Interview: The Appeal and Ascent of Donald Trump

Interview: The Appeal and Ascent of Donald Trump (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburg Post-Gazette)

In the wake of Donald Trump’s historic upset in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, The College Voice sat down with two Trump supporters: a white, middle-aged, college-educated, heterosexual married couple from a blue state in New England who cast their ballots for the Republican nominee on Nov. 8. The content of that interview is as follows.

The College Voice (TCV): How would you describe the community in which you live?

Woman (W): It’s a predominantly white, suburban, middle-class, working community.

TCV: Would you say that you are indicative of that community?

W: Yes, absolutely.

TCV: Would you say that most people in your social circles share the same worldview or perspective as yourselves?

W: Not necessarily.

Man (M): I would say yes.

TCV: How would you describe your partisan affiliation? Democratic, Republican, independent, something else?

W: My affiliation is independent. I vote the person not the party.

M: Same for me.

TCV: Who did you vote for in the 2008 and 2012 U.S. presidential elections?

M: I don’t remember honestly, but I would say John McCain.

W: I would say the same probably.

TCV: In 2012?

W: Romney.

M: Definitely Romney.

TCV: What do you think of the direction of the economy before this year’s presidential election?

W: My perception is that the economy is in shambles. Way too many working class jobs have been lost. There are far too many social elite – including Wall Street – that are taking money from the average working class person. The cost of health insurance has been absolutely prohibitive for the average working class person.

M: Part of what people don’t understand is that Obamacare sounds great only if your income is low enough. Neither of us qualify for Obamacare. My wife actually had to drop her health insurance last year because she was paying over $11,000 a year out of her pocket for our health insurance. When she dropped it, I ended up taking out health insurance just for myself through the small business that I own-mainly because I got prostate cancer and had to deal with all of the large expenses that come with that kind of treatment. But last March my personal insurance went up $190 a month- in a single month – to the point where I couldn’t afford it, so I had to drop it too. Obamacare sounds great in principle but for a lot of people – especially if you’re self-employed – it doesn’t work.

W: I’m a hard-working teacher, I’ve been in the teaching system for twenty years, I give back to the community and I cannot afford health insurance. So I am completely uninsured. Obamacare does not work for me, because by government standards, I do not make little enough to qualify for Obamacare. So I make too much for that, and yet, I don’t make enough to actually pay for it out of my own pocket so I have to choose to be uninsured because it’s the only financial reality for me.

M: Another thing that a lot of people don’t understand is that Obamacare, on the surface, is a good concept – that everyone is going to be insured – but what that did is make insurance companies cover people that they hadn’t previously. So what they had to do – because they’re not going to lose money – is increase premiums astronomically and the result is that everybody else has to pay for it. They’re still raking in their millions of dollars while everybody else has picked up the tab. That’s what a lot of people don’t realize about Obamacare.

TCV: So, you talked about Obamacare a lot. Do you feel that that is the reason that the economy is in shambles? Do you feel that Obamacare only contributed to it? Or do you feel that it was something else?

W: I would say that Obamacare contributed to the current state of the economy but it’s not the major cause. As the election results were coming in on Tuesday night, the media was reporting how working class, blue collar people were flooding to the polls in droves like no one had ever seen before. And the reason for that is because so many jobs have been lost in this country because of the trade that has gone on. It is not balanced. It’s not being done in a way that benefits our economy. It’s good to have good relations with other countries but you have to make that a balance and we don’t have that balance. We have lost way too many jobs to other countries and that is one of the main parts of Trump’s platform that caused so many working class people to vote for him. They voted for jobs.

TCV: So would you say that trade and Obamacare – for you at least – are the two issues that are most responsible for the current state of the economy?

W: Well, trade and not giving enough incentives to small businesses – not big businesses, there’s a difference. I believe that Hillary Clinton kept putting all business exemptions in one big basket claiming that if you give businesses at all any sort of tax break or incentive then that’s bad. But there is a big difference between big business and small business. And what Trump has said he is trying to do is give incentive to small business in order to increase the success of our economy. And a lot of people don’t understand that.

M: But I don’t think he’s talking about just small business either.

W: Well, all business, yeah.

M: I think he wants to give big corporations – and I could be wrong, but this is the impression I got from one of the debates – he wants to give big business some sort of tax break just to bring jobs back into the U.S. because right now it’s just not beneficial financially for them to keep certain manufacturing jobs in the United States.

W: Right.

M: That’s why for years now they’ve been going to China and Mexico and now India. And the labor of all of those countries has undercut the labor of American workers to the point where big companies are finding that’s what they have to do to stay profitable. And one of the ways that Trump wants to bring jobs back into the United States is to give companies certain tax breaks. But it will balance out in the end.

W: I think my husband is exactly right about that. When Trump talked about tax breaks for big business, Hillary Clinton jumped all over that and twisted it. What he meant was exactly what my husband just said. What Trump meant was tax breaks for those big companies only if they stop outsourcing the jobs and give the jobs to Americans. And that is why so many of the working class people wanted Trump. He can bring jobs back here by those tax incentives. It’s not like he’s giving big breaks to them.

M: He’s not doing it so that they can get richer.

W: Right. It’s not like that at all and a lot of people don’t understand that.

TCV: Put simply, what is your opinion of Donald Trump?

W: First, and above all, I think he’s an excellent businessman. I think he has a lot to learn as far as controlling his temper and being more diplomatic. But to me, it is more important that we have right now –  at the critical situation that our country is in – it is most important that we have someone who understands business, because ultimately our country is one big business. He knows how to make businesses run successfully. He sees where the problems are. He knows where there are solutions that are simple. And I also think that evidenced by his children who are all very intelligent, successful, young professionals he obviously has raised them to be that way and that speaks volumes about a person when you look at their children. So in spite of any emotional lack of control that he may have, I’m hoping he will learn to control that a little bit more, but in spite of that, the more important thing is his business knowledge. And up until now, there have only been two presidents in the entire history of the United States who have had degrees in business or economics – one of them being Ronald Reagan, and look at how productive the economy was under Ronald Reagan. So that is something that I have been looking at.

M: I think looking at him since he’s won the election I think his demeanor has calmed down. I think he’s actually been humbled. My wife and I were just saying a little while ago, both of us for the first time are actually excited about a new president. I think he’ll bring a lot to the table. I think he’s got a lot to learn. And I think, myself personally, I don’t believe that he’s prejudiced. I don’t believe it. I actually agree with him. Not all Mexican people are bad, but in that part of the country they are just flooding in by the thousands to the point where the governor of Arizona had taken it upon herself to close the borders. They just couldn’t handle it. One of the things that I like about him is he’s actually had the guts to say things that most politicians don’t. And I guess it’s not politically correct, but there’s just certain things that are a reality today whether people want to accept it or not. It’s not always pleasant I guess, but that’s my opinion. I don’t agree with everything that he’s said or done or his approach in doing so, but I do for the most part agree with him.

TCV: What is your opinion of Hillary Clinton?

W: I think she’s a crook. I wouldn’t trust her with anything. There is so much documented evidence about how much money she has obtained illegally and through abuse of her power as Secretary of State that I cannot understand how anyone can look past that and think that someone who would abuse that level of power for the means of money at the level of Secretary of State – what on Earth is she going to do if she is given the power of the presidency? I cannot understand why anyone in this country could possibly vote for her.

M: I don’t think, in terms of foreign policy, that a lot of the leaders of other countries would really take her seriously. She wears bad pantsuits.

TCV: In post election analysis, there’s been a lot of talk about how Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders had echoed similar themes throughout their respective campaigns. What is your opinion of Sanders?

W: I agree with some of things that he says, and others I don’t agree with. I think his heart is in the right place. Some of the initiatives that he used as part of his platform are admirable. I do think that many of his ideas are idealistic and socialistic, and as nice as they sound, the money that it takes to fund all those things has to come from somewhere. And ultimately having all of those things paid for that he was talking about so much by the government would have far too much government control, and I don’t think that a large amount of federal control is good for our country because it is so large and so diverse – not just as far as demographically but as far as geographically we have completely different climates and geographic issues that affect people in so many different parts of the country. I really think that more power needs to be given to the individual states, because it’s not as if we’re a country the size of France or Germany. I think they’re actually both smaller than the state of Texas. So, government control for our country doesn’t work, and I think what Bernie Sanders was trying to promote had a lot to do with federal government control. So that part I don’t think would work, but I do think that some of his initiatives were good ideas.

M: I don’t really know enough about him to give much of an opinion.

TCV: Who did you vote for in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?

W: Trump.

M: Trump.

TCV: Could you explain why?

W: I think he was the only person who could offer the hope to our country to change the things that are so horribly wrong right now with the system. And also because he is independently wealthy enough that he won’t be influenced by lobbyists and all of the political pressure and the establishment that has been there. There is a Republican establishment and there is a Democratic establishment and Trump doesn’t have to be influenced by either. That is ultimately why I voted for him, because he is a true independent and he can remain a true independent in everything that he does.

M: I read today online – and I don’t know how true it is – that he wasn’t going to take a salary as president.

W: I wouldn’t be surprised. He doesn’t need it.

M: One of the reasons I voted for him was just because I didn’t want Hillary in there. I didn’t want to see her get in there.

W: I thought that would have been a disaster for our country if she had won.

M: If someone like Chris Christie had run in the general election as a third party candidate I probably would not have voted for Donald Trump. If there was another candidate that I had thought would have done a better job I probably would have voted for them. Now that Trump’s been elected and just, again, seeing his demeanor the past couple of days he seems to have been humbled a little bit. I’m excited. I think he’s going to do a good job.

TCV: If you had to pick one single theme or issue from Trump’s campaign, which would you say is the most appealing?

M: Bringing work back to America.

W: Yeah, I agree. Jobs. And, I know that this is an aside, but I know that a lot of people right now are rioting and are depressed and saddened at the thought of Donald Trump being our president because they feel he is racist and they see tragedy for our country. All I would have to offer to these people is that he spoke negatively of Mexicans only because of the violence and the tragedy that is being inflicted on Americans in that part of the country. Trump wants to stop the bad things that are happening from Mexicans who are doing things that are not positive. He does not hate all Mexicans. He never said that. I think that was part of a lot of sensationalism for the campaign in order to get votes. But the other thing that I know people are very worried about is when Trump said that he does not want to admit anymore Muslims – refugees especially. What so many people neglect to absorb is that he only wants to stop immigration of Muslims temporarily until we can figure out a better way to find out who has evil intent and who doesn’t. He has not said that he hates all Muslims, and all Muslims are bad, and that Muslims will never be able to enter the United States ever. People just have taken his one statement about wanting to protect Americans by being cautious and slowing down on the process and doing it in a smart way and a cautious way and they’ve gone into a total panic and turned everything into an extreme sort of a situation that is not necessary.

TCV [to man]: What do you think of Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigration?

M: I think it’s a cautious move, and I think it’s a smart move. I mean, if there’s a certain group of people that are obviously intent on doing America harm – or any country for that matter, like France, look at what France has dealt with – why wouldn’t you be cautious, you know? I remember in one of my high school history classes – and I can’t remember what nationality we were talking about – but the teacher brought up a good point: not every culture or nationality makes good American citizens. Let’s face it, different countries have different values and I mean, if someone’s views and values on the way they conduct their life don’t coincide with the country that they’re trying to live in it’s only natural that people would get upset and not accept them or want them in there. So, to answer your question, I think it’s a smart move. It’s not a popular move, but again I think that’s what separates him from your typical politician. He’s not trying to be politically correct. It’s just common sense as far as I’m concerned.

W: Trump’s trying to protect Americans. That’s all he’s trying to do is protect Americans.

M: And I don’t think he’s said anything negative about black people.

W: Never! And that’s why I don’t understand why so many blacks are saying that he’s racist against blacks! He has never made a single statement against blacks. He is concerned about Muslims specifically because of terrorism. He has a reason and he’s being cautious. He’s not condemning them all. He has a reason to be concerned about Mexicans coming across the border because of documented violence by repeat offenders in that area. But he has not – other than those two situations that have specific grounded fact – he has not condemned all races that are not white! I mean if there were terrorists coming from Denmark, I am sure he would put a ban on immigration of Danish people. It has nothing to do with their religion. It is just that there is a faction coming from that demographic that is threatening the United States. So you figure it out!

TCV: It seems that we’ve already touched a bit on this subject, but is there anything else you would like to say specifically about Trump’s proposal to deport the twenty million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States?

M: Well I think part of the reason that he wants to do this is well, 1. It’s just illegal. And 2. There’s only so many jobs in the country to go around. To put it in very simplified terms, if you have a sixteen ounce glass it only holds a certain amount. If you keep pouring water or any other liquid into the glass it’s going to overflow. The country only has so much capacity to keep people housed, insured, fed, and in jobs. I don’t think that’s the reason that he’s turning them away, but if you’re going to live and work in this country it has to be legally. The laws are set up for a reason.

TCV: What would either of you say to those who would argue that, for example, the agricultural economy especially in states like California and Washington where we get a lot of our food is almost entirely dependent on labor from undocumented immigrants? What would you say to those who have concern that the deportation of these twenty million undocumented immigrants might have a severe effect on the economy?

W: My guess would be that, if any undocumented immigrants have an actual good reason to be in the country – if they are actually working a job and contributing to our economy – Donald Trump isn’t stupid. I am sure that he would find a way to allow people like that, who are contributing in a way that they are not taking a job away from someone else – I mean if nobody else really wants to pick grapes and these people are okay with it then, well, that might be okay. I think if people are here to get an education, he’s probably not going to deport them. I think his main concern is the people who are flooding over the border and doing nothing but getting on our public assistance welfare programs and getting a paycheck from the government for doing nothing. I really don’t think that his big beef is with people who are actually working. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m guessing that there will be some sort of separation and analysis there for different kinds of undocumented immigrants in our country.

TCV: Under the Obama administration, the federal government implemented two programs aimed towards undocumented immigrants: DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Do you think that there should be a change in those policies?

W: I think there should be a change. I think that basically if you want to stay here, then you get documented! What’s the big deal? The reason these people don’t want to get documented is that then they have to start paying taxes. That’s the reason. So you get documented, you pay taxes, and you contribute like everybody else.

M: And you learn the language!

W: That’s right! And do not drain our educational system requiring teachers to make ridiculous accommodations and undergo expensive training that drains the federal and state budgets in order to accommodate people who come here and refuse to learn the language. Australia requires that if people come to that country then they are welcome, but they must learn the language. If you don’t want to learn the language, leave! I believe Australia has the right idea.

TCV: Do either of you have any opinions regarding the tape that was leaked that revealed Donald Trump admitting to sexually assaulting women?

W: Well, as a woman, I don’t like to hear that, but I am mature enough and enlightened enough to know that men talk about women when they are not around women in ways that they would never talk about women in the presence of women. It is part of the difference of the sexes, and any person who believes that men never talk about women that way is very naive and ignorant. I don’t like to hear what he said there, but I know that men that I revere and think very highly of also say the same kinds of things but would never say those kinds of things in front of me. Trump said it was locker room talk. I think that was his way of explaining that. But there is no way that he could possibly be that discriminatory against women if he did not raise his daughter to be the woman that she obviously is. He obviously has respect for women. He thinks highly of women. And I think part of what he was saying is actually part of his infatuation with women! I think he justs really loves women a lot! And I think testament to that is the three beautiful women that he’s married in his life.

M: Well the other thing, wasn’t he talking about the beauty pageant contestants?

W: Right.

M: I have to admit that I’d probably do the same thing! I’d be grabbing like crazy.

TCV: What do you think supporters of Hillary Clinton misunderstand the most about Donald Trump?

M: The prejudice.

W: Yeah, I think they completely misunderstand the prejudice and the racism for the reasons that we talked about earlier. He is concerned about the safety of this country and that is the reason for his desire to hesitate on Muslim immigration, and he’s also concerned about the safety of our country on the southern border of Mexico and the jobs that are being taken from the southern border. I also totally forgot to mention that that is the source of so many drugs that are wreaking havoc with our country. They’re causing deaths. They’re causing violence. They’re causing a complete downgrade of our entire social structure. A lot of those drugs are coming in over the southern border. Trump’s concern for the safety of Americans is being misconstrued as racism. And it is not.

M: I think a lot of people voted for Hillary just because she is a woman. They just wanted to see a woman president. I’d be willing to bet that, if it was a man with her exact same platform and views a lot of people wouldn’t have voted for that person if she was a man.

W: I agree. She really had no significant platform. She just talked about nice things. Happy things. It was just ideals. There was nothing in her platform that was solid or that spoke to positive changes that she was going to make. I mean she said all these wonderful things that she wanted to do but she never talked about how she was going to make them happen. And it was an extremely good point made by Donald Trump in several of the debates that she’s been in our government at a very high level for thirty years and things have only gotten worse the longer she’s been there. The higher she’s got the worse things became. And the entire world situation overseas has been –  from everything that I have heard more and more about –  has been so much a result of all her Secretary of State decisions.

TCV: What do you think compelled some people to vote for Hillary Clinton? I ask that mainly because so many people did. Hillary Clinton actually did win the popular vote and Donald Trump won the Electoral College which makes him president, but do you think that her being a woman was the main issue in people voting for her or do you think there was something else?

M: I think that was a huge part of it. I think she took a lot of Donald Trump’s quotes and his view regarding immigration and building a wall and took that – knowing that it was going to be highly unpopular – and ran with it in the complete other direction.

W: She twisted it.

M: Not that she was making the country safer by saying that – she wasn’t. But she just knew that it was –

W: It was a way to get votes. I think that a lot of people voted for Hillary because they really thought that her thirty years of experience would make her a good president. But if these people actually looked at her track record and what the result of her thirty years in office has been you could see that it’s not good! I was even shocked to learn that she was on the Watergate committee when she was barely twenty years old and she was fired from the committee for lying and unethical behavior – when she was barely twenty years old! And it hasn’t gotten any better.

TCV: What do you hope that President-Elect Donald Trump will accomplish?

M: Well, more jobs, for starters. Hopefully, I know that one of the first things he wants to do in his first hundred days is to repeal Obamacare. Health insurance – or lack thereof – is a huge factor in this country. And as two working people that can’t afford it we’d like to see it changed. Especially as we’re getting older. I have two prescriptions that I really need every month and, you know, as you get older chances are that there are going to be more prescriptions that you’re going to need. And that’s going to play a huge role in our financial situation.

W: I am hoping that Donald Trump does exactly what my husband said. I hope that he repeals Obamacare and puts a more realistic and affordable health care system in effect for the country. I’m hoping that he is able to revive business and bring back jobs so that our economy prospers and I also hope that he is able to somehow, with his business acumen, remove the power and the unfair monetary gain that has been allowed by so much of the political establishment whether it be Republican or Democrat. It’s completely unfair and I want to see that power diminish. I hope that he uncovers the corruption and gets rid of it.

TCV: What advice would you give to anyone who is genuinely afraid of a Trump presidency?

M: Give it a chance. I mean they have no choice. It’s not like all of this violence and protesting is going to change the election.

W: I would say that Trump’s a smart man. He is not the evil man that the media and Hillary have made him out to be. I think that if these people give it a little time they’re going to see that he starts to make some good things happen. Don’t judge so quickly and so extremely without giving him a chance to prove that he knows how to help us. He campaigned for president not because he needs it. He does not need the money and just like my husband said, Trump’s not even going to take the salary. He is doing this because he loves our country. He’s concerned for our country and he wants to, like he says, “Make America Great Again.” Trump sincerely believes in us as a people and I think we need to believe in him.


  1. If you can’t remember who you voted for, and are capable of articulating long sentences, you probably didn’t vote.

  2. I would also suggest that the average white suburban household is much more likely to respond to the following narrative “I’m successful I mean really really rich. And my opponent is so bad. I cannot even begin to tell you how terrible, Big league, she is.”

    Than, the following, “we have to do more to help companies and manufacturers restructure so we can save existing jobs and factory communities, we also have to prioritize and optimize the healthcare coverage system, something I’ve been working on since 1992, and demonized for starting with an attack from John McCain about how I expanded a 42 page document into a several hundred page document, from which I got the name crooked Hillary,” the name is absurd by the way, “and the list of Roles I’ve filled is extensive over the course of my service as Secretary of State, a two term senator, and the first First Lady to actually serve as head of a government task force to accomplish something.”

    It’s like really, really, hard for a person who lives in a rural area to get that, I’d think, because it would require a few assumptions about how the world ACTUALLY works versus the wishful thinking or false assumptions THAT the world works. So that’s the deal.

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