Reading the signs beyond the liberal bubble

Twitter photo: Jacob Rascon.

Just how much of a "left coast" bubble is Los Angeles?

Hillary Clinton still has a 21-point lead in California and probably higher in the LA metro area. Charlotte, North Carolina, where my husband and I are canvassing for Clinton in these last weeks of this miserable campaign, is also a "blue" city.

Yet over the 2400-plus miles we drove between Mar Vista and Charlotte last month, and even in rapidly gentrifying Charlotte, some of my fellow Americans are as unrecognizable to me as I surely am to them.

Some moments from beyond the Santa Monica-to-Hancock Park cocoon:

  • Middle-aged couple in the parking lot, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: "Honey, the sign says we have to leave the firearms in the car."
  • Just outside Bentonville, Ark: Young men drive a pickup though the town center, a billboard-sized Confederate flag flaps from the truck bed.
  • In the breakfast room of every Econo Lodge, Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, and Best Western we stayed in: Fox News hosts seethe about Clinton, "liberals" and Obamacare. Many of my fellow guests watch intently as they chew their bran flakes.
  • Sign in front of a Charlotte house: "We don't call 911." Underneath is a drawing of two large, crossed pistols.
  • Parked next to us at a Virginia highway rest stop: Car with "Crooked Hillary" bumper sticker.
  • Large yard signs, Kentucky hill country: "Hillary for Prison."
  • Billboard on Interstate 85, north of Charlotte: The winsome little girl pictured asks, "Roy Cooper wants to let a man in the girl's bathroom? Is that okay?" Cooper is North Carolina's attorney general who has refused to enforce HB 2, the state's "bathroom law," and is now challenging incumbent Republican Pat McCrory for the governorship.
  • Bed and breakfast, Eddyville, Kentucky: The other guests were three college friends, charming women in their 70s, who call themselves the Devo Divas, "devo" for devotional. Now living in St. Louis and Chattanooga, the women gather annually to decide on the devotional text they will all read in the coming year. Each is a sincere Christian and a solid Trump supporter. Yes, his language and treatment of women bother them but "government is too big," Hillary has "poor judgment," and Obamacare is wrong, so wrong.
  • Reading material in a Charlotte Starbucks near us: Black Guns 2016 and Diesel Power Magazine, along with the Charlotte Observer and the New York Times.

In 2004, as George W. Bush campaigned for re-election, friends assured me he wouldn't win because no one they knew was voting for him. They have long lived in Berkeley, even "left-er" than liberal LA.

Earlier that year, in his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, famously proclaimed, "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America."

But 12 years later, I wonder.

Molly Selvin was a Los Angeles Times staff writer for 18 years.

More by Molly Selvin:
Previous blog post: When Ring Lardner covered the Cubs
Next blog post: Garcetti and Measure M
Recently on Native Intelligence
New at LA Observed