Homeowners in the quiet New Hampshire towns of Milford and Brookline are receiving threatening letters for publicly supporting President Trump. “You have been identified by our group as being a Trump supporter. Your address has been added to our database as a target when we attack should Trump not concede the election,” the letter reads.
“We recommend that you check your home insurance policy [for] adequate coverage for fire damage,” the letter added.
Those threats were anonymous. But Democratic and progressive leaders in the Granite State have been open about labeling Trump backers either “racist” or supporters of white supremacy. It’s a continuation of the “deplorables” attack Democrat Hillary Clinton and her allies used four years ago.
During Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate on NHPR, Democrat state Sen. Dan Feltes declared that simply by supporting Donald Trump, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is supporting racism.
“You cannot be a leader on racial justice and support Donald Trump,” Feltes said, also condemning Sununu for refusing to acknowledge New Hampshire’s “systemic racism.”
“Granite Staters of color deserve to know they have a governor that acknowledges that systemic racism exists,” Feltes said during Monday night’s debate on WMUR. “Sununu has denied this, just like Trump. And he continues to support Trump, despite his violent, racist rhetoric targeting black Americans.”
NextGen America spokesman Dan Bristol tweeted more bluntly: “You cannot support Trump without implicitly endorsing his white supremacy.” NextGen is a progressive organization backed by billionaire Tom Steyer working to elect Democrats in New Hampshire.
A local Black Lives Matter activist who also served on Gov. Sununu’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability agrees with that assessment. “Donald Trump is racist. If you still need to be convinced of that fact in 2020, you’re either also racist, due for some serious self reflection, or both,” Ronelle Tshiela tweeted.
Democratic state rep. Sherry Frost (D-Dover) went even further, saying flatly that Gov. Sununu “has a white supremacy problem” for supporting President Trump.
From getting the finger for wearing a MAGA hat in Manchester to being called a bigot for backing the president’s re-election, Trump’s supporters in the Granite State have gotten the message: Keep your politics to yourself.
“You’re not supposed to threaten my home. I’m very worried in the sense that this is going on in my town,” one of the homeowners who received a threatening letter said. She would only give her first name, Kelly, out of fear.
And that fear is being felt in the polls.
A new Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, found more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Trump supporters said they are reluctant to put a Trump sign in their yard because they’re worried their house may be vandalized. A similar number won’t put a bumper sticker on their car for the same reason. And nearly half — 45 percent — say they don’t talk about their support for Trump with their friends or co-workers, either.
This fits a national trend, in which Trump voters simply aren’t willing to tell strangers — or even family and friends — they are supporting the president. A recent InsideSources poll of the Philadelphia suburbs, for example, found that while just one third are supporting Trump, 47 percent said they know a friend or co-worker who plans to vote for him but is keeping it secret.
Given the political and media climate, is it any surprise that Trump voters are shy? The question for pollsters and pundits is whether the ‘spiral of silence,’ as the UNH Survey Center describes it, is enough to change the election’s expected outcome.
Local pollsters who spoke to NHJournal say they don’t believe the “shy Trump voter” effect will significantly impact November’s election.
“There could be a hidden Trump vote, but the number of undecided voters is lower this year,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “There are fewer third-party voters, too, which suggests the ‘shy’ vote will be less impactful.”
Emerson University’s director of polling Spencer Kimball isn’t on board, either. “I don’t think there’s a ‘shy’ vote, rather undecided voters who will break late,” he told NHJournal.
Then again, on November 3, 2016 — exactly four years before the 2020 election — Politico ran a story based on Morning Consult polling with the headline: “‘Shy Trump’ Voters Are a Mirage.”
But NHGOP Chairman Steve Stepanek says he sees plenty of evidence of what he calls “closet Trump voters” across the Granite State.
“I wear a Trump mask whenever I’m out, and I’ve got Trump stickers all over my vehicle, and I have people coming up to me all the time and whispering, ‘I love your mask, I love your bumper sticker,'” Stepanek said. “And I know there are people afraid to speak out because they have gotten the message that it could cost them.”
Stepanek told the story of a woman who works at a Seacoast company who approached him at the Vice President Mike Pence rally in Portsmouth Wednesday. “She was told at work to keep her support for Trump under wraps, or her job could be in jeopardy. That’s incredible.”
Stepanek also said one reason some people are reluctant to put up Trump yard signs is because they’ve already tried, and had them pulled down.
“We’ve had problems with yard signs being stolen and vandalized in the past, but I’ve never seen it at this level — not even close,” Stepanek said. “Thousands and thousands of them are being ripped up or torn down.”
Whether or not they’re a mirage, it’s easy to see why Granite State Trump voters would remain silent. After watching how high-profile Trump backers are treated by Democrats and the media, why would they speak up?