In Defense of Trump Supporters



Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga., Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Dan Kang, Assistant Senior Editor

After the outcome of this election, I feel compelled to come forward and clearly express my viewpoint. I am a conservative Republican. I believe that the role of the government should be limited to protecting its citizens. I initially supported Ben Carson, then Marco Rubio as the Republican nominees for President. After Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, I despaired. Donald Trump seemed like a dangerous, demagogic figure who drove racists and nativists to his cause. I constantly internalized the struggle of having to choose between two of the most unpopular candidates in American history. I tried to convince myself that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, were better choices than Clinton or Trump. Nothing persuaded me to vote for them as well. I have to say Trump grew on me. I think the more he realized that his support was just more than a fringe movement and becoming a revolution, that he became serious. I did not begin to support him until September. What ultimately made me support Trump was the prospect of the economic, political, and media status quo being maintained under Clinton and a liberal Supreme Court that would dominate the political landscape for years to come. I have delineated other reasons why people might support Trump as exhaustively as possible. For many people, these reasons may still not be enough to overcome the disgusting bigotry that Trump has displayed. Please hear me out.

I anxiously waited for the results of the election on Tuesday night just like everyone else. When Trump won Florida and I saw that a New York Times forecast poll predict Trump would undoubtedly win the election, I went to sleep comforted. Sure enough, the next morning Trump was (unbelievably!) the president-elect. My desire to celebrate was somewhat tempered by my sympathy towards Clinton supporters especially since I had felt the sting of disappointment before in 2012. However, I noticed a curious phenomenon during this election. Opponents of Donald Trump had taken him literally but not seriously, to quote The Atlantic’s Salina Zeto, and supporters of Donald Trump had taken him seriously but not literally. I fall into the latter category. For example, I do not think that a wall is actually going to be built along the border with Mexico. I do not think that he will round up every single illegal immigrant in this country and deport them. I do not think that he will ban Muslims from entering America. I am not convinced that he will enact every single policy because he is not a politician; he is a businessman. Trump explained that much himself in his bestselling book The Art of the Deal. To paraphrase, he says that in order to get the best deal possible, a businessman has to be aggressive. Of course, that does not justify his divisive rhetoric and I am not trying to defend that either. All I am saying is that I have different expectations for Trump than I do for a politician; namely, Trump with his business acumen will help the economy recover.

Trump may not be the perfect president but I believe he is the right one. The problems that face this country are numerous: widening income gaps, the larger share of wealth and income that the top 1 percent is devouring, the increasing number of people who are unable to break out of poverty and achieve the American Dream. The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, has proven to be a disaster. Although President Obama had good intentions in providing universal health care for everyone, he was misguided in the actual workings. Insurance premiums have gone up exponentially and the pool of already sick applicants has caused companies such as Aetna and UnitedHealth to leave the market, depriving consumers of a competitive choice. Obama’s mandates, exchanges, and subsidies have to be ended and large Medicaid grants to the states need to be implemented for single-payer government coverage. In addition, the regulations that are choking businesses are hampering efforts to recover from the Great Recession in 2008 and get the United States back on track. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 has unduly hampered companies with so much paperwork and bureaucracy that it is virtually impossible to make a large enough profit that will trickle down to ordinary people. Dodd-Frank has protected consumers at the cost of harming the competitiveness of US companies relative to foreign companies who are not bound by such restrictions. The act itself is tens of hundreds of pages long, if you care to read through it. The money used to operate all of the new federal agencies and to enforce all of those regulations should be diverted to other programs. It is just another example of regulation that has to be dismantled to stimulate the economy. In addition, the Federal Reserve is supposed to be independent yet delayed raising interest rates because of the election. Janet Yellen, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, must act in a nonpartisan manner when enacting monetary and regulatory policy otherwise she must resign. Welfare needs to be changed as well. Too many people subsist on welfare without attempting to get a job of their own. A law like Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill in 1996 which required people to only receive benefits for a certain period of time and force them to look for a job seems reasonable. Trump has got it right when he says our infrastructure is falling apart. He has vowed to pour more than $550 billion into America’s bridges, tunnels, airports, hospitals, highways. Even Joe Biden, vice president under Obama, famously said that La Guardia Airport resembled an airport that could be found in a Third World country. This massive endeavor will create thousands of jobs and create a construction boon for companies to hopefully stimulate the economy. Last but not least, the future of the Supreme Court is at stake. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83. Anthony Kennedy is 80. Stephen Breyer is 78. Four years in the Supreme Court is a long time and it is even more significant since many important issues are at stake before the Court: abortion, birth control, affirmative action, immigration, voting rights, school desegregation, the Affordable Care Act, public-sector unions, campaign finance, climate change, religious liberty, gun rights, and vice versa. The decisions reached on these issues will reverberate for decades since the justices are expected to serve for their entire lives but liberals should not despair. Conservatives won many cases (striking down campaign finance regulations and gutting the core of the Voting Rights Act) while liberals won others (expanding gay rights and reaffirming abortion rights). Justice Anthony Kennedy could not be counted on to lean reliably conservative so even with a “conservative” majority, not all court cases may be judged in favor of conservatives.

That is not to say that I do not have my disagreements with Trump. I dislike Trump’s tax policies that disproportionately benefit the rich and disadvantage the poor. Large tax cuts without major spending reductions simply do not make sense. His policies will leave us with higher prices on imported goods, rising interest rates, and substantial inflation. The current deficit of this country stands at $19 trillion. That is unacceptable and it is irresponsible to leave the burden to our descendants. Eventually, we will have to pay up the debt. It is our duty to start right now. I want the government to eliminate all loopholes concerning guns, including the gun show loophole. The Second Amendment was not intended to arm people with assault rifles and carry them around. These shootings are tragedies that cannot be tolerated anymore. Even one person dying from gun violence is already cause to severely limit the use of guns. The NRA was founded as a recreational hunting organization but is now the most powerful lobbying group in the nation. Australia banned all guns after a mass shooting in 1996. There have been no mass shootings since then. America needs to follow Australia’s example and pass a comprehensive gun reform law. Lastly, Trump has to work towards reducing the carbon footprint of the United States, the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases after China. We are undeniably at a crucial point where global warming is an existential threat that cannot be ignored. If he chooses to ignore the promises to reduce carbon emissions set by the United States at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, he is dooming all of us to extinction.

I was absolutely offended by Trump’s grossly indecent and vile comments about women, captured on tape. But the accusations of assault and harassment charged against him by other women seemed to be opportunistic. Trump is 70 years old and is actually the oldest president to take office since Reagan. I imagine he could lead a prosperous and comfortable life managing his company without having to participate in politics. As anyone should know, the campaign is a grueling process that involves a lot of traveling to fundraisers, rallies, and debates. He did not have to run yet chose to because he cared about the state of this country (or cared about gaining publicity, depending on your view). Even if one does not see the merits in voting for Trump, in some ways it was more about voting against Clinton, a figure laden with political baggage who has been around in politics for more than 25 years. 25 years implies many years of experience and I agree: I agree that she has had 30 years of experience looking after her own self-interest and eliciting money from foreign governments and multinational corporations through the Clinton Foundation. She flip-flopped on many positions during the Democratic primaries when she was pushed to the left by Senator Bernie Sanders: she now opposes the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with 12 countries aligned with the US, she is hawkish on Russia when just four years ago, she and Obama poked fun at Romney for declaring that a second Cold War was occurring, she condemns the Citizens United ruling but has actually raised more money through super PACs than Trump. More importantly, I think Benghazi, the private email server, and other scandals were buzzwords that caused people to cast reflexive votes against her even if they did not know in detail what those buzzwords actually meant in context. I believe it is unhealthy for one family to dominate the position of leader of the free world more than once.

If people had truly been enthusiastic about stopping Trump from being president, you would think more people would’ve voted against Trump. Only half of American registered voters chose to participate in this election and thus usher Trump into office. 3.5 million Obama voters did not show up for Clinton. 42 percent of American women voted for Trump, disproving Clinton’s assumptions that women would vote for her by a large margin. Beyond gender, some other factor must have affected these women voters. I am aware of the fact that African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, and young people overwhelmingly supported Clinton over Trump. Despite this, Clinton is not the next president. I think this election proves that voters cannot be shuffled neatly into neat demographic groups. There is something static about these categories based on race, ethnicity, gender, age that does not portray our reality. Trump was also a moving target who was perfect for an unstable electorate whose ideas changed dynamically based on the remarks and revelations made about each candidate’s campaign.

This election in particular exposed the impossibility of political candidates to be saints. Clinton’s work as a politician allowed Trump to come to power. By ignoring the white working class, she cemented her elite position as a Washington insider and refused to address their legitimate concerns and complaints. But incidents such as her husband being seen with Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general, on a tarmac and Donna Brazile feeding the Clinton campaign debate questions from CNN confounds me. Clinton does not seem to realize how broken her campaign seems. She ran in spite of an electorate clamoring for change, which no veteran of politics, regardless of gender, can possibly represent. Obama should’ve warned Clinton to notice the warning signs that propelled him to the presidency as a political novice. Instead he encouraged Clinton to become the standard bearer of the party when maybe Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, were both more likely to be electable than Hillary. Or maybe it is a greater sign of disfunction within the Democratic Party. The Party’s leaders are all past the official retirement age except Obama. It has allowed personality and demography to take the place of political organizing. Liberals indulge the marginal and the whimsical, have a habit of letting lies pass, and ignore the living truth in favor of groveling and meaningless apologies to the dead. So much has become unsayable, as if by not speaking of our grosser aspects we abolish them. It is a failure of the imagination. The Democratic Party cannot continue to be endorsed by celebrities, but by school boards and town councils. It cannot allow more echo chambers where the range of acceptable discussion is narrow to form. The Party has to learn how to talk and listen to other Americans, especially the ones who voted for Trump who felt left ignored and left behind.

When you examine the past few presidencies, Trump’s presidency was almost inevitable. Whatever good may come to your mind about Bill Clinton, he still had time to cavort with a White House intern in the Oval Office. The following president, George W. Bush, led the US into a disastrous war with no post-invasion plan and left the economy in shambles – the worst since the Great Depression. Then, Obama took office with barely anything to his name. He was a one-term Senator who had an Ivy League education. Meanwhile, average Americans witnessed manufacturing jobs move away, home-grown lone wolf terrorists seemed to be everywhere, and the political parties became more polarized. Trump definitely has a finger on the pulse of the nation but misplaces the blame. Manufacturing jobs have not just been lost to China and Mexico but also to robots. Coal workers lost their jobs in the mines not just to environmental liberalism but to higher efficiency in generation and consumption. More people are living longer lives due to better health care and technology but Social Security will start running deficits. The smartphone revolution that is occurring now is affecting all spheres of life, including the political and social ones just like Gutenberg’s revolution of movable type set in motion the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions, and the rise of democracy. Elites have been profiting immensely from this revolution but millions more Americans and people around the world are not gaining profits with them.

I am eager as well for a woman president. Women have led over 70 nations, including Sri Lanka, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Korea. It is high time for the glass ceiling to be broken in America as well. But I think it is more important to keep in mind the character and qualifications of the candidate at hand rather than focus on a landmark achievement in society. President Obama being elected the first black president was a major milestone in our history but I believe he has also set back race relations by not attempting to seriously challenge the underlying “implicit bias” of Americans. I am not blaming him for the violence that occurred but I think there is a reason that the Black Lives Matter movement rose to prominence during a time when an African American occupied the highest office in the nation. He has denied more FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests than any other president in history combined. He set a dangerous precedent of using drone strikes to kill an American citizen without alerting the public. He failed to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay, the site of torture and illegal prison for suspected terrorists when he promised to do so as a cornerstone of his human rights policy. He did not push the Justice Department to prosecute bankers and corporate executives in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008. Is it a coincidence that Obama received more contributions from the financial sector than John McCain, the Republican nominee for president? I do not think so. Millions of Americans saw their life savings vanish yet Obama did nothing. Instead he bailed out financial institutions with a trillion dollars worth of taxpayers’ money, far more than the government spent on economic stimulus, unemployment benefits, or mortgage relief. I think that Clinton would not have done anything different in his shoes especially since the trend of Wall Street donating heavily to Democrats was resumed and magnified this year with her campaign. By focusing on Trump, I think people are forgetting the failures of President Obama’s presidency. Trump has been fairly elected. Now he deserves a chance to do well or else his failure weakens America.

There is a saying that I will paraphrase: “actions speak louder than words.” Trump has said very distasteful remarks but has not translated them into action while President Obama and Hillary Clinton have done things that conflict with their message and policy. Whereas others may see a misogynistic and racist man, I see a good man and a good father. Trump’s own wife, Melania Trump, is only the second First Lady since Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams (6th president of the USA) to be born in a foreign country. Trump’s own daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, are examples of strong women who have succeeded by leading a company, and being a model and singer, respectively. Trump has proposed introducing 6 weeks of paid maternity leave, which is a startling first step in a developed country where there is no paid maternity leave at all. That child-care policy has been influenced by Ivanka, the mother of three children. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a smart and accomplished Washington strategist who capably managed his campaign. She is also the first woman to successfully run a successful presidential campaign in US history. She was hired right after the Republican National Convention based on her merits and accomplishments. Donald Trump has employed and encouraged strong women to work for him and lead others in the world.

I understand the fear and hate people feel when they talk about Trump. His attitude towards Hispanics, Muslims, women, LGBTQ have not helped to calm these people. But Trump’s words are just that: words. A Republican-majority Congress will be sensible and is not likely to support most of his policies anyway. A conservative Supreme Court does not mean that it will back all of Trump’s policies. I know that white supremacist groups and other nativist groups have backed Trump but he disavowed their support far too late in his campaign, which is regrettable. I hope that anti-Trump people can reexamine their viewpoints by characterizing the Trump campaign as a racist campaign powered by the alt-right movement because I know that I cannot judge a community by its fringe members. The alt-right movement belongs to the Internet, the realm of conspiracy theories and trolling. It has no place in this diverse, multiethnic country. I also know that the vast majority of Trump’s supporters were blue-collar, poor, non-college educated, and white. But we cannot elevate ourselves as an enlightened, college-educated tolerant people that will demonize those working class people as primitive and prejudiced. That crude and ignorant condescension is what led to Trump’s rise to power in the first place. It would be a convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election that Trump won because he transformed economic disadvantage into racial rage. It sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns. It also encourages the fantasy that the Republican Party is doomed to demographic extinction and it is only a matter of time before the country falls into the laps of Democrats. That is denying the ethnic and political diversity of this country. Finally, it also absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people actually live in homogeneous areas of the country so they are not actually reacting against the reality of our multicultural America. But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” I do not understand why liberals are so illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. Someone who find himself leaning towards Trump is automatically characterized as a bigot. This past election has always been characterized as an “us-versus-them” conflict but why don’t you put yourself in a Trump supporter’s shoes? What would you do if you were stuck in a jobless town, if your family members and friends OD’d on addictive drugs, if you are struggling to put three meals a day on the table? Maybe you would swallow your pride and vote for someone who you think is going to bring change since eight years of government under a Democrat president have not helped you.

The world is not defined in terms of black and white but rather in shades of gray. The complexity of those supporters has to be taken into consideration. Populism that fueled the rise of far-right leaders in Europe and Brexit has been an urgent warning sign that we chose to ignore. There is some deeper dysfunction within our current economic, social, and cultural systems. If this is dismissed as simple bigotry, we will never understand their frustrations and fail to constructively work together to solve those issues.

As both President Obama and Clinton have said, I also ask you to give him a chance. Trump’s bigotry and dishonesty have to be denounced. We cannot go morally numb but this country will not have anything to gain by a desire for Trump to fail. Believe it or not, Trump can find some common ground with liberals, including restricting trade and spending $1 trillion on infrastructure. He has also said that he will bring back jobs abroad by forcing companies with offshore accounts in tax havens to invest their money in America. With a unified government, Republicans will get to see their conservative agenda fulfilled. We can no longer bicker over the politics and principles that brought Trump to power. Contesting the election results is futile but if you really want to make a difference, then write your local congressman. When you turn of age, get out the vote and encourage your relatives and friends to go exercise their civic duty too. In the 2018 midterm elections for the Senate, the Democrats will have to defend more than twice the seats of Republicans, which could lead to a supermajority for the GOP. These are times that show that we all have a voice but it is our choice whether to make it heard. Our top priority is the legacy we are going to leave for our descendants.