With the rest of the country, Wacoans awoke Wednesday to a reshaped political order and tried to make sense of how a brash New York developer and reality TV star came to lead the world’s most powerful country.
In the morning light, they soaked in the news of Donald Trump’s late-night victory with joy or anguish. And they wondered about how Americans would get along with each other after a bruising campaign season.
“I’m still in shock and sadness,” said Jenna Swanson, who was sitting at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits in downtown. “I haven’t moved on to anger yet.”
Swanson and a table of female friends were taking out their frustrations with coloring sheets that included some naughty words. But Swanson said she wasn’t ready to laugh about the victory of a candidate whom she considers misogynist and racist.
“I wanted to tell my kids, but I couldn’t make it through without crying,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have to get my (self) together first.’ ”
Trump defied all major polls to pull off a victory in most battleground states, winning 279 delegates to Clinton’s 228, though Clinton led Trump slightly in total votes.
‘Changed the game’
“He’s totally changed the game,” said Ed Getterman, a Waco GOP strategist and former district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Flores. “I was wrong just like a lot of people. Just when you think you’ve got the American people figured out, they teach us a lesson. It’s humbling for me as a strategist, and hopefully it’s humbling for the victors and defeated.”
Getterman, who supported Marco Rubio in the primary, has had misgivings about Trump but hopes he will grow into the role of a statesman.
“My reservations were the same as anyone,” he said. “I was concerned about his temperament, especially on the world stage. Despite my misgivings, I don’t want there to be any doubt: I did vote for him and think he’s 100 times better than Hillary Clinton.”
Wes Lloyd, an attorney and president of the McLennan County Republican Club, said he was “giddy” when he saw the scales tipping to Trump.
“My elation was over the Supreme Court, mainly,” Lloyd said, noting Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is a contender.
“Hillary is the worst candidate nominated in the history of the country, and I’m proud that Americans rejected her,” he said.
Lloyd thinks many voters are like him and want fiscal responsibility in Washington.
“I genuinely worry about my kids’ and grandkids’ future, mainly because the national debt and growth of entitlements,” Lloyd said.
Deryl Leblanc, a pastor who was eating ribs at Tony DeMaria’s Barbecue on Elm Avenue, said his vote for Trump wasn’t just a vote against Clinton.
“I think it’s because he’s a change agent,” Leblanc said. “All the statistics showed that 60 to 80 percent of people weren’t liking the direction the country was going. He resonated with them. I agree with Trump on repealing Obamacare and on immigration and the economy.”
Leblanc said he doubts Trump actually would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be in the country, but he hopes the new president could stop new illegal border crossings.
A table over, salesman Preston McCray said he is “very concerned” about Trump’s election.
“Hopefully, he will show the temperament of a president where he has not yet,” McCray said.
McCray was a Bernie Sanders supporter and an advocate of universal health care, but he voted for Clinton in the general election. He said the mood of the country is dissatisfaction with the status quo.
“I understand people are frustrated,” he said. “As a Bernie supporter, I feel the same frustration.”
David Schleicher, an attorney and former local Democratic party chairman, turned his Facebook profile picture to black after the election and confessed second thoughts about his addiction to political coverage.
“I turned off the radio this morning,” Schleicher said. “I did go to five news sites after that.”
Still, Schleicher said he’s not giving up.
‘Get more involved’
“We won the popular vote, so I haven’t lost all hope. I’ve had a number of Democrats contact me to say, ‘What can we do to get more involved?’ ” he said.
“It will be good for the party to examine itself and decide where we’re going. Hillary was the candidate, and one reason I supported her was that I thought she was someone who could reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. That’s not something that seems to be necessary. The days of trying to put forward the most moderate candidate may be over. . . . We also have to go back and think about how to better serve the people economically left behind who voted Trump.”
Schleicher is also on the Tribune-Herald’s Board of Contributors.
Both Lloyd and Schleicher said they hope to see civility and common purpose among voters who disagreed in the election.
“It’s nice that we’re in a town where people like Wes Lloyd and I can be friends,” Schleicher said. “That’s not true in a lot of towns.”
At the McLennan County Courthouse on Wednesday morning, Virgil Bell ascended the front steps with this two canes and prayed for the city, the new president and for feuding voters.
“This was God’s choice,” he said of the election. “Because he knows what he’s doing. God doesn’t always pick the one who’s more qualified.”