By Jill Pitman Growing up in South Jersey, I was part of a wonderful bubble. Communities in Ocean County are the prime example of the American Dream Achieved. You have your “transplants.” These are the people who have smartened up and moved to the area from somewhere else. You have your “locals.” This was my family. My family’s roots in Ocean County date back to before there was an “Ocean” County in New Jersey. And most importantly you have your seniors. Retirement communities dot the woods with cookie cutter houses and paved streets and sidewalks. All of these people live together and play an important role in the community. There are towns where everybody knows everybody. The funny thing about Ocean County is its politics. Ocean County is one of the few diehard counties in New Jersey that are Republican. Now, living in Union County for the past twelve years, I ask why. There is no doubt that where I live Democrats control, easily, swiftly and in large numbers. New Jersey is considered a Democratic Blue state. But if you look at all the counties that are voted Red: Cape May, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Sussex, Ocean, New Jersey goes purplish. They may not have the numbers of total voters but they have a wide margin of strength over their Democratic challenges in the enclaves where they live. They vote hard and loyal. US Congressman Chris Smith exemplifies a perfect illustration of why 4th Congressional District voters choose this Republican and have done since 1980. As a past constituent, I have to say that he was visible, responsive and supported many pieces of really great legislation. He continues to battle human trafficking, a plague on the world stage. He has shown a great record of supporting veterans, seniors and small businesses. According to Govtrack, an independent watchdog organization, he ranks second among all 435 members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws he has written. This is why you find the red in Ocean County, because of people like him. The people in government who listen to their constituency, act and work. He supports the American Dream Achieved. The problem with American politics goes far beyond the two-party system. It perverts both parties' integrity. We see career politicians from both sides do nothing as the rest of the nation is in crisis and look to them for leadership and help. Add to that the lack of chance for a third party or independent to win the vote in New Jersey due to its weird election rules and county party committees, a division is created and the loyalty grows hard. Red gets redder and stays redder, thereby creating support for President Donald Trump. Trump ran in 2016 as the non-politician. He proudly wore this. For locals like my family, I think this is his biggest appeal. He is not like the others therefore has to be better. Many living in towns in Ocean County actually took the time to vote in 2016 as they did not want to see the Democrats prevail, usually apathetic. They were longing for change in government. Ocean County is also a mecca of small business owners. The tourism and hospitality of Ocean County and its lovely beaches brings in $5 billion to the county’s economy according to New Jersey Business Magazine. Over 50 percent of employers in Ocean County are small businesses. These are the little shops in the seaside towns near the boardwalk. They are usually multi-generational businesses where grandpa started with a parking lot, a game of chance or a pizza joint. Now its his great great nephew spinning the wheel. On the whole, small business owners usually vote Republican. And in New Jersey, pepper the high taxes in, and it motivates them to vote. Another stat that drives the passion to vote for the GOP, are the “unusually high numbers” of citizens in Ocean County who are in law enforcement, or so says dataus.com. With the defunding of the police call bringing fear to suburbia, it is no wonder Trump was voted almost two times as much as Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Ocean County also is home to one of the strongest-devoted voting blocks- seniors. They vote en masse. I lived all throughout my school days in Bayville, NJ the consequences of senior voting. They would turn down the school budgets at every and any turn. They weren’t fighting against education, honestly, just high property taxes. It’s Jersey. They are on a fixed income. Can you blame them? They would furiously vote any increase down and we were forced to cut another sport or program or expansion. With my deep roots in Ocean County, it did not surprise me that the same website reported white people made up 84.3% of the population. But I am not here to hide behind the argument that all Ocean County voters are racists and that is why they prefer Trump. The majority of voters picked him because he ran on a platform that promised change and to drain the swamp. He supports the police and police unions support him. He is a businessman. Some business owners believe that is important. And you have some good strong politicians in that county that really do a good job. It is a shame that we as a nation are allowing this two party system to divide us and keep us fighting amongst ourselves. In New Jersey, the party line ballot and the power that county party committees reign over prevent good representation. This keeps the broken system going. Without change to the system itself, the divide will deepen, corruption will grow and the apathy will fester. Until we can elect good people, regardless of party, and have them in the majority, things will never change. The people of Ocean County who voted for Trump and may vote for Trump again are not bad or wrong. The system is broken and we deserve a real representation that believes in protecting the American Dream Achieved for All. Party shouldn’t matter, the people should. We all should be working towards that goal. Jill Pitman may be reached at JillPitman.WeekenderNJ@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter. Connect with WeekenderNJ on Facebook, Twitter and IG.