MIDDLEBOROUGH — People across Massachusetts met Donald Trump’s victory with general shock and dismay. But in this working-class, reliably Republican town, Trump’s stunning election felt like a new day.
Along downtown streets here, Trump supporters said they are desperate for change, fed up with feeling forgotten by the federal government and betrayed by politicians. For them, a Trump presidency carries a sense of possibility.
“I’m feeling hope for the future,” said Steven Meleo, 61, a downtown business owner. Trump’s election provided the “opening that we need for something new” to take hold, he said.
Meleo grew up in this rural town, about 40 miles south of Boston, when it bustled with hardware shops, clothing stores, restaurants, and antique boutiques. Looking out his front window Wednesday, he saw empty storefronts.
“We need people to spread some money,” he said.
Trump received about one-third of the vote statewide, but won 54 percent in Middleborough, part of a cluster of towns south of Boston that traditionally vote Republican. Four years ago, Republican nominee Mitt Romney took 56 percent of the vote here.
The town’s economy has struggled in recent years, many said, particularly after plans for a casino fell through in 2012. Meleo recently expanded his marine electronics repair company to include snowblower and lawnmower services, looking to bring in more business.
Meleo’s main reason for backing Trump was the hope of lower taxes. His business is already squeezed, he said, and he can’t afford to pay his workers higher wages.
He also sells decorative signs with patriotic emblems and sayings, popular items in a town that honors its veterans, he said. With the Veterans Day parade coming up, small American flags covered the Town Hall lawn and blue ribbons hung around light poles.
Lawrence Pease, 67, a Vietnam War veteran, said he was tired of the “same old, same old.” He wanted a president who was different and would tighten immigration policies.
“America has spoken,” he said. “We’re just sick of the old politics.”
Even in a Republican stronghold, some said they were hesitant to let their support for Trump be known. Several business owners said they feared a backlash from customers.
“You just keep your mouth quiet,” said Robert Giardino, 52, as he walked down Webster Street near the Congregational church. Giardino couldn’t say exactly why he supported Trump, or what he hopes he will accomplish.
Other supporters made it clear their opposition to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was their primary motivation.
“Do I believe Donald Trump to be a great guy? Absolutely not. I got a lot of issues with him,” said James Thomasson, 48, a pastor at the MeetingHouse Church. “But I had different issues with Clinton.”
Terry Laspesa, 70, left Honey Dew Donuts with a coffee, wearing a shirt with an American flag on it.
She said she voted for Trump because she is Catholic and opposes abortion. She dismissed Trump’s remarks disparaging women as “men talk.”
Almost 40 percent of Middleborough voters chose Clinton, and some expressed concern over Trump’s victory.
“For the first time in my life, I am scared,” said Dee, a 57-year-old black woman who asked that her last name not be used because she fears retribution from other people in town. “There’s a lot of closet racism in this town.”
Dee said she has three children and 12 grandchildren, and fears for their future.
Smoking a cigarette outside a downtown business where she works, Dee said she had seen Confederate flags in town before this election, but never so many.
“I can’t even believe he won,” she said. “Everybody I know is crying.”
Kostas Palaiologos, 78, a tailor from Greece who owns Middleboro Alterations on Main Street, said he voted for Clinton. It bothered him that while he and other small businesses struggle, Trump apparently avoided paying taxes on his millions.
“I hope [Trump] can be fair,” he said as he mended a navy blue pinstriped suit. “Like other presidents were.”