In this bedroom community north of Phoenix, two gray-haired white residents stand silently at a dusty intersection, holding up homemade signs in the blistering 100-plus-degree heat.
It only takes a few minutes before Linda and Tom Rawles, holding “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice 4 George” signs, hear a clear and now familiar scream from a passing motorist — suggesting this Republican-stronghold suburb of 4,000 is anything but free of cares. “Every life matters!” screams a woman from a red SUV. “Get a f***ing life!”
A few minutes later, another driver waves an obscene gesture out of his window.
The Rawleses wave or hold up peace signs with their fingers, unmoved by the negative feedback.
Politically, the Rawleses describe themselves as independents but remain lifelong Republicans. Both have worked in Arizona’s Republican Party and have run for Congress as Republicans. In 2016, they voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
This November, the Rawleses say, they will vote for Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. They’re among the group of independent voters who say they prefer the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. A number of national polls in the last few weeks show Trump trails Biden among independents, a group he narrowly won in 2016.
Recent polling shows independents now favor Biden. In Arizona, that shift is also seen in polling.
“I’m not Antifa,” jokes Linda Rawles, 61. But the registered Republicans, in just the last few weeks, have been moved by the nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice, the response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recession to this corner.