Views of Selection: Balancing Values, Voting in Lansing, NC
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
This choice is very different from the top and bottom of the economy. We saw this when we were visiting the richest and poorest counties in North Carolina, which is a presidential swing state. The poorest is a rural area. We visit elsewhere on today’s program.
The wealthiest is Wake County, where the median household income is $ 66,000, well above that of the entire nation.
TODD MASINTER: And we’re going to go out here and check out some of Lansing …
INSKEEP: Todd Masinter was our tour guide through the state capital, Wake County’s largest city. We joined a tour group that drives two-wheeled Segway scooters in the city center.
MASTER: Take care of your bikes. There is a small pothole on your right here.
INSKEEP: We’re rolling past a restaurant. We actually walk through the outside tables on these Segway scooters.
MASINTER: We’re in the middle of a massive real estate boom. When you’re comfortable behind you, turn around – it’s a 22 story Sky House apartment building. This is brand new.
INSKEEP: This old town, with its pre-civil war buildings, is also part of a region full of new tech firms and universities. Corporations across Wake County share in this prosperity, such as the climbing gyms owned by Joel Graybeal.
Wow. How high is the ceiling here?
JOEL GREYBEAL: So the high walls are 55 feet.
INSKEEP: And there is someone at the very top who is climbing a vertical …
GREYBEAL: There’s someone at the top.
INSKEEP: Graybeal is one of many people who have moved from another location to the Research Triangle region. He was a banker and then switched careers.
If you were looking across the country what would make Lansing the smart place to open a business?
GREYBEAL: Lots of smart people.
INSKEEP: His customers include engineers and software designers.
GREYBEAL: This sport appeals to you because it’s not just the physical aspects of the sport. It’s the mental and the problem-solving aspects.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, you got it. Here we go. Oh, [expletive].
INSKEEP: When asked about the problems in the region, Graybeal mentioned traffic. This is a symptom of Wake County’s rapid population growth.
Despite all the positive signs, Graybeal is not entirely satisfied. He prepares for higher insurance costs. His small business offers health benefits to its employees. And if he continues like this, Obamacare will soon be telling him to switch to a more expensive plan.
GRAYBEAL: Our insurance carrier told me today that if we have an ACA-compliant plan today, Steve, our plan would increase the premium by 70 percent.
INSKEEP: Seventy, seven zero?
GREYBEAL: Increase by seven percent.
INSKEEP: Graybeal told us he’d rather not reveal how he’s voting this fall. He has business partners and relatives on both sides. In this way, North Carolina’s richest county resembles the poorest. In both places we found people who became anxious when discussing politics.
When you come to this wealthiest county from the poorest county in North Carolina, all you see is the signs of prosperity everywhere. We are located on the North Carolina State University campus, a beautiful tree-lined campus. The parking spaces are clogged. And here in this building there is a vote going on.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 1: Do you have ID?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 2: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 1: OK.
INSKEEP: This is a line. I mean this will take a while.
During the half-hour wait, we spoke to three NC State seniors.
What do you want to do when you graduate?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 3: We’ll find out (laughter).
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 4: Yes. We are seniors.
INSKEEP: Voters wore Hillary Clinton stickers. It was Taylor Jones, Anna Arroyo and Kelly Hillsgrove who voted before.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 5: This time I feel like I really made this decision myself.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 3: We saw all the debates together.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 5: We were really informed and really made this decision for ourselves without us, our friends or family influencing one another.
INSKEEP: What difference does it make when there is a president?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 3: It opens many doors for us.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 5: And honestly, I mean, I don’t vote for Hillary because she’s a woman. I mean she is the most experienced candidate. And yes, I agree with anything she wants to do.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 4: She moves forward instead of backward.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 5: Yes. It’s just moving forward, it’s …
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 4: I think you need to go forward and stay progressive. And there is only one who really does that.
INSKEEP: You mean Trump seems to be looking backwards to you?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 4: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 5: Definitely.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 3: I think we’d go back in time.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 4: He wants a wall. You don’t do that anymore (laughter).
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN # 3: I was born in Mexico, which for me is absolutely absurd. There just isn’t – there’s just no way you can ever vote for someone so backward.
INSKEEP: So many younger people have moved to Wake County that the median age is now 35, below that of the nation as a whole. Younger voters helped explain why the county has democratically elected president in recent years.
However, it is an open question how big the edge of the circle could be in 2016. We met people near the university who are interested in moving at home, but who are also conservative and now have to decide.
UNIDENTIFIED TRAIN CONDUCTOR: All right. Everyone ready for a train ride?
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED TRAIN CONDUCTOR: Everyone on board.
INSKEEP: In Lansings Pullen Park, take the children’s train tracks …
(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN WHISTLE)
INSKEEP: … and you come to a playground where we met Justin and Sarah Leonard. They had a 3 year old son and a newborn baby in a stroller under a blanket.
How old is that baby in there?
SARAH LEONARD: He is a little over a week old.
INSKEEP: Oh my gosh. Wow.
LAUREN MIGAKI, BYLINE: Oh my god. Congratulations.
INSKEEP: This is our producer, Lauren Migaki. Justin pushed the older child on a swing as we talked. The Leonards are young and religious.
S LEONARD: We have struggled with infertility for several years and I just think that life begins with conception.
INSKEEP: You’re part of Wake County’s high-tech economy, too. Justin is a patent attorney whose clients are often from Europe.
You are part of the world economy.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Oh, that is very, very true.
INSKEEP: That’s part of his fight with the presidential election. He’s not sure he can rely on Donald Trump for external relations …
J LEONARD: To be respectful of the other nations involved and frankly all other people involved.
S LEONARD: He specifically addresses Trump because in the past we have always elected Republicans as President. And this is our first year that we’re not quite sure how we’re going to vote on Tuesday (laughter).
INSKEEP: You could cast a third party vote in protest. Or they just vote for Trump.
Hillary doesn’t come as a choice for you, doesn’t it sound like it?
S LEONARD: You wouldn’t be a choice for us.
INSKEEP: You disagree with your support for abortion rights. They disagree with their support for same-sex marriage. They fear that their conservative views will become less socially acceptable. However, their views on life that made them Republicans also make it difficult to vote for Trump.
S LEONARD: It’s one of our struggles with Trump that he’s for life, but his view of refugees and immigration doesn’t seem to me to really appreciate life because people are too. And not caring about people trying to escape war is easy – it falls flat to cherish life.
INSKEEP: North Carolina’s wealthiest county has taken in hundreds of refugees, including some from Syria. The Leonards do not see them as a threat. Once their newborn is older, they plan to volunteer to help refugees. Before that, they must make the agonizing decision of how to align their values with their voices.
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INSKEEP: So this is the richest and the poorest county in a swing state. Remember, NPR News will feature live coverage of the NPR Politics team and reporters from our member stations across the country on Election Day and the day after. Listen live on this station and follow the races on npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.