In Kalamazoo, Old High School Classmates Reckon With a Divided Country


Chris Kooi is, on paper, the kind of voter who helped Mr. Trump win Michigan in 2016: white, non-college educated, late-Gen Xer, male. In 2003, he moved from Kalamazoo to a rural county 20 miles west, the sort of place where Mr. Trump ran up the numbers.

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Like many people, Mr. Kooi, 52 and a sales manager at Spectrum Business, a telecom provider, has grown more conservative with age. Mortgages, college payments for his two daughters and bills affect his political calculus. “I once thought of myself as more liberal, more open minded,” said Mr. Kooi, a 1986 graduate of Loy Norrix. But later when he ran a business, “I realized I probably shouldn’t be.”

And yet he also represents the sort of voter who kept Michigan blue for so long: He voted for both Clintons and Barack Obama (though he also voted for both Bushes).

So where does that put him in 2020? “I’m very confused this election,” he said. He is unnerved by Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, he said, and adds that the president’s economic policies have not particularly benefited his family. “His tax cuts affected me and my family negatively,” he said. “His cookie-cutter program took my ability to itemize my tax returns and in turn cost me money by eliminating write-offs that I had taken previously.”

Nevertheless, he believes the president may be better for the economy. “I don’t know what will happen to the economy here if Biden wins,” he said. “I don’t know if it’ll affect me, the middle class, here.”

Mr. Kooi tunes out the president as much as he can, he said. But he has internalized Mr. Trump’s knocks on Mr. Biden’s acuity. “What scares me about Biden,” Mr. Kooi said, “is I think he’s starting to lose it a little bit.”



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