.
"Now it's different. They're coming to people's homes, coming to people's neighborhoods. They're doxxing people online," he said.
It's why he and his wife refuse to have signs in their front yard. They're afraid of becoming targets. Both said they knew people who had their cars keyed or their personal property graffitied.
What makes things even more challenging: the wife works for a health department in the area. Her boss favored a coronavirus lockdown and she was responsible for talking with local politicians about implementing the order.
"At that time it was very scary for us," the husband said.
Although having signs, stickers, hats and shirts identifying themselves as a Trump supporter is a concern for the Midland couple, the Bay City woman had no problem proudly displaying her Trump-Pence signs in her yard. In fact, her house and another neighbor's house sandwich a Biden supporter.
Battle of the signs. Two houses for @realDonaldTrump and one for @JoeBiden. One of the Trump supporters just told me they knew the Biden supporter was going to put them up so her and the other Trump-supporting neighbors had to get their signs out. pic.twitter.com/BQfvI9rLy3— Beth Baumann (@eb454) September 17, 2020
She purposely put up the Trump signs because she knew her neighbor was going to put up Biden signs. She's proud of what the president has accomplished.
"He's doing what he said he's going to do and he's for the average person," the Bay City woman explained. "I think that's the biggest thing. He's not in it for himself. He loves the people."
She, however, understands how the Midland couple could be concerned about safety.
"Jobs and the economy are a big issue and safety in our country is a really big issue. These rioters and demonstrators. That's not demonstrating when they go in and burn things down, burn the buildings down and destroy stuff. That's an activist movement," the 60-year-old said. "Black Lives Matter, I think, is an activist movement. And we're definitely not for that."
"We definitely want law enforcement. You can see what's happening in Chicago and all these major cities. They have the strictest gun laws there is and look at how many people get killed on a weekend. These little kids are even getting killed. That's ridiculous," she said.
Michiganders in Bay and Saginaw Counties have concluded it's probably best to silently cheer on the president as long as they're vocal at the ballot box.
"It shouldn't matter how I vote or you vote. Vote for whoever you want, I don't care. But there's people out there who you say you vote for a certain candidate, oh they just, it's the end of the world," Dennis from Davidson explained. "What happened? It used to be private. You didn't ask people who you voted for. It's our own private business. I guess that's the way it should go back to."
Dennis from Davidson, Michigan shared similar sentiments as other Michiganders I’ve talked to: they believe voting is something private & Trump supporters are afraid of speaking out because of the violent mob may come after them in retaliation. pic.twitter.com/n3Kuadu12x— Beth Baumann (@eb454) September 19, 2020
Their attitude is best summed up by a bar owner from Munger: "There are two things you never ask a woman: her weight and who she's voting for."