OOSTBURG, WISCONSIN — Jenny isn't from Oostburg, and she's not Dutch. She works behind the counter at Judi's Place, the diner at the heart of this small village in Sheboygan County. Jenny has surgery scheduled for Wednesday morning to address her carpal-tunnel syndrome.
On Tuesday afternoon, a customer walked in with a frozen dinner and some treats to help Jenny get through her recovery.
"That's Oostburg," Judi says, beaming. Neither Judi nor Jenny is surprised.
One Judi's regular, a retired carpenter named Jack, carves wooden toys that he gives to all the children there, and the place is swarmed with children after the early services at the First Reformed Church across the street, the First Presbyterian Church down the block, the First Christian Reformed Church, catty-corner from that, and Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church further down the road.
Ted Cruz won Oostburg with 74 percent of vote. Grasping why Donald Trump scored only 15 percent here helps us understand what draws people away from, or toward, Trump.
When conservative radio host and Trump critic Charlie Sykes says, "Here in Wisconsin, we value things like civility, decency," or when a Wisconsinite writes in the New York Times about "Trump vs. Nice Wisconsin Folk," they're on to something. There's something about Wisconsin that makes it more hostile to Trump than a blue-collar state with an open primary should be.
If you drill down, it turns out Wisconsin "nice" largely means German or Dutch, like Oostburg.
More than 40 percent of Wisconsin reports German ancestry. The most important counties in a GOP primary are Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties — the Milwaukee suburbs known by the acronym "WOW" — whose German population is closer to 50 percent, and probably higher in a GOP primary electorate.
In these counties, only 25 percent of Republicans view Trump favorably. In the rural Northwestern part of the state, 53 percent like Trump, as Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Craig Gilbert showed in a recent analysis.
It makes sense. In the rural parts of the state, the economy is weaker. More importantly, and related — the culture is crumbling too. Donald Trump says that our country is falling apart, the American Dream is dead, and that a strong national leader is needed to "Make America Great Again."
The economies are stronger near Milwaukee, as shown by the tiny shopping centers that dot the shore of Lake Michigan north of the city. Also, the culture is stronger. Each of those three counties are below the state average on divorce rates and the rate of disability among the working-age population.
Where social cohesion is stronger, as my colleague Michael Barone has suggested, Trump support is weaker. Upper-middle class suburbs tend to have intact families and good public schools, yielding high social capital — and low Trumpism.
Besides high income and highly educated yuppie parents, there's another way to innoculate a place from Trumpism: To be German or Dutch.
We saw this in Iowa and Michigan. While Trump carried the state, Cruz won in the heavily Dutch counties of Allegan, Kent and Ottawa County on the Western edge of the state. The state's most Dutch municipality, Moline, voted 51.23 percent for Cruz.
In Iowa, Donald Trump's worst county was Sioux County, which is 47 percent Dutch and 23 percent German.
Wisconsin is much more German than Dutch. But an hour north of Milwaukee, past the tiny suburbs with their Apple Stores and Brooks Brothers, are two small towns, Oostburg and Cedar Grove. "Oost" is Dutch for East. Cedar Grove was formerly named "New Amsterdam."
When you drive into Cedar Grove, you're greeted by a windmill — not one of those subsidized General Electric windmills, but a wooden, Holland-style windmill. The printshop's sign is in the shape of a wooden shoe.
Oostburg is 47 percent Dutch and 38 percent German. The statistics show a strong community — the divorce rate of 4 percent among men is less than half the national average. The disability rate of 4.5 percent among working-age population is also less than half the national average.
Oostburgers, while modest, don't hide their pride in their community. "What I really like about this community is they stick together," Dan, a mechanic at the nearby dairy and wheat farm tells me at Judi's. "The community really backs their children."
Dan recounts the recent spring concert by Oostburg public schools where his children attend. Both showings were at capacity, because the whole village came, not just parents and grandparents but also neighbors and other locals.
It's not the German or Dutch blood that makes communities like Oostburg so healthy. The churches are essential. They have active missions and ministries that reach out to the needy in their community and out to poorer neighborhoods. The strong evangelical bent of the town explains Rick Santorum's 59 percent to 34 percent win over Mitt Romney in 2012.
Santorum, however, also did very well in the northwest part of Wisconsin, where Trump won. It turns out Santorum's vote in northwest Wisconsin, like his vote in many states, was largely the populist vote. The Santorum vote in Oostburg, and in many German communities around Wisconsin, was the conservative Christian vote — as evidenced by Cruz's giant victory here Tuesday.
Many Dutch and German voters in Iowa and Wisconsin have told me they dislike Trump's style as much as his policies. His personal showiness doesn't fit in. His fondness for insults doesn't either. Jill from Oostburg told me she voted for Cruz, but when I asked her about Trump she squirmed before speaking—Oostburgers aren't comfortable badmouthing people, and she had nothing nice to say about him.
Ted Cruz may not seem like the perfect fit for the nice, reserved, collaboration-minded "frozen chosen," (as many reformed Christians describe themselves). He's not. He's just not Trump. "I did vote for Cruz," Steve Weavers told me outside the Oostburg municipal building, "but I preferred Kasich." He voted Cruz "to stop Trump."
So do Oostburg and Cedar Grove find their strength in homogeneity? Maybe, but State Rep. Terry Katsma is quick to point out that the towns aren't averse to outsiders.
Jenny, a non-Dutch transplant to the town, agrees. Even before the customer brought her food, she told me "the people are very caring."
Their warmth toward outsiders extends to immigrants. Most employees at Judi's are Hispanic immigrants. Dan says the dairy farm couldn't work without Mexicans to milk the cows. Judi tells me she needs the immigrant labor, and that the public schools have gone to lengths to accommodate the children of immigrants who came to Oostburg not knowing English.
At Trump's rally in West Allis on Sunday night, voters sounded a different tune: "They're stealing jobs," Joseph Kubash said forcefully and repeatedly. "Build the wall," his wife sang when the issue came up.
That alienation and disaffection — so muted in upper-middle-class suburbia and the Dutch and German small towns — is everywhere in Trump world. Trump has brought in the people who feel they've been cheated by the system.
CJ La Rocke is a 100 percent disabled Vietnam veteran. He gets around in a wheelchair and lost his right leg below the knee. He had quadruple bypass surgery recently and says he hasn't been able to get the VA to cover it. He was first in line for Trump's West Allis rally.
Gary Lumay served two tours in the Navy in the Persian Gulf. During a flooding situation on a ship, he threw out his back. He gets some disability from VA, but nothing else. "I don't qualify for anything. I don't qualify for food stamps. I have two kids. I'm married. My wife and I have my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law living with me. And I don't qualify for food stamps…. But then somebody that is unemployed and doing nothing? He gets $200." Lumay is backing Trump.
Mike Reedyk is also disabled. I met him at Judi's after church on Sunday. His hands shake, and his speech is slightly off. His family moved here, to Oostburg, to launch their charity, called Our Home Christian Ministries.
OHCM has four houses for the disabled around Oostburg. Part of their mission is to motivate their residents "to develop their abilities to their maximum potential" and find "meaningful work."
The organization fits in with Oostburg because of the spirit of charity, driven largely by the churches, Mike tells me. The local bank, Oostburg State Bank, formerly run by Rep. Katsma, has contributed.
When Americans see the federal government as the source of support and aide, they often end up alienated, like Lumay, La Rocke and Kubash. In places like Oostburg, however, people with struggles can find that support is much closer — and the support goes much deeper.
Oostburg is a strong, functioning, loving town. It has no need for Donald Trump.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.