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Why An Iowa Woman Says She'll Never Again Vote For A Democrat


We are in Iowa. And, Rachel, I think you told me this was your first time ever covering the caucuses here.


Indeed. It was really exciting. But the whole thing didn't exactly go as planned.


MARTIN: We are still waiting for results because of all of these problems.

GREENE: Indeed, we are. Well, this was not my first time covering the caucuses. And actually, there is someone I've thought about a lot since meeting her here in 2008. Her name is Anita Esterday. And I remember seeing Anita when she met Hillary Clinton. Anita served the candidate and her entourage at a Maid-Rite, which is a famous Iowa diner. Hillary Clinton then brought up Anita in a speech.


HILLARY CLINTON: And the woman who was waiting on us - it was her first day. And, you know, here I come with...


CLINTON: It was like, hello, welcome to Maid-Rite. So she was a little nervous. Single mom, raised two boys, works at a nursing home, plus always has a second job.

GREENE: So, you know, I've always been interested in these fleeting interactions voters have with candidates.

MARTIN: Right.

GREENE: So a few days later, I went back to see Anita. And I asked her if she felt like Hillary Clinton understood her life.


ANITA ESTERDAY: I was really hoping that she - I really don't think that she does. I mean, it's kind of, like, nobody got left a tip that day.

GREENE: Nobody got left a tip.


GREENE: Well, that became a thing. After we aired that segment in 2008, Anita and the questions about that tip were all over cable news. The Clinton campaign said my story was wrong, that they had left a tip. But Anita never saw money that day. And she said if other servers had gotten it, they would've shared money. So I went back to see Anita again this past weekend. It has been 12 years. And believe me, she has not forgotten.

When we met, you had the whole thing with Hillary, which you and I both remember very well.

ESTERDAY: No, you didn't have black sedans pulling up to your house.

GREENE: That's true.

ESTERDAY: You didn't...

GREENE: I put - I was responsible for you having to go through a lot.

ESTERDAY: You didn't have the death threats.

GREENE: You had death threats after that?


GREENE: Well I'm sorry for putting you through that in 2008.


GREENE: I hope you know that.


GREENE: I can't say Anita was excited about another interview. But this past weekend, she told me I could come by her apartment in Toledo, Iowa, which is about an hour from here in Des Moines.

ESTERDAY: There's not much room in this apartment.

GREENE: Oh, thank you.

ESTERDAY: Nothing's been done since '72 to it. I mean, we have no insulation.

GREENE: So Anita isn't working anymore. She was unloading a truck at a retail store and says a chemical burned her leg really badly. She's getting disability assistance now, also help from Medicare and Medicaid. When I met her in 2008, Anita was going to back either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, even after the whole tipping thing. She ended up voting for Obama twice. But then in 2016, she went for President Trump. And she is sticking with President Trump this year. For one thing, she is convinced that, in the end, the Democratic nominee is going to be Joe Biden.

ESTERDAY: Biden's going to be their candidate.

GREENE: And his - he bothers you. Like, some of the criticisms...

ESTERDAY: He's creepy. I mean (laughter), that's women's intuition there. But, I mean, he's creepy.

GREENE: And Trump doesn't strike you that way with some of the stuff that he's said about women? And...


GREENE: What's the difference?

ESTERDAY: Biden wants to be sneaky about everything. Trump is too damn stupid to be sneaky about everything (laughter).

GREENE: So she is not all in on Trump. But she says she is sick of all the Democrats, not just Biden. She says the party has wasted three years attacking a president they hate.

ESTERDAY: Trump is our president. Give him a chance.

GREENE: Sounds like you have mixed feelings about him.

ESTERDAY: Well, what can I say (laughter)? He says it all in all of these texts. I mean...

GREENE: But, I mean, he has said he's planning to make some changes.

ESTERDAY: Oh, I know he wants to...

GREENE: Critics would call it cuts to Medicaid.


GREENE: I mean, that's a program that could affect you personally.

ESTERDAY: Yes, he wants to cut Medicaid. He wants to cut Social Security. He wants to cut SSI disability. He wants to cut the veteran's programs. And I'm not pleased with that.

GREENE: So take me through your thinking. Like, what makes you want to vote for him, even if those kinds of things could make life harder?

ESTERDAY: Because I don't want to vote a Democrat now. Trump - I do think he's putting America first. Now, maybe I'm old-fashioned. Or maybe I'm racist. I don't think I am. But we haven't been put first in a long time. You know, we rebuild all these nations. And they pay pennies on the dollar back to us. He at least is trying to get us paid back, you know?

GREENE: I hear this from a lot of people who vote for Trump. When they hear put America first, yes, it's our country. But I've heard people say that it's also personal.


GREENE: It's like you feel like, finally, someone is...


GREENE: ...Looking out for - is...

ESTERDAY: It is. It is personal.

GREENE: You said something that really caught my ear. You said, I don't think I'm racist. What did you mean by that? How do you...

ESTERDAY: Well, I don't think I'm racist, but, sometimes, I say the wrong thing. And, you know, it comes out kind of racist. And I don't mean to do that. I'm too old to be politically correct. But no, I don't think I'm racist because I know too many people of different backgrounds.

GREENE: Because there are some in the country who feel like some of the president's policies have been racist.

ESTERDAY: Racist, yes.

GREENE: I mean, like, you know, banning travel from Muslim-majority countries, some of his immigration policies. I mean, have any of those things struck you as racist? Do you understand where people are coming from?

ESTERDAY: I understand where they're coming from. I also understand that we do need a border with Mexico. There are too many illegals coming in.

GREENE: So after we wrapped up, I told Anita that it really was great to see her. Thank you for letting us come in and spend some time again.

ESTERDAY: OK. If I start getting black sedans coming around or death threats again...

GREENE: You're going to call me.

ESTERDAY: Yeah, I'm going to call you. Yeah.

GREENE: I know you will.

ESTERDAY: Yeah. It's kind of like, why me? Why talk to me? I'm just - I'm nobody.

GREENE: I don't think that's true.

ESTERDAY: It is true. I'm nobody. I'm just a person. And this country is full of a lot of people that probably have better opinions than I do.

GREENE: I don't - every opinion matters and yours. And yours matters. And it's important.

ESTERDAY: But it's like, you know, I live on $875 a month. But I live better than most people. It's just the way life is. You got to take - you got to roll with the punches.

GREENE: Those are the thoughts of one Iowa voter, Anita Esterday.

MARTIN: What a conversation, yeah.

GREENE: Been thinking about her for a long time since meeting her in 2008. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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