Why you should care
Because sometimes politics happens in spite of the people, not by the people.
Election Day began with Beverly “Bev” Minardi feeling sick. “It’s never felt like this in my life. That’s why it’s scary,” she said over dinner the night before, remembering how her 19-year-old son, Matt, told her it was just another four years … that this election, like others, would come and go. “I totally got his point of view — why is this different?” she asked, her eyes lighting up. “But it is.”
She voted, puffing up proudly when the attendant fixed the sticker on her chest. She went home to Matt, a Bernie Sanders supporter, who, at the height of her Trump mania, changed all her television channels so she could no longer watch political programs. “He doesn’t understand what we lost, because he never saw what we had,” Bev said, and she hopes Trump can restore that. She went home to Terri, her ex-partner and an avid Hillary Clinton fan whom she had housed for the last two years through bad health. “Our friendship is almost over, because I can’t respect someone who won’t even look at things,” Bev says. “I didn’t realize I was living in a house of such divisiveness.”
Then that night, at a crowded pro-Trump bar in downtown Tampa, the native Floridian felt sick to her stomach — this time definitely nerves from watching the results roll in.
A longtime family friend recently commented to Bev on Facebook: I can’t believe you’ve lost your faith. Raised Catholic, Bev had posted that sometimes people need a hand up, but it can also be a disincentive to finding their true potential — something she experienced when she was forced to take government checks after her income dropped from $300K to $22K when the real estate bubble burst in 2008. But in this election, she thinks others believe there’s something fundamentally wrong with Trump supporters like herself. “I’ve lost so many friends, and none of them are coming back.”
Like Trump, a love for building courses through her blood. Her Italian father was an architect. Even as a young girl, Bev loved houses — their straight lines and unique designs — and she recalls when her father built a 600-unit condominium complex, only to lose it and everything else in the recession of the ’70s, skipping town when his loans were called in.
At 21, Bev, a gay woman in conservative Florida, packed up her unicycle and a can of oil, jumped into her 1972 Karmann Ghia and headed to San Diego, hoping to find a more tolerant community: She didn’t. Three months later, she found herself in San Francisco, virtually homeless, yet she built a life. “That’s what I’m fighting for. The idea that I could go to San Francisco with $270 in my pocket and stay there three years. Matthew can’t last three days there on that.”
As a RE/MAX real estate agent through the aughts, Bev watched Trump on The Apprentice but wasn’t impressed. “I thought about how much of an ass he was,” she says. Bev grew up a Democrat and, in 2008, voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. “She has a very good knack of being with you in the moment,” Bev says, but she can’t imagine why anyone would vote for Clinton today. She hated Mitt Romney — “a total stiff” — and cast a tepid vote for John McCain. But Trump? Hot damn, she thought as he descended the escalators of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy. That guy is taking us for a ride — and we need it.
The first time Bev saw Trump in person was at the Tampa convention center in June. From her place in the fourth row, he seemed like a regular person having a bad-hair day. “It was kind of stringy. And the suit wasn’t his best.” But she got her “Silent Majority” sign autographed, and later, she met the candidate and took a photo with him, amazed at how gracious he was. In the rallies she’s attended since then, she’s always stood in the front row, remembering that feeling from the Styx, Stevie Nicks and Boston concerts she went to decades earlier. “My son wishes he lived when I grew up; we had great music,” she says. “The late ’70s, early ’80s were a completely different world.”
Eventually Bev returned to Tampa and had Matthew. She bought her first home, met Terri and became a Realtor, winning Rookie of the Year in 2004 for sales over $250,000. Her career rocketed. Her relationship deteriorated. She left the house they shared, putting a $50,000 deposit into building a half-million-dollar home. Then the bottom fell out. “Nobody bought anything. I felt like a loser,” she says. By Christmas 2009, she didn’t have the money to fix the flat tire on her Cadillac. “I took care of my clients better than I took care of myself.”
Bev and Matthew moved to Santa Barbara. “He loved it there,” she recalls. But it wasn’t like her childhood, filled with climbing trees and digging forts. Things just don’t look the same anymore, she says: “It’s a different world.” After being forced to take temporary assistance in California, Bev headed back to Tampa in 2011. She eventually started design classes, and hopes to build a small-home village where people like her can live under for $25,000 a year and be part of a community. Last year, she was among the top agents in her office, and she takes pride in caring for her clients. Around the time she attended her first Trump rally this summer, she sold seven homes in a single month.
But today, after losing her health insurance earlier this year and helping her mother remodel her home, Bev is struggling. In one account, she’s down to $1,500 – in another, $6. “It is a very temporary situation,” she says. Though she’s never missed a house payment, she still worries about getting evicted. The stress makes her think of how her situation differs from politicians claiming to serve people like her. “Why is Harry Reid worth millions of dollars?” she asks. “John Kasich is worth $22 million — the guy is a civil servant!” After working so hard for so long, she wonders: How could this be the tomorrow she always said would be better?
With her iPhone held high, Bev took photos every time a state was called for Trump. “We have to win Florida,” Bev repeated like a prayer. Finally, relief: She shouted as the Sunshine State was called for Trump, joining chants of “lock her up” and “drain the swamp.” “This was the most important day in my life, other than having my child,” she said, and earlier in the day, she had managed to save three real estate deals she thought she had lost. With things looking up, she stayed at the bar well past midnight to watch the networks call it for Trump.