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    Illustration by Kendall Regan

    “The 1980s ruled,” says the man in the American-flag shirt. “Let’s go back to 1984.” Across the Bud Light logo on the tabletop, his friend nods in agreement. “Reagan is the yardstick for measuring presidents,” he says. They take a moment, as if measuring one now, then toast the sentiment.

    TK’s Pub in Fern Creek is almost empty on the anniversary of the 2016 presidential election. Under low light, a few people prop themselves at the bar, others orbit a pool table in the back and a dozen or so congregate in one corner of the dining room. Two couples sharing a booth bemoan the endless sins of the Obama administration, a few fish looking on from a tank in the back wall. A pair of men spitball a conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton and a grand vizier but pause to thank the waitress delivering their chicken wings. Most of the patrons nurse beers, and a few shoot bourbon. Everyone talks politics. The more emphatic snatches of conversation overpower the canonical classic rock coming through the speakers. A man with a leather jacket and close-cropped white hair goes bug-eyed decrying the scandal of a Democrat who “had sexual relations with a Mexican,” while across the room someone cracks a joke about “Asian chicks giving massages.” These are the Young Professionals for Trump, a local organization formed to support Trump’s bid for the White House and whose activities now center on networking and hanging out at TK’s Pub.

    Wearing a perpetual grin and a matching Trump/Pence shirt and ball cap, chairman Jeff Klusmeier moseys among the tables. He chats up everyone he can, punctuating conversations with plenty of backslapping. He and pub owner Todd King go all the way back to high school. That relationship landed the group a space next door to set up shop. “We offered them the space to use for free as Trump headquarters during the campaign,” King says, “since everyone knew Trump wasn’t putting any money into Kentucky after Hillary ran her mouth about the coal miners.”

    Besides the top-notch beer cheese pretzels and old-school arcade cabinets, group members appreciate the establishment’s “pro-cop, pro-America, support-the-troops” policy, a mantra that someone intones every several minutes. The pub itself has a definite political stance, though you might not know it if you visit while the group is absent. In response to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, King threw out all of the bar’s NFL memorabilia. Klusmeier wrote a press release for the occasion…but neglected to mention (as did much of the ensuing media coverage) that “all of the bar’s NFL memorabilia” amounted to a single signed Cleveland Browns helmet. Some members of the group seem unaware of this. One man explains his admiration of King’s decision to take down “every piece of NFL gear,” gesturing to the entire bar as though the hodgepodge of sporting equipment currently decorating the walls had only been thrown up after King stripped them bare. Customers still watch NFL games at the bar.

    While TK’s overflowed with conservative celebrants on the night of the presidential election, only the true believers have turned out for the birthday of Trump’s America on this otherwise unremarkable Tuesday evening. Among them is University of Louisville student Evan Wright, one of the few actual young professionals in a crowd of 40-somethings. A regular face at the group’s events, Wright is a longtime collaborator of Klusmeier’s and the former executive director of the group’s headquarters. Though his post ended after the campaign, his head is still in the political game tonight. “We’re all about getting young people to get engaged and learn about conservative efforts concerned with Kentucky,” Wright says. “Right now, we’re looking forward to next year and trying to flip the city council.”

    At the end of the bar, Klusmeier huddles with several members to discuss strategies and logistics as he waits for a beverage. Standing among them is Republican mayoral candidate Angela Leet, who has stopped by to present her platform and gauge the group’s support. There is talk in the air tonight of reopening the headquarters to launch phone campaigns supporting local GOP candidates like her. A small pile of Trump/Pence shirts and bumper stickers sits for sale on a high-top table, potentially padding the group’s coffers a little.

    The party winds down around 9 p.m. and the attendees begin trickling out the door. The man who had earlier made the comment about sexual relations with Mexicans is now discussing the prognosis of his degenerative-disc disorder as he prepares to leave. The group members will arrive home to find their party trounced in the night’s elections, no doubt disappointed but undeterred from further organizing.

    “We’ll always have our facilities open for these events,” King says. “We’ve got a beer garden in the back with a glass ceiling — Hillary wasn’t able to break the glass ceiling like she wanted, so I think it’s still there.”

    This originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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