The Silent Trump Voter

Posted on: November 3, 2018, by :
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Jeff Turner

Donald Trump winning the 2016 Presidential election had pundits and progressives/liberals alike wondering how it could be possible. The polls showed Hillary Clinton winning in key swing states, her favorability  slightly higher than the abysmal level it was for Mr. Trump. The Election made clear the massive partisan divide and polarization of the electorate. Of course, here in Indiana, it was expected that Trump would carry the state. And with former Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, it was certain to be by a sizable margin.

But how did Mr. Trump win? Why did his supporters vote for him? Hillary Clinton made a major gaffe referring to (half of) Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables.” Politicians are supposed to save those types of criticisms for their opponents, not American voters. The venom spewed by those on both the right and left during that election cycle continues to this day, has worsened actually.

“(I) voted for disruption,” said Will, a Trump voter attending an anti-Klan protest in Madison, Indiana on September 1st of this year in regards to why he voted for Mr. Trump. He was also sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat at the same rally. “I don’t wear this hat to perpetuate these racists,” he said, about the Klansmen present, “I am making a statement. Whatever you think about this hat, everyone is trying to put Trump supporters in that same basket (as racists).”

He went on to say that he didn’t consider Trump a racist. It did seem to bother him, the rhetoric coming from many on the left, that Trump supporters are racists. Some are, to be certain. Will did not strike me as being a racist, though I could be wrong.

There are not many Trump voters where I live, in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood. I do remember an elderly gentleman who would always jog by my house in a MAGA hat. He seemed like a nice guy, would always smile and wave at me in the early mornings as he passed by. He hasn’t been by my house in some time though. He may be suffering from health problems, may be dead, or may be too embarrassed to jog wearing that hat anymore. Who knows?

However, a great many Trump voters, including Hoosiers here in this state, do not publicly admit to voting for Mr. Trump, the “silent Trump voter.” Why won’t they admit to doing so? That is the question I had. I have met several Trump voters who admit to casting a ballot for him who now regret doing so, but not one of the silent Trump voters. I have my suspicions about some people I’ve encountered, but never pressed them on the issue. The silent Trump voters are largely the reason why polling during the 2016 election proved to be inaccurate, because even during anonymous polls the silent Trump voters wouldn’t admit to having decided to vote for Mr. Trump. And there are plenty of these silent Trump voters in Indianapolis and the surrounding counties. I decided to interview one of these silent Trump voters. The name of the individual has been withheld as I promised them anonymity.

Why did you vote for Donald Trump?

I wasn’t voting necessarily for the man or the woman. I was voting for the person I thought could handle some (of the) business type problems that the government seems to be having. (I voted for) the people that I felt could handle the money issues, trace issues. I did not vote for personality, scandals, past marriages, but for someone who could fix business problems with the government. I also felt that since he had his own finances and financial security that he would not be beholden to any lobbyist agenda. That and I was turned off by Hillary.

What didn’t you like about HRC?

(long pause) There seems to be some inconsistency with her agenda. And some of the explanations she’s given for why things did and didn’t happen. It’s not a personality contest, but her and her party’s actions don’t seem to match what her claimed intentions are. I felt very uncomfortable related to whatever happened in Benghazi… So I couldn’t really ascertain (whether) she had personal fault or responsibility.

But what made Benghazi such an important issue that it made you decide to cast a vote for Mr. Trump?

There seems to be a lack of teamwork related to her, whether it was or wasn’t her doing. Lack of communication and teamwork. And lack of teamwork is never a good sign for me. I don’t know whether it was her fault or not her fault. I don’t know. It’s pretty unheard of, having to do with loss of life in an embassy, supposed to kind of be off limits. It may not have been any wrongdoing on her part… (But it) made me questions her motives.

Do you think Mr. Trump is a racist?

I don’t think he’s a racist. He has effectively run many companies and businesses and helped people across (sic) many cultural backgrounds. I do think he can be a loudmouth, chauvinistic East Coaster. I think he has the ability to disturb anyone with his… brash East Coast ways. I think he’s just mouthy…the cloth he’s cut from. I think it’s a lot of false bravado.

What about certain racist comments he’s made, like calling Mexicans “rapists” and referring to the continent of Africa being full of “shithole countries”?

I think he’s been sensationalized to draw attention to himself.

What about the white supremacists embolden by his rhetoric and his winning the 2016 Presidential Election?

I don’t know that he does. I don’t know that they haven’t attached to him because he’s white… Maybe some of the misguided extremist groups like his anti-immigration policies. Just because someone agrees with him doesn’t mean he endorses them.

Fair point. But what about his bolstering of the birther movement, claiming former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and demanding he present his birth certificate to the public?

I don’t really care about that.

Did you support Barack Obama?

I voted for him the first time because I saw him as someone who could build bridges, kind of similar to Trump. (It’s) wrong not to do business with someone (just) because of their church affiliation.

Do you like what Trump’s administration has done so far?

Some of it. I don’t like the family separation policy though. But I want to say they’ve been doing that for hundreds of years, abuse and neglect cases, don’t really care for that.

What about what some would cite as the divisive, inflammatory rhetoric used by Mr. Trump, his “divide and conquer” strategy?

(I’m) not a big fan of divisive tools. A lot of it is gossip and hearsay. And I will say this, having worked in journalism off and on for almost thirty years… I do feel that journalism has lost some of its purity, has been compromised by the dollar. The media handling of Trump, not a lot of good choices… Journalism once prided itself on presenting facts in a truthful manner. I would have to say that is no longer the case.

But what about Trump’s divisiveness?

Some of those comments haven’t reached me. (I) don’t watch the news about it, maybe I’m not part of the target audience… A lot of it was people not voting or caring for Hillary.

Do you regret voting for Mr. Trump?

No, I do not. No.

Why not be more open about voting for him then?

I think it’s a personal choice and private business. I just don’t feel like it’s anyone’s business. I don’t like to be profiled.
Would you vote for Mr. Trump in 2020?
I don’t know… Maybe…

What type of presidential candidate would you find preferable to Trump in 2020?

I can’t really tnink of anyone. It would be hard to be hypothetical of who I might voter for in the future when I don’t know who’s out there. I need to know their record.

In any candidate, someone who has experience, someone who can facilitate progress, working well with people from both sides of the aisle. I look at their record too, their actual record, history, not what people say that they’ve done. In actual fact, I don’t listen to yellow journalism or get my news from television. I Google it, look it up, in front of my eyes.

Overall, the reason it seems that these silent Trump voters aren’t open about casting a vote for him is because of a lack of empathy displayed by those on both the right and left. The former they don’t want to be associated with (the hardcore “Trumpites” as I call them), the latter because of the vitriolic hatred felt towards Trump by many of those on that end of the political spectrum. Social media has created an echo chamber where people’s views are merely reinforced by those who share them. Those debates that do occur between people on opposites ends of the political spectrum are typically very heated and counterproductive. The hyper-partisan, highly polarized nature of the electorate can be blamed for some of this, as well as the man himself. But Hillary Clinton was also a fairly polarizing figure. It may not have been her intention to be so, but nonetheless it is in many respects and accurate statement.

On October 26th, in an interview on the Recode Decode podcast, Hillary Clinton said that while she didn’t want to run for President again, that she’d “like to be President.” Granted she did win the popular vote by over three million. But maybe it’s time for someone new to step up to the plate, one who can build bridges rather than burn them down. Because that’s really the type of leader this country needs, one who can help heal the partisan divide. Otherwise, we may well have to deal with President Trump until January 2025.

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