Don Martin: Trash-talking Trump a no-fly-zone for snowbirds in Florida
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to car crews and fans in the stalls along pit road before the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Here are the rules for happy Canadian snowbird-roosting in southwest Florida.
- Do not discuss Donald Trump in public.
- If you absolutely must vent negative commentary about the U.S. president, make sure you’re talking to fellow Canadians.
In restaurants you get shushed by local guests if you raise Trump’s controversial behaviour within earshot of other diners. It’s much safer to discuss whether the local lagoon alligator is getting too big and needs to be relocated to the boot factory.
Even when it appears safe to criticize Trump, as it seemed to me when I raised his crazy conduct with a Mexican-born woman at the pool, it’s not.
Before rapidly swimming away from me, she coldly declared her support for Trump because, after all, The Wall would keep queue-jumpers out and welcome in people like her who followed the immigration rules. Oops.
Now, this doesn’t mean the region is polarized between bitterly antagonistic forces where you must mute yourself lest a discouraging word be overheard by a Trumper or Trumpette and a brawl breaks out.
There’s a level of cheerful friendliness here that would make the average Canadian Walmart greeter sound hostile.
Maybe there’s a bounce in their step because residents just watched reports of the latest winter storm unleashing havoc across the northern states while they brace themselves for the horror of high humidity.
Or perhaps they’re like me and relish the daily delight of tuning into Ottawa radio stations to listen to lousy weather and traffic gridlock while lathering up with sunscreen.
But there’s no denying signs of the obvious: Fort Myers voters are sticking like superglue to Trump, who beat Hillary Clinton by 21 points here in 2016.
There are already banners hanging from beach bars and on random roadside businesses hailing Trump-Pence 2020: Keep America Great.
One of the most popular seafood restaurants on the water plasters Trump posters on its walls and the notoriously crusty owner will tolerate no protests about her indigestion-inducing choice of interior design.
In the rustic Buckingham Blues Bar last week, the band paused and the crowd cheered when television screens flashed Trump’s motorcade taking a few laps at the Daytona 500.
Not far from my condo in a strip mall is the Lee County Republican Headquarters and Museum. It’s really just a meeting room with a few faded portraits of Republican presidents on the wall.
When I popped by, a small group of women were huddled together debating the lines they would use at the door once the campaign heats up.
When one of them fretted how Trump’s behaviour conflicted with her religious beliefs, she was told her minister would explain why it was still okay to vote for Trump.
At the entrance to the headquarters, not surprisingly, there’s a life-sized cut-out of Donald Trump giving two-thumbs up.
The receptionist asks if I want a photo beside Trump. “He really is exactly that tall,” she gushed, her eyes aglow as she gazed upon his cardboard likeness. It would’ve been impolite to decline.
From the vantage point of someone ending their first winter of snowbird migration, this in a region where 15 C degrees is a fleece-wearing deep freeze and being in your early 60s makes you feel young in the 4 p.m. happy-hour crowd, there appear to be only two ways Trump can lose here in November.
There could be an invisible army of Democrats staying silent on their president’s behaviour to avoid confrontation in a state where it’s legal to carry concealed weapons.
Or it may be that multitudes of Democrats are actually criticizing him, but they’re pretending to be Canadian snowbirds when they do it.
The better bet: Another Trump landslide here and four more years of following the rule that anti-Trump talk should best stay between Canadians.