Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

After a lifetime outside politics, an artist chooses his side: Trump

Man standing next to vinyl artwork

Andrew Lee Smith stands next to his stall the Charleston City Market in early February. Smith’s artwork ranges from rock bands to political figures.

Yiqing Wang

Yiqing is a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – White Converse shoes, green work pants scattered with paint stains, black hoodie and a cowboy hat covered with dozens of rock ‘n’ roll pins. Anderson Lee Smith, a 66-year-old, 6-foot-tall man with his long, gray hair tied back in a low ponytail, dresses in a youthful style while arranging the vinyl art at his stall in the Charleston City Market.

In contrast with his artistic appearance, Smith’s political view is decidedly conservative. After spending four decades as an apolitical artist, Smith turned into a firm supporter of Donald Trump after watching the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement. He acknowledged the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and the need to support most of the demonstrations. However, when some protests turned violent, Smith saw them as chaos and destruction to the country.

“Democrats are changing the spirit of America,” said Smith softly, while looking through a large, misty window at the market in early February.

The Black Lives Matter movement alarmed Smith, causing him to start paying attention to politics for the first time in his life. He read news and listened to podcasts. That led him to start supporting Trump. He said that the Republican ideology reminded him of the way he grew up. For him, Trump was just trying to bring the country back to normal.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

“I feel like the left is trying to change all the things. I’m not afraid of change, but I’m afraid of radical change,” Smith said.

Smith’s fear of radical change is one of the essences of conservative ideology, which highlights the pursuit of a secure social structure, according to Brandt Smith, a psychology professor at Columbus State University. “Tradition is a security blanket,” he said, and people cling to traditions because they work.

Smith never thought he could care so much about politics. He has lived in Charleston his whole life and made his first foray into art when he started drawing cartoons at age 6. He worked at wood burning right after graduating from the University of South Carolina, then transitioned to painting. Six years ago, he shifted his gears to working in vinyl.

Worn-out vinyl records became his favorite medium. He collected materials from old magazines and outdated posters, cutting and pasting colorful letters onto brightly colored cardstock. Taylor Swift, Queen, Nirvana, Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been among his subjects. One of his records shows Trump with a muscular young body and a golden boxer’s belt. The text beneath him reads: “Mean tweets and cheap gas make America great again.”

“Music keeps you young, working keeps you young, and finding out young people’s music keeps you young, because I feel like I’m staying in touch,” Smith said.

While Smith values keeping up with the times, he also values tradition. For him, tradition means guns, the flag, nuclear family, a strong border – things that he thought Americans agreed constituted the spirit of America, whether they were Democrats and Republicans. (A majority of Americans want stronger gun control although nearly two-thirds believe the situation at the Southern border is a crisis or major problem.)

In his view, those traditions were violated by the looting and violence he saw on the news after Floyd’s murder, especially when people broke windows and set fire to cars.

Smith’s study found that “endorsement of hierarchies and resistance to change” are two core facets of conservative ideology. Conservatives fear changes because they want to reduce uncertainty and threat, and they generally adopt an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” position.

Smith lives a simple life. He married his wife 44 years ago, right after college. They decided not to have children. Smith said that they don’t need a child to complete their lives or to prove their love. He said he doesn’t have a cell phone because the devices distract people from the real world.

On an ordinary day, Smith usually wakes up at 5:30 in the morning and arrives at the market an hour later. Since the market doesn’t open until 10 a.m., he has plenty of time to set up his stall, chat with other vendors or have a cup of coffee. After a day in the market, Smith goes home, has dinner, kisses his wife and then heads back to the studio to create more art.

Read More

Young girl holding a sparkler and wearing an American flag shirt
Rebecca Nelson/Getty Images

Three approaches to Independence Day

Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework," has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.

July Fourth is not like Christmas or Rosh Hashanah, holidays that create a unified sense of celebration among celebrants. On Christmas, Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. On Rosh Hashanah, Jews throughout the world celebrate the Jewish New Year.

Yet on the Fourth of July, apart from the family gatherings, barbecues and drinking, we take different approaches. Some Americans celebrate the declaration of America's independence from Great Britain and especially the value of freedom. And some Americans reject the holiday, because they believe it highlights the self-contradiction of the United States, which created a nation in which some would be free and some would be enslaved. And other Americans are conflicted between these two points of view.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fireworks on July 4
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

One country, one constitution, one destiny

Lockard is an Iowa resident who regularly contributes to regional newspapers and periodicals. She is working on the second of a four-book fictional series based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice."

“One country, one constitution, one destiny,” Daniel Webster said in a historic 1837 speech defending the American Union.

This of Fourth of July, 187 years after Webster’s speech and the 248th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, Webster would no doubt be dismayed to find his quote reconstrued by popular opinion to read something like this:

“Divided country, debated constitution, and as for destiny, we’re going to hell in a hand-basket.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Rich Harwood
Harwood Institute

Meet the change leaders: Rich Harwood

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

After working on more than 20 political campaigns and two highly respected nonprofits, Rich Harwood set out to create something entirely different. He founded what is now known as The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in 1988, when he was just 27 years old (and is now its president). Soon after, he wrote the ground-breaking report “Citizen and Politics: A View from Main Street,” the first national study to uncover that Americans did not feel apathetic about politics, but instead held a deep sense of anger and disconnection.

Over the past 30 years, Rich has innovated and developed a new philosophy and practice for how communities can solve shared problems, create a culture of shared responsibility and deepen people’s civic faith. The Harwood practice of Turning Outward has spread to all 50 states and is being used in 40 countries.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person holding an upside down American flag

A woman protests Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, by waving an upside down American Flag.

Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

Distress signals: The American flag as a political weapon

Becvar is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and executive director of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the parent organization of The Fulcrum.

Comparing the year leading up to the 2020 presidential election to this year, it’s striking how much has changed in the American consciousness. The divisions that deepened after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection often seem irreparable. Once unimaginable discord with family, friends and neighbors has now become commonplace. This new reality includes a further divide over what the American flag represents.

Keep ReadingShow less
book cover

The road from conflict to convergence

More than ever, Americans need to de-escalate conflict and constructively engage with others to find better solutions to problems. “From Conflict to Convergence: Coming Together to Solve Tough Problems,” a new book by Mariah Levison and Robert Fersh, is an incisive, hands-on guide designed to help citizens do just that.

Fersh is the founder and senior advisor of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to promote consensus solutions to issues of domestic and international importance. Fersh formerly worked for three congressional committees.

Keep ReadingShow less