Virginia Votes: Reluctance on Tangier Island

Oct 18, 2016

Denny Crockett, Jamie Crockett, Danny Parks
Credit Pamela D'Angelo

On Tangier Island, people live simply. Church on Sundays, zero alcohol, and you'll never hear them swear. They hail from some of America's first settlements. Many have served their country, including the town manager. Of some 470 Tangiermen, 399 are registered to vote this November. And while the majority are Republican and loyal to their party, this year, they're having a hard time.

Most days, if you time it right, you can catch a group of watermen hanging out at Tangier Oil Company. On a recent Friday, a group of island elders, all devoted Republicans, were sitting out front on a bench. They're a brutally honest bunch like Edward Parks, an 81-year-old who still goes out to catch crabs. 

“They should have gotten a better man. They don't ever have a good man running,” says Parks.

Or woman, Parks quickly adds. So, what does he want in a candidate?

"It's the first time ever for me that I've ever considered not voting."

“Well, you've got to trust them,” he says. 

In the background, Denny Crockett eggs Parks on. “We want another Reagan!”

“That's it. Another Ronald Reagan. On Tangier you could dig him up in that graveyard and he'd still win,” Park replies.

Crockett used to be the principal of Tangier Combined School. Now he owns a restaurant with his wife and runs Tangier Oil. As a small businessman, he's got some advice for the candidates.

“Act like you've got some morals," says Parks. "If you don't, just act like it. Some of the things they say in public. I never thought we'd see people running for the presidency act like they act. Very, very disappointing.”

If Trump is going to put the morals back in this country, it's in a heap of trouble, I'll tell you that,” pipes up Danny Parks, who works with Crockett.

Believe it or not, another Denny Crockett, a bit younger, pulls his boat up to the dock and joins the conversation. The two Crocketts are not related. Denny Crockett has one problem with Trump.

“Behavior," he says. 

A Trump sign outside of a business on Tangier Island.

When asked if he knows who he wants to vote for, the younger Crockett nods.

“Yeah. Well, no, but I know who I'm gonna vote for," Crockett says. "I'll vote Republican, but reluctantly.” 

Jamie Crockett, a waterman who had been complaining about the price of crabs has been listening on quietly. He votes every year just like his seat-mates. This year though, he says it's up in the air whether he'll vote at all. 

That sentiment is echoed by his bench-mates.

“It's the first time ever for me that I've ever considered not voting," Denny Crocket says. "And I can't do that because too many people have lost their lives to give us the right to vote.”

“This is the first year I just felt, I don't know if I'm going to vote or not," Danny Parks says. "That's the first time it's come to my mind. But like he says, for our freedom and stuff, yeah, I want to vote for that, that's for sure.”

As the ferry nears the mainland in late afternoon, tourist's cellphones ping as cellular connections return --bringing more news about bad behavior on the campaign trail. But, the people back on Tangier, remain loyal.