It’s been nearly a year since the FBI started an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Since then, the investigation has turned toward examining links between Russia and President Donald Trump’s associates and members of his campaign, and even possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
The investigation has been the go-to news item and topic of many heated conversations since last July, at least in DC. But outside of the nation’s capital, many voters aren’t as concerned about possible Trump ties to Russia.
When I recently visited my hometown and one other small town in Michigan that went for Trump, I talked with residents about the investigation. Nearly every single person I spoke with said the same thing: The media just needs to leave Trump alone, and the Russia investigation is a distraction.
“I'm tired of hearing about the Russia thing. Let it go and move on. The media is the one that's propagating it. They just won't let it die,” said Nancy Androsky, a longtime resident whose grandchildren go to school in the area.
Conversations with residents of Linden and Argentine, which are located between the cities of Detroit and Flint, confirmed what recent polls have shown — that Republicans don’t think the Russia investigation is a big deal. More than half of Republicans think the investigation is a political distraction, according to Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell’s analysis of a June CBS News poll. Only one in five consider it a critical security issue.
And while nine out of 10 Democratic voters said that an investigation into Russian involvement in the election is somewhat or very important, only 35 percent of Republicans agreed, according to a February poll by Quinnipiac University.
More important to the residents of Linden and Argentine Township than the Russia investigation are promises Trump made on the campaign trail: building a stronger military, restricting immigration by refugees and asylum seekers, and creating jobs for middle-class Americans.
And around 60 percent of people in the two towns voted for Trump in the last election, up from the approximately 50 percent of people who voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.
Despite the fact that he has yet to follow through on many of his campaign promises, including softening his position on China’s currency manipulation, failing to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, and struggling to repeal and replace Obamacare, his supporters keep saying “give him a chance.”
“I think Trump will be a lot better than our previous president. I think he's going to get things done,” said Rich Marshbanks, the owner of a local barbershop. “I think he's basically a good man. His heart's in the right place.”
It’s not surprising that nearly every person I talked with said they supported Trump. With a combined population of approximately 6,500 people, the towns of Linden and Argentine are stereotypical small-town America. They’re the kind of place where you’ll run into at least one person you know at the only grocery store in town and the smell of cow manure from nearby dairy farms occasionally wafts in the air.
“This is such a close-knit community,” said Sharon Stone, the editor of the Tri-County Times, a newspaper covering several towns in the area. “They love the small hometown feel, but all of the perks of having everything available to them. We have so many lakes in this area, and there’s quite a bit of money in this area.”
These towns are also almost entirely white — 96 percent of Linden residents and 97 percent of Argentine residents identified as white on the 2010 census.
Stone described the area as “passionate,” but since the last election, people have become disenchanted with politics. “It’s almost like they’re completely fed up with politics in general on both sides,” said Stone. “It’s not necessarily just the whole Russian thing that’s going on. It’s just politics in general.”
And based on the conversations I had with people in the area who agreed to talk with me, that definitely seems to be true. People said they feel ignored by the Washington establishment, hate the “liberal media,” and couldn’t care less about the Russia investigation.
“It's a waste of time and energy for us out here in the hinterlands for us to worry about what's going on in the cesspool in Washington,” said Norman Schmidt, Argentine’s treasurer who has been on the board for more than 20 years. “And it's a swamp. It really is a swamp.”
Here are excerpts, condensed and edited, from their thoughts.
A veteran and owner of a barbershop for 32 years.
What do I think about the Russia-Trump issues? I think it's never been proven that he had anything to do with Russia whatsoever. But the liberal left will not leave it alone. They're trying to destroy him. The media, the fake news, anything they can come up with, they're trying to destroy him. They're looking for anything they can do to discredit him and boot him out. And I think that's a shame.
I think Trump will be a lot better than our previous president. I think he's going to get things done. I think he's basically a good man. His heart's in the right place.
I'm a veteran, so I'm concerned about how he wants to straighten out the VA. That's very important to me. The military. We need a strong military. We can't be number one if we don't have the biggest stick. We have to build up our military, which Obama desecrated.
Dairy farmer and mother of six children.
It's just the left trying to dog him just because he's an outsider. They don't want him in there, so they're going to try to come up with anything to impeach him. It's just like Ann Arbor, at University of Michigan. They were having a march calling for the impeachment of him. And I'm like okay, what did he do? He tweets on Twitter too much? I mean I get that, I don't like some of the stuff he puts on Twitter, but that's not a cause for impeachment just because he speaks his mind. He's 70, come on. People will say and do anything as they get older. They don't have a filter.
I just think that they're all just going to keep dogging him until maybe they try to dig something up or they cause him to do something. They're just going to keep at it, I think, the whole four years. But if he can just stay the course and not get himself in too much trouble, then I think everything will be fine.
Argentine’s new Republican supervisor who was elected in November and defeated the Democratic incumbent.
I think this is all noise to try to make a good foothold for the other side, the Democrats, to get repositioned in 2018 and 2020. Democrats have not had a good past 10 years of elections. They've lost how many governors seats, how many house seats?
I voted for Obama. I thought the country needed it. I grew up in the city of Detroit. I was raised by my mother; my parents are divorced. I'm Lebanese. My family left 110 years ago to escape what's happening right now. I think it's all a lot of noise.
But everyone needs to shed the party politics. I wish right now I could say forget that Democrat or Republican thing. I'm just a person. I'm an American first. I hate the fact that at the end of the day it's this team and that team. Who's out there defending Trump? It's only Trump. The rest of us, the people who voted for Trump, we don't have time for that. We went back to work the day after the election. The rest of them are just upset their team lost.
Director of an advertising company and recently moved back to the area after living in Salt Lake City.
Regardless of what's going on there, we have bigger fish to fry. I think that the media for the past 20 years has been constantly talking about the wrong things. I want to know more about the legislation that's trying to be passed and things like that. I'm sick of hearing drama of politicians that has nothing to do with the people of our country.
If they want to investigate and find some evidence on it, then so be it. But let our administration do their job. They won the election. I actually voted for the other side. But I'm not going to be upset that one side won. That's the majority, well, at least the way that the election works. They won. So I'm going to support them until I find evidence otherwise.
Rising junior at Hillsdale College in southern Michigan.
I think any accusations of this caliber against the president have to be taken seriously. But I don't really know, from everything I've been reading and hearing, I don't know how much weight any of the accusations really hold. There's not really a lot of hard evidence to get Trump impeached like people are saying. So I just think it's blown out of proportion. I think some of the news stations are honestly doing it just for ratings.
I usually get my news from Fox, but I like to look at CNN and other news sites just to see both sides of it. I don't want to base any of my claims or thoughts off of just one side. CNN is definitely like “Trump needs to go. Trump needs to get impeached. Trump supporters suck.” And Fox is more, “Where's the evidence? Why is he even getting accused of this when there's no real evidence to back it up?”
I think something definitely went on though, whether it was with Trump, or people are saying it happened when Obama was still in office too. There's definitely some sort of interference that Russia had with something. So I think it is good that we're trying to figure out what exactly it is. But like I said, they're kind of steering it to get Trump out of office.
A longtime resident whose grandchildren go to school in the area.
I'm tired of hearing about the Russia thing. Let it go and move on. The media is the one that's propagating it. They just won't let it die. They just keep bringing it up again and again and again. There are things that are more important right now, and that's over and done with.
Right now there's a lot of issues, you know, with Iraq and the, oh what should I say, just the problems with Trump's administration. He's had issues with his administration now, which is bad also. And he needs to stop tweeting. That and plus he seems to be sometimes against women, which he needs to pull back a little bit. Another thing is the terrorists. We need to protect ourselves and do whatever needs to be done.
If Trump was involved in something, even that, it's over and it's done with. They need to move on now. Let it go.
Works at a private country club.
I just don't know what's going on. I don't have time to follow it. I don't even have cable or TV service.
From the things that I do know, I was glad to see Trump get in office because I think that Clinton would've been like madness continuing. I think that Trump was doing things that a lot of people didn't have the nerve to do, so to speak. But I don't know what's going on with him and Russia or anything like that. I really don't, because I don't stay current on anything other than my own issues.
I've never voted before ever. I didn't even vote for Trump, but I support him. I think there's only a certain amount of people who do vote. I live in this world, and I take care of myself and my kids. I work. I'm not destitute, and I'm not living off the map. I do have credit and things like that. But that's all in my little world. Anything above and beyond that is like, “Oh my gosh, I've got enough to deal with.” I put my faith in God. God will pick what's right, and I think he did.
Worked on Argentine’s board for more than 20 years. He’s currently the treasurer.
I don't really care. What happens in Washington hasn't affected me one bit. It's a waste of time and energy for us out here in the hinterlands for us to worry about what's going on in the cesspool in Washington. And it's a swap. It really is a swamp.
The mentality in Washington is not what this country is. You have to look at it between the coasts. You get the left coast and the right coast. But what really matters is in the heartland of the country.
The Democrats are so rabid about the loss of this election that they thought they had in the bag from the get go that they're seeing nothing but red. And it just happens to be red Russia. You know what's a bigger issue to me? What's happening in Korea. [North] Korea is dangerous. That is very dangerous.
Ninety percent of the people in the press don't give a darn about Donald Trump. They just want to drive him out of office. That's not fair. He was duly elected. And then they come up with all these schemes about the Russians or were they hacking somewhere here or were they hacking somewhere there. It just doesn't work that way. The Russians can't do anything to the election.
I work in small-town America. I know the clerk next door who runs the elections. I know for a fact that they can't hack the machines. Could they write a check out to somebody for commercials and support them? Absolutely. But that happens all the time anyway behind the scenes.