Surrounded by an assortment of old magazines, used toilets and other miscellaneous knickknacks, students ventured into the cluttered abyss of Larry Lange’s shed. The 86-year-old has become a collector of sorts, holding onto memorabilia reminiscent of his – and other people’s – past.
Beyond the piles of worn furniture and old filing cabinets he salvaged from the town dump, resides a plane in the making, which Lange has been working on since 1975. Lacking almost all but the pilot’s seat and a windshield, the plane is nothing more than a rough-edged metal skeleton that he hopes to get flying before he dies.
Standing in Lange’s shed was like taking a step back into time. The space was consumed with rusted tools, tattered gloves and stock piles of magazine that dated back decades.
While some would question his incessant need to hold on to this seemingly useless clutter, Lange is sure that every last piece has its purpose.
“Some would call it junk; I call it projects.”
But it’s not just the literal past that he clings to; he is also clinging in a sense, to the metaphorical past as he explains why he voted for Donald Trump.
Reflecting on a time of economic prosperity, Lange reminisces about the good ol’ days.
“America was great in the 50’s,” said Lange. “I was making $15 an hour, gas was only 27 cents. I want to get back to that.”
While Lange prides himself on being proponent of change and progress, which he believes resides in a Trump presidency, you can’t help but wonder if his idea of progress is nothing more than a form of unconscious regression.
As Lange repeatedly references change to justify his vote for Trump, the change he describes when pressed, seems to be nostalgic in nature.
Raised on the fringe of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area, Lange was born and grew up in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. It wasn’t until 1996, just a year after his retirement, that he made the move to the small rural village of Steuben, on western Wisconsin’s edge. Lange noted that he made the move in an attempt to evade the “Yuppie” infiltration.
Lange has become somewhat of local legend in Steuben, Wisconsin, always prepared with a form of political discourse at the ready.
It was his good friend and local bar owner, Jo Bunders, who pointed the student journalists in his direction. She explained that if you wanted to talk politics, Larry was your guy. With shared support for the Republican candidate, the two always had a lot to talk about.
“I had my mind made up as soon as he got the nomination,” said Lange. “Jo and I – we cheered like hell when he won it; we didn’t care who knew.”
Despite his candidate’s victory, Lange admits that he was surprised Wisconsin flipped red this last election.
“I was amazed Wisconsin went Republican. I really thought Hillary had this state,” said Lange. “I felt like nobody talked about Trump. If you talked about Trump you were a jerk, so, we just kept our mouths shut.” Turns out there were a lot of people doing that. Steuben flipped by the highest percentage from Obama to Trump in Crawford County, Wisconsin, which flipped among the highest percentages in the country.
Lange voiced his political insights illustriously, mentioning that the famous, “Make America Great Again” campaign spoke to him in volumes. For Lange, immigration was a driving force behind his decision.
“Immigrants that didn’t assimilate took over the country and ruined it,” said Lange. “I don’t know if the wall will ever get built, but at least he will take care of this immigration problem, one way or another.”
But for Lange, Mexican immigrants aren’t the only issue. Shedding some light on his thoughts about the Muslim ban, Lange recalled a shopping excursion he took the week before.
“The other day I was at Walmart and I was walking down the aisle and I turned around and there were three women – Muslim, I assume – dressed in all black,” Lange said, gesturing his hands from head to toe. “It took me back; I jumped. I have nothing against the Muslims, except when they come to this country, I assume and expect them to assimilate to our society.”
Lange admits that he hasn’t favored a Democratic candidate since the Kennedy administration.
“I didn’t like his womanizing, but goddamn he got things done,” said Lange.
However, when Trump’s notorious rhetoric came into question, Lange was not disturbed by his lewd comments.
“It’s locker talk, I’ve been there – I know how guys talk when they are supposedly not being heard,” Lange chuckled.
The sexual assault accusations had no effect on Lange’s decision.
“Cripes almighty, I think some of them were even a setup,” said Lange. “I mean, it’s a case of he said she said. All you can do is hope it ruins a guy’s reputation enough where they won’t vote for him. Man, I’ve had women put their hands on me, and I’ve hands on women – nothing is said, nothing is done.”
Lange became almost sentimental about the issue.
“It’s actually a sign of affection in my interpretation,” said Lange. “But, they want to turn it around. I don’t doubt that he said all that crap, but like I said, it’s just words. It’s not like what Bill did.”
While immigration certainly played a roll Lange’s selection, economic advancement was settled at forefront of his Trump allegiance.
“I hope he [Trump] lowers the corporate tax and gets the business back in the country and puts a tariff on what’s coming in,” said Lange. “Our trade deficit is $3 billion – that’s bologna. Man oh man, we’ve been doing it for years and years and it’s killing us.”
Lange also addressed the economic stress on a local level.
“If you look in the paper, you’re not looking at romantic jobs,” said Lange. “They’re drudgery jobs. Who wants to milk cows for a living, or farm work, or drive trucks or something like that? Not many people.”
Lange alluded to the fact that the lack of appealing jobs may have had an effect on the Crawford County demographic. He admits that village of Steuben is getting older.
“We go down to Jo’s every morning for coffee with the boys and I’m the oldest one, but there’s a bunch of ‘em that ain’t too far behind me,” said Lange. “Young kids want the city life; I can’t blame them. I was born and raised in the city, and I wanted the country. They just have the opposite frame of mind.”
Lange is sure that the county’s flip should not be credited to a shortage of jobs, but rather an overall demand of transformation.
“I think people just got sick of the same ol’ same ol’ and wanted something changed. Like Trump says, what’ve you got to lose? You’re already at the bottom.”