Cape May County may claim to be a welcoming, tourist-driven community, but Trump supporters have repeatedly shown their willingness to vilify and reject anyone they don’t perceive as being in the tribe.
By David Todd McCarty | Thursday, August 13, 2020
“Get the fuck out of here” is not really the type of thing one expects to hear from a business owner when you are on vacation. Certainly not when you are trying to give them your business, while attempting to mind your own.
You spend your hard-earned money on a weekly rental, looking to get away from the monotony of quarantine life and enjoy some time at the beach in relative quiet and safety. You bring your 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, with the intent of showing them a good time in a quiet, seaside town you’ve been coming to for years. The last thing you are expecting is to be judged, harassed, cursed at, and threatened with physical violence. Certainly not in quaint, little, Victorian Cape May.
But that is apparently the new normal in Cape May County since Donald Trump took office.
“Get the fuck out of here” is not really the type of thing one expects to hear from a business owner when you are on vacation.
What used to be a welcoming, bucolic, seaside getaway, Cape May County has become an unwelcoming place for many. In what can only be described as a reflection of President Trump’s caustic approach to any and all dissent, local business leaders, government officials, and even police departments have become emboldened to treat anyone who disagrees with their politics, with hostility and vitriol. This is leaving many people to feel unwelcome in this tourist-dependent community, and threatens both public safety and the social fabric of our community.
Lori and Ferd M______ have been coming to Cape May for years, and used to keep a boat here. They even got married in Cape May. Now they mostly just come for periodic vacations, and were in the middle of a weekly rental this week when they passed Elaine’s, a self-described boutique hotel, restaurant, and dinner theater that also has an outside patio bar. They thought it looked like a nice place to stop and have a drink, so they did. They walked up to the bar, and noticed that Patrick Wall, who identified himself that evening as the owner of the establishment, was standing behind the bar talking to some other customers. Ferd had met Patrick many years ago when Patrick was a bartender at the Moshulu in Philadelphia, and was someone he considered an acquaintance.
He took off his mask briefly so Patrick could see his face and said, “Hey Pat, it’s Ferd M______.”
They heard Patrick (who was not wearing a mask) tell the couple he was talking to, “He owns a truck company, he’ll vote Republican.”
He was referring to Ferd, who hadn’t brought up politics, or anything else, as they had just arrived and weren’t part of the conversation, but since Patrick was now presuming to speak for him, Ferd felt the need to correct the comment and replied, “Actually, I’m voting for Biden.”
“Then get the fuck out of here,” Patrick said and turned away from them.
“It was one of those ‘he must be joking’ moments,” says Lori. “After a few uncomfortable moments, Patrick quietly told the bartender ‘we have to serve them or they can sue.’ We still sort of thought he was joking.”
“We ordered drinks from the bartender,” explains Lori, “but since I wanted bubbly, and that was only served at the other bar, we walked over to take a seat. Our 16 year-old daughter and her boyfriend were with us, and they sat with us for a few minutes, but then walked home because the kitchen was closed and the frozen drinks the bar served were pre-made with alcohol in them.”
After a bit, Lori having finished her drink and Ferd still with a half a drink in his hand, walked back towards the other bar. As they came past the bar, Patrick approached them, and even though they were both wearing masks, and Patrick wasn’t, he came forward and gave Ferd a hug saying, “You’re not really voting for a Democrat? I thought you worked for a living.”
“I actually lean more Republican in many ways,” said Ferd.
“But you’re voting for Biden?” said Patrick.
“I can’t vote for someone who hurts our country, disrespects women and veterans,” said Ferd.
It was at this point, according to Ferd and Lori, that Patrick went “ballistic.”
“He went from zero to 200 in five seconds,” says Ferd.
According to Ferd and Lori, Patrick began yelling “get the fuck out of here” and “don’t ever come back.”
Ferd told Patrick he was being rude and he responded by asking Ferd if he “wanted to take this out back” which Ferd understood to mean that Patrick was suggesting they have a physical altercation.
Finally Patrick told them, “if you don’t leave this second I’ll have someone come fix this for me” which Ferd says he took as, “fix me and my wife.”
Ferd placed his unfinished drink on the bar and they left without saying another word. Behind them, other patrons at the bar heckled them saying, “What’s the matter with you buddy? Don’t you understand English?” and “get the fuck out, fucking liberals.”
“I was shaking,” says Lori.
According to Lori and Ferd, Patrick then followed them to the parking lot, which is adjacent to the property and told them, “You’re lucky this isn’t my lot so I can’t come after you.”
Then he added, “Which car is yours, just so I know?”
“He said it in an ominous manner,” says Ferd.
Ferd stood “with my wife safely behind me,” under a street light and didn’t say anything more. Finally Patrick walked away and they got in their car quickly and left.
“There were a lot more F-bombs, and it was a lot worse in person than it sounds here, but I’m not one to curse,” said Ferd. “I mean he threatened me, threatened my wife, curses us out in front of our kids, and we’re just supposed to just accept that?”
Lori posted an account of the episode on Facebook, where it garnered a lot of attention, both from friends who were shocked by their treatment and locals who criticized the outrageous behavior.
“I’m concerned about my wife and I now,” says Ferd. “That other like-minded people here, who think like he does, will come after us.”
On Thursday, the following was posted to Elaine’s Facebook page:
“Like many people these days, I got myself into a heated political exchange with someone I know — only this person was also a patron at our bar sitting with other patrons. I don’t have the right to mix politics with our bar patrons, and I deeply regret making patrons uncomfortable. I was totally wrong, and I personally apologized to the people involved. I also want my apology to be public and open to all, just like our establishment.” – Patrick Wall
“I’d like to offer a drink (beer or Coke) to anyone who will accept my husband’s very sincere apology above. Just come to our bar and let us know, “I accept.” We all need more apologies and more acceptance.” — Shirley Phinney, owner.
There were a lot of responses along this line:
“Just the fact that you weren’t wearing a mask as the owner is enough for me. You have a great place except the people make the place most welcoming. There were teens there, for gosh sake! Since I am a proud democrat that treats all people respectfully, I no longer feel I am your target clientele. I hope you think hard about what you believe in, I honestly do because this is the type of behavior your boy trump encourages and look how you made your guests feel.”
“Sorry, beyond the pale. I just had dinner with my long-time best friend who is Republican. We would never disrespect each other.”
“Now I don’t feel safe there. My family and I won’t be coming anymore.”
“Too little, too late. And yeah, wear your mask.”
“Your apology needs to be as loud as the disrespect you caused and this was NOT it. Your husband followed the couple out to their car and continued to threaten and shout at them. Like I said, this half ass apology doesn’t compare to the disrespect that was given. Try again. As a local, it was disappointing to hear that this is what we have to represent us as a town.”
“When you start out by saying, ‘like many people today’ you are saying, ‘everybody does this.’ No they don’t.”
But others felt differently and posted accordingly:
“Get real. All of you people complaining are significantly older than me, and you’re all acting like the sensitive snowflakes in my generation!! Elaine’s is a quality establishment and has been since I can remember! It’s 2020, if you don’t have thick skin by now, stay home lol.”
“People, the gentleman apologized. We have all done things in our past that we regret. Get over it.”
“Hasn’t anyone ever had a bad day get over it , people keep wanting to change history & our own feelings !! So he didn’t agree and cursed , I guess you all live in Glass house’s.”
“You don’t owe anyone an apology. No one is perfect. Life moves on. Elaine’s is amazing. We will be back.”
“Sounds like cancel culture at its finest. Willing to put an entire establishment and it’s staff out of business for one person’s actions.”
“Oh boy, left is rioting and looting all over USA …but the snowflake mob comes out as vicious as ever to attack a restaurant. Trump 2020!”
Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and traditionally refers to “an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.” Under New Jersey law, persons convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude” are unable to have any interest in or work as an ABC licensed business. While cursing someone out, threatening to beat them up and making terroristic threats may or may not, in fact, rise to the level of moral turpitude, it certainly makes you question their ability to responsibly serve alcohol and operate an open-air saloon in plain view of the public.
In the aftermath of this story, other people have come forward with their own stories of bad behavior in Cape May County. As you might imagine, everyone is understandably concerned about retaliation or retribution from other Trump supporters, so we have endeavored to keep them at least somewhat anonymous.
One such resident responded with a story about a prominent real estate agent who he used to have business dealings with but who regularly posted aggressive memes and articles about topics such as the coronavirus being a political hoax, conservative religious posts that were vaguely homophobic, anti-immigrant sentiment and pro-Trump messaging. He felt he couldn’t continue to send clients her way due to the fact that he no longer felt he could trust that she would be ethically fair to them. What would she do if he sent a gay couple or a Muslim family. He couldn’t be sure. So he sent her a personal letter telling her why and she turned around and posted it publicly and tried to get him fired, claiming he was trying to hurt her business.
Another resident who lives on the canal told a story about an obnoxious group of boaters in a large vessel named “The Beast” that would fly a Trump flag and “continually float past our homes blaring obnoxious music and stopping in front of our house yelling and screaming randomly as they raised multiple Trump flags.”
“They would stop at the railroad bridge and circle around while jumping up and down acting like complete, disrespectful idiots,” she said. “At one point my in-laws were outside witnessing this as well as the neighbor’s children. Their behavior was beyond obnoxious. More like disturbing the peace and public harassment. We reported it to the marine police who hunted them down for two days, searching the local marinas. They finally found them docked at Spicer’s Creek Marina.”
“The marine police were very helpful and responsive. They said that sort of behavior is not to be tolerated, and they shouldn’t be behaving that way. They told us if it happened again, to report it immediately.”
“I have a boutique on the Wildwood boardwalk,” another resident explained. “We require masks. We have been cursed out. Flipped off. Screamed at. The “masks required” signs on our windows have been vandalized multiple times. It’s been ridiculous to say the least.”
One resident was hired to provide sound for a Democratic event and explained, “I’m a life-long registered Republican. But I endured the absolute worst of humanity. I was spit on, cursed out, and had things thrown at me. It caused me to register as an independent and has changed my views.”
When you have a mayor of one town, who is supposed to represent the entire community but who regularly posts hateful political rhetoric on social media, you can’t help but think he would never be impartial in representing you unless you adhere to his political party. The same holds true for a Chief of Police who posts conspiracy theories, or a health inspector that posts disinformation about COVID-19.
Since the original post went viral throughout Cape May County, and the resulting “public apology” from Patrick Wall and Shirley Phinney, a silent protest was organized in part by members of Cape May County Indivisible for Friday, August 14, at 6pm. According to a post by the organizers:
“We will line the sidewalk, standing in our power, letting all who love this town know that Hate Has No Home Here. This gathering is in response to the owner of this establishment verbally assaulting and threatening a couple and their daughter after the couple expressed that they would be voting for Joe Biden in November. Please wear a mask and practice all social distancing guidelines so that we may all be safe.”
Despite the apology posted to Facebook by Wall and the offer of a free drink by Phinney, there is reportedly a counter-protest being organized by more “like-minded people” to “pack Elaine’s with Trump supporters.”
So rather than accepting responsibility for accosting a patron for simply stating who they were voting for in the most important election in the country, the owners of Elaine’s are going to turn the situation into a political confrontation.
This is the lesson Trump’s followers have learned, and learned well. Always be on the offensive. Fight every battle. Admit nothing. Never back down. Never say you were wrong. Own the liberals.
One day, hopefully soon, Trump will be gone, but we will still be dealing with the aftermath of the hate and caustic behavior that has become rampant in America. Only in Trump’s America can you find yourself in a position of power and privilege and still cry that you are being persecuted. Only in Cape May County can you find a seasonal business in the middle of a pandemic, with an economy on the verge of catastrophic collapse, and yet so beholden to tribal ideology, that you will chase off customers because they are not of your clan.
You are not worthy of their respect. You have not accepted their dear leader. You do not worship their gods. You are not part of their tribe.
Therefore, you, are not welcome here.
Requests for comment on this story were sent to Shirley Phinney, who lists herself as the owner of Elaine’s as well as Patrick Wall, who she refers to as her husband. They were not returned.
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