Twelve days in Florida were a therapeutic escape from grey snow and brutal cold in Massachusetts, but even in the Sunshine State one couldn’t escape the maladies of the political environment. A tour boat along the inland waterway near Palm Beach chronicled gossipy profiles of the billionaires, including Bernie Madoff marks, who built breath-taking mansions. Visitors are regaled with what the homes’ market values are, the net worth of the residents, and how they made their money. They are, quite clearly, Trump insiders. We in the Northeast are always accused of living in a bubble. What kind of bubble is Palm Beach?
Friends and relatives living on the island regaled us with stories of how miserable Donald Trump has made ordinary people’s lives during his weekends at Mar-a-Lago when security precautions, including road closings, create traffic jams and create physical discomfort. Some home owners are putting their mansions on the market because agencies protecting the President won’t let them go about their lives. Others are staying away. Ten-minute trips are taking well over an hour. One woman with a gastrointestinal disorder had to make a U-turn across two manicured lawns because she couldn’t stand the pressure of waiting to reach her bathroom.
Business is off from pricey Worth Avenue to small vendors dependent on weekend beach trade. (National Public Radio told of a company that sells advertising by flying banners over beaches on weekends, but he is being forced out of business because federal rules ban flights in that airspace when the President is in residence.) Gardeners have to be off Palm Beach Island by three o’clock in the afternoon. This is certainly just a “first world problem” for affluent local residents, but the gardeners are not well-heeled. Often immigrants laboring to support their families, they are just collateral damage of Donald Trump’s lifestyle.
With all the lock-down and inconvenience created in the name of security, Politico has called Mar-a-Lago a “haven for spies” due to lax control of access to the club itself. Why can’t Donald Trump just go to the secure Presidential retreat at Camp David, which we taxpayers are already paying for? Too rustic and private for his desire to lead the ostentatious life among the beautiful people, one supposes.
We haven’t been back to the West Coast of Florida since the election, but we’ve heard that the longtime, laid-back unpretentious character of the region has been replaced by triumphant mid-West snowbirds exulting in Trump’s victory. This is a battle ground state, even after the election. While Palm Beach County went for Hillary Clinton, Palm Beach itself voted heavily for Donald Trump. Other nearby counties are Trump territory too. Now the locals are living with the results, as is the rest of the country, but arguably in a more intimate way. The lesson of the day: Be careful what you wish for.
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