In rural Arkansas, Trump's base stand by their man

Clinton (Etats-Unis) (AFP) –


For rancher Dan Eoff, who raises cattle on his property in rural Arkansas, President Donald Trump's efforts to loosen environmental regulations are a weight off his shoulders.

Residents of the small Clinton area community in Arkansas who backed Trump in last year's presidential vote have varied reasons for supporting him, but most center around the idea that the New York billionaire is understanding of their concerns instead of dismissing them and their demographic.

And while Trump's national approval ratings are at historic lows, the Republican president's base, by-and-large, are standing by their man and praising his policies.

Eoff, a 68-year-old with a luxuriant white mustache, ran into various legal issues over a creek running through his property, but now says he no longer worries that the government is keeping watch.

"I cross the river with my cattle, with my truck, every day, and I am not afraid of the government keeping eyes on me," Eoff said.

Shortly after taking office, Trump removed regulations on waterways put in place under his predecessor.

"The people he picked to run his cabinet are hard... knowledgeable people that know what is going on, that understand our way of life," Eoff said.

Mike Fox, who also raises cattle, agreed, saying: "We needed a change."

Fox was at a cattle sale held in an auditorium-like room through which a parade of calves, cows and bulls passed to the rhythm of the auctioneer's voice.

"He has made things better for people in the cattle business," said Fox. "The economy is getting better and more people are eating beef."

- 'Pulse on the heartland' -

Fox welcomed what he termed the "new mindset" instilled by the president.

Arkansas is, along with West Virginia and Mississippi, is one of the poorest states in the country.

In Clinton, a small town of 2,600 residents spread along a wide road, the main employers are schools and the local hospital.

Two large factories closed in the late 2000s and a tornado ravaged a boat factory in 2008. Gas exploration brought a financial windfall for a time but has since dried up.

In an attempt to attract new business, Mayor Richard McCormac launched an overhaul of the wastewater system, but is dismissive of government intervention.

"Entrepreneurs and small businesses drive the economy. Anything the government starts, it never ends," said McCormac, who enthusiastically backed Trump.

Peggy Eoff, who organizes annual chuck wagon races -- the area's most well-known event -- along with her husband Dan, said that Trump "has his pulse on the heartland."

"People here that have to go to work, everybody is sick of what goes on in Washington; they think we are dumb little people that don't know anything, and they underestimated the little country people across the US," she said.

Trump's inappropriate language? A sign of his sincerity. His failure so far to reform the health care system? The fault of Congress.

- Three jobs -

Voting for Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was not an option for Peggy Eoff.

Clinton was for years first lady of Arkansas when her husband Bill was governor, a tenure that left a memory here of a cold person distant from the concerns of the rural world.

While he has many supporters, Trump also has detractors in Clinton.

"He is not looking (out) for the average man, he is just looking after a lot of money and for the big people," said Brad Mohr, a veteran who was attending a concert in honor of former members of the military.

Trump says he supports the military, but "he is putting a lot of money into something when we really need to put money elsewhere, like the average person's health care, getting jobs," said Mohr.

Ashton Pruitt, who helps her husband run the office at Pruitt's Mid-State Stockyards in addition to working two other jobs, voted for Clinton in 2016.

The bubbly 29-year-old, who hosts a country music show on local KVOM radio from 6 to 10 am before opening her clothing store, said she has not seen much change since the election.

"I got up and I went to work like nothing had happened," she said.

"We want to provide... for our children, so we work hard, no matter who is president."