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Another summer in Republican Land

BY KATE WALTER | It’s June at the Jersey Shore and it’s not a presidential election year. But the Republican residents are already out of their minds with anti-Biden sentiment. I had to laugh when a Greenwich Village writer friend asked me if I did code switching when I went back and forth from the West Village to Ocean County, New Jersey, during the summer.

No, I don’t do code switching and that’s why I couldn’t keep my mouth shut when I was recently in Rite Aid in Lavallette, New Jersey, and I saw this older white guy wearing a sarcastic shirt with a litany of things he disliked about Joe Biden and his family. I couldn’t read everything on the shirt but I got the gist. So I walked up to him and said, “I love Joe Biden.” He and his wife seemed startled but he replied, “Good for you.” I shot back, “When you wear your opinion outwardly on your shirt, you’re going to hear mine.”

Ocean Beach, N.J., before the summer crowds. (Photo by Kate Walter)

This is the one thing I hate about vacationing on this beautiful barrier island where my (now deceased) parents bought a bungalow in Ocean Beach many decades ago. When we first started coming down the shore in the 1950s, not that many people lived here year-round. But all that’s changed. Ocean County is now a mecca for retirees, with lots of over-55 communities.

During the election year of 2020, Trump flags far outnumbered the Biden flags. I hoped we might have a respite from overt political displays for at least another summer, but I was wrong. It’s starting and I need to brace myself.

Actually, I just recalled an incident (more like an omen) from last summer when a newish homeowner on my block dispatched his grandkids outside to play with colored chalk. Kids do that all the time — they usually draw stick people or starfish — but these kids marked our road with pro-Trump graffiti! (Talk about grooming.) I was really pissed because this is also my street and the road in front of our houses is a public area. I was debating whether to say something and then it rained and the offensive words got washed away.

The harvest moon in September 2022 at Ocean Beach, N.J. (Photo by Kate Walter)

I don’t know how my liberal friends can stand living year-round in Ocean County, which incidentally has the lowest vaccination rate in New Jersey. My good friend, Ian, who has a charming apartment in Lavallette, makes a point of putting his American flag out on his porch every morning. He wants his neighbors to know that a gay man, and a Democrat, can also be patriotic.

My liberal brother also lives in Ocean County, although he’s not on the barrier island, where the summer residents bring an infusion of Democrats, like me. My brother says he just ignores the flags and signs, including the vulgar ones. That is probably a good idea. But his sister (me), who lives in Manhattan, can’t keep her mouth shut.

After I left Rite Aid, I went across the street to Playa Bowl to get a healthy breakfast. As I was leaving the store, I saw the Republican couple sitting on a bench. I got a much better look at the shirt, but I managed to restrain myself and I didn’t say anything. The shirt said something about Biden’s mental haze and Hunter doing blow. I had to laugh at that. At least Hunter is in recovery. Don Jr. seems to be stoned whenever he makes a video.

What’s intriguing to me is how people feel so free to do this in Ocean County. I guess they think it’s safe. I want to make them feel as uncomfortable as they make me feel. I admit I enjoy needling them. How dare they invade my happy place!

Yes, I discussed my outspoken behavior with my therapist back in 2020 and she told me to be careful. It’s risky. But I’m bold. Or am I foolish? And if this is what’s happening in 2023, I dread to think what it will be like here in the summer of 2024. I may need some extra sessions.

But when it’s a beautiful day and I’m on the beach and swimming in the ocean, I can block these people out. I wish I could avoid Rite Aid but it’s the only drugstore in town. It’s an educational eye-opener for me to see what’s going on outside of my liberal bubble. And this is New Jersey, a blue state, where marijuana is legal. (Yay.) I refuse to even visit Florida.

The Lava Java cafe — one of the cool places in Lavallette, N.J. (Photo by Kate Walter)

But Lavallette wins points for its hip lesbian-owned coffee shop, Lava Java, which was flying a big rainbow flag during June. The cafe has great coffee, good food, reasonable prices and outdoor seating. Everyone eats there, even the cops. If only the rest of the town could be like Lava Java. Plus, a vegan take-out food and bakery opened in town last summer. Another good sign.

The day I was leaving, June 15, I walked up my street to say goodbye to the ocean until my next visit. That’s when I saw this car parked in the road. I gathered it belonged to a contractor who is building a house on my street. He had a magnet on his car — Trump 2024 — along with a pro-police flag and another conservative slogan.

I stopped and stared, not realizing the owner of the car was inside. As I walked past I turned and said, “Trump is going to jail.” That is when I saw the cult member, who did not look up from his phone. Yes, I’ve said this before, but this time I think I’m right.

Sunrise in Ocean Beach, N.J. (Photo by Kate Walter)

As the song goes, “Summertime is on its way.” While it might not be “easy living every day,” I’m not going to let anyone ruin my Jersey Shore fun.

Walter is the author of the memoir “Behind the Mask: Living Alone in the Epicenter.”


  1. Erica Manfred Erica Manfred June 21, 2023

    I live in Florida and I admire Kate’s chutzpah in confronting the Trumpers at the Jersey shore. I’m used to loud right-wingers but she isn’t. I wouldn’t have the nerve to talk up, though I’d like to (too many guns here), but she was just speaking her truth. It is really infuriating to have to live with right-wing slogans on the street in front of your house. I think it was a really fun read and reflected the reality of today’s chasm between right and left.

  2. Bruce from jersey Bruce from jersey June 21, 2023

    Thanks for this account of life in this relaxing but problematic beach town..and I do think some replies or occcasional nasty looks at these anti-democracy people is warranted, esp. if they’re teaching their kids to write propaganda on the street. As for some of these comments above, I agree that it’s very sad when we can’t accept people, with all their intolerance, ridicule & their insistence on believing lies and ignoring science & public health. Isn’t their POV just as valid? 😉

  3. Maria Maria June 21, 2023

    It definitely goes both ways. I, as a Republican, cannot have a respectful argument with my liberal friends. They can freely express their opinions, while I cannot. What has happened to respectfully listening to each other? It is virtually nonexistent. I often wonder when do the lists start, or is my name on a list because I expressed an opinion. Wait, the lists have started. Parents are being labeled as domestic terrorists because they dare to question the opposition. Scary. History does repeat itself.

  4. Leewardian Leewardian June 21, 2023

    I didn’t need to click the article to know you vacation around the corner. I agree with your brother — we also just ignore it, though I do snap pics of the wilder varieties for some possible future when this fever dream has passed.

  5. kathleentreat kathleentreat June 20, 2023

    It can certainly be tough living in a democratic society, where all of us have the right to our opinions — even the loud nut jobs. It would be SO GOOD to return to a civil society, where people did not behave so grossly and bully-ish to fellow Americans.

  6. Don Don June 20, 2023

    Poor little snowflake

  7. Donnacha Donnacha June 20, 2023


  8. M----- M----- June 20, 2023

    sigh…it goes both ways. Far-right Biden haters are no more or less offensive than far left Trump haters. The T-shirts, the billboards, the memes. The children with the pro-Trump chalk…balances out the children who were crying when Trump won. It would be nice if we left the children to be children and not mini political advocates

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