During my year abroad I’ve decided to conduct a number of interviews and studies into what it means to be American and what constructs and defines the country. Studying in New Jersey, I expected to come across few Trump supporters, as it is in the Southern States that he holds most support. However, I managed to find two students at The College of New Jersey, Scott and Connor, who were open supporters of Trump and happy to answer my questions and explain something our Nation, and many others, can’t quite comprehend.
Do you think trump will win? If yes, what makes you think so?
Scott: No. Polls show Clinton is ahead, historical data shows she’s ahead. It is still possible however, but her help from Obama has aided her.
Connor: Yes, with Hillary’s health deteriorating and his polls continuing to rise it is looking good for him.
What are your favourite policies of Trumps and why?
Scott: Local regulation of schools opposed to federal, opportunities for children in urban areas to go to districts in other areas for better schooling, and extension of catchment areas. Also his tax plan- simplifying tax code, breaking it down. Low families wouldn’t pay income tax.
Connor: I am most fond of his healthcare reform as it aims to repeal Obama-care. Obama-care was a failed attempt at national healthcare that is funded by the middle class; most of whom have either acquired private healthcare through work benefits or individual due to the inadequacy of the care provided through Obama-Care. Obama-care only benefits the bottom few percent of the population and is not worth the cost.
Is there anything you don’t agree with?
Scott: His plan to ban Muslims from the United States. National security is important but to ban a total religion is outlandish. Plus, the deportation of 11 million people would be costly.
(Scott believes women should have choice on abortion)
Connor: At first I did not agree with his stance on making Mexico pay for a wall along the border but if people were not able to come to the US across the border and were forced to say in their country, I could see their quality of life and economy change for the better out of necessity.
Trump states how he will make America great again. In your opinion, when do you last think America was great?
Scott: I think it’s more of a saying where want to shift from ‘big government policies’, however yes it is a questionable slogan. Doesn’t sound great I admit. ‘Ideological shift from large government to small government?’ People have altered how its perceived.
Connor: Proceeds to show me a clip from the American drama television series pilot ‘The Newsroom: We Just Decided To’, aired in 2012. The clip shows a man at a debate, speaking of America’s recent decline, explaining why the country is no longer the greatest in the World. This of course insinuates the opinion that the country cannot be ‘great’ without being the ‘greatest in the World’.
How would you define extremism and what do you think of it?
Scott: I think there’s extremism on both sides. Extremism is the belief that only way to solve a problem is from the left or right. So yes, dangerous on both sides. I oppose extremism on both sides.
Connor: Extremism is when someone holds extreme political or religious views, but to me Donald Trump is not an extremist. While he may come off as a radical ass hole, his views and policies are rather fitting to the conservative beliefs, he just presents them in rather arrogant ways.
Are you willing to trust your country to a man who is willing to compromise his principles by donating to people he now says are destructive because it benefitted him personally?
Scott: By voting for him I am. Definitely questionable, but Bernie would have endorsed Hilary. Trump donated to Hilary, but said he would run for president if things got so bad. But I do trust him more than Hilary.
Connor: Prior to 2015 Donald Trump had never been directly involved in politics. Depending where you are in life, your political views adapt. Similar to the way people vote between the labour party and conservative party in the UK biased on who their PM is speculated to be, and how the economy is doing; people vote biased off of what they will individually gain if that candidate is elected.
The beauty of the American Government is that we have the freedom to switch parties whenever we want, as our views may change, we may like a certain candidate over another etc. In many cases where people are constantly on the border between parties they choose to be independent but this does not allow us to vote in primary elections since these usually choose who is going to be the candidate for the parties. As a business man, he voted/switched his party depending on who would be the best for his business, which is what makes him a capitalist. I can’t be upset that he switches parties as that’s the capitalist way and one of the main reasons I support him
Donald Trump has donated to liberals in the past, however now he says they’re dangerous. Why did he vocally high praise Clinton and Obama continuously?
Scott: There is a long history of Trump talking about politicians and not challenging them. He wants to make everything a spectacle as he gains attention and headlines. The US was excited about Obama, for a while there was direction, but some issues have got progressively worse such as race relations.
Connor: Trump supported the Obama campaign because he knew they weren’t going to make any policy changes that could negatively effect his business, while the incumbent that he may have supported more in principle, he would not have had the certainty that his business would go untouched. To be clear, he has never openly praised Hilary Clinton, rather he has praised the Obama administration. The administration has accomplished nothing except Obama-care which has proven to be disastrous, so he has the right to rescind his comments and say that they are now destructive.
(In response to Scott’s answer) Would race relations be better under Trump then?
Scott: Trump is trying to change the conversation around that. Only would decrease due to misconceptions and misguidance around his policies. Don’t think he would decrease race relations. (However he has said he supports the law enforcement so would he aggravate the relations further?)
Trump’s 2009 ‘Think like a Champion’ spoke positively about Obama and his first year, stating that he has caused worldwide excitement in his creation of a new United States, even saying ‘Let’s Keep it that way’. How can someone be so drastically wrong about someone, feeling so strongly as to say it in his book, and then be so sure on how to fix the persons ‘mess’?
Scott: I trust him over Hilary in the realm of career politicians, she has a history of flip flopping on issues.
Connor: The situation here is clear. In Trump’s book (written shortly after the election) he supports Obama as many people did at this time. In 2009, Obama had an approval rating of 68%. In 2016 he has an approval rating that floats between 46-48%. Obama was supposed to be the savior in many people’s minds, and did not pan out to be as successful as hoped, so here you are comparing apples to oranges.
Trump mocks people he doesn’t like, including a disabled reporter in the past. At this stage he is meant to be trying to win over America, charming the nation, so what will he be like in presidency? Is it wise to give such power to someone who lacks a moral compass?
Scott: He acted out of line and irresponsibly, but I would still trust him more than Hilary, as he tried to show a change. It is possible that he has changed his tone because we are so close to the run up, yes.
Connor: Many times in politics bills, policies and other initiatives that could greatly benefit a majority of the population are thrown out because of the fear of hurting a certain niche of people. Like Donald and many others out there, I’m a subscriber to the thought that people today are too sensitive. Trump is not interested in charming the nation as he has established himself person with zero care for what others think. Regarding the comment about the reporter, Donald acted out a person panicking about a comment that was never retracted and never verbally said anything negative about him so…
For the people of Hispanic decent that felt attacked, he is always referring to illegal immigrants never legal ones so I am not sure why we care why the people who come to our country illegally are upset about what a man running for president of a country which they are illegally trespassing in says.
The nation is against Obama abusing executive power, however what makes Trumps proposals less dangerous? (Building a wall, immigration/ deportation)
Scott: What makes him less dangerous? He is bound to repeal Obama’s actions. But… I don’t think he’s less dangerous. There should be laws from congress on power of the President, however they are unwilling to work together. I don’t blame Obama for taking stance, he tried to work on immigration reform which is tough. So no he won’t be less dangerous. Two extremes, any executive decision is.
Connor: I’ve mentioned the wall previously but not only does the US suffer from drugs and other illegal things brought across the border, Mexico suffers as well as the people who show the most promises whether its academically or whatever they all come to America, leaving their county with only the ones without the means to get here. The wall helps force the Mexican government to get their act and country together.
What do you think about his position on gun laws?
Scott: There are smart solutions both sides. It really isn’t as easy to get a gun as stated.
Connor: I like his position. New Jersey and New York have the strictest gun laws in the nation yet we still have one of the highest death by gun percentage of all states. Trump’s position aims to reduce the number of guns given to those mentally unstable which are those who generally commit non terroristic mass shootings, but also does not over restrict those who purchase guns legally and are suited to own them.
On reflection, my stance on the political atmosphere in America has changed through speaking to real life Trump supporters. Too often as humans we are quick to adhere to political opinions favoured by the majority, which is all very well had there not been a heavy influence on popular opinion by stereotypical media. The internet, newspapers, radio station are all quick to paint an exaggerated stereotypical extreme, and we, as a nation, alongside America abhor it. I went into the room expecting ‘I hate women, Mexicans and love white power’, and in that sense I realise how narrow minded we often are in our stereotyping and political outlook. Of course, some of the negative sentiments were established, for instance the idea of America not being ‘great’ unless it was the ‘greatest in the World’, and the almost humorous disregard for Obama’s regime. What struck me as ironic was the discussion on declining race relations under Obama, the country’s first Black President, and the implication that Trump, infamously racist and supportive of the law enforcement, could do a better job at fixing race issues.
It wasn’t that the interviews changed my perception of Trump supporters’ ideologies, and legitimised their claims in my eyes, but it was the fact that these students were like you and I, well informed and often earnestly supportive of Trump’s less controversial policies. It just confirmed in my eyes the pattern of politics at work again, discontented citizens of a country that was disillusioned by the unprecedented excitement of Obama, desperately clinging to any promise of America being ‘great again’. Trump’s ethnocentrism provides the perfect scapegoating opportunity for a faltering economy.
This isn’t the first time the World has witnessed demagoguery, and it won’t be the last.
words and interview by Natalie Maher