Trump supporters still the same | COMMENTARY

“Trump supporters… still strongly support him, even though their expectations have changed enormously.”

“Support Trump? Sure,” she said. “I like him.”

These words by Pam Shilling from Trump Country western Pennsylvania reflect what many Trump supporters are thinking a year after the 2016 election victory, according to an article excerpted from “Politico.com” by “The Week” (Dec. 1, 2017).

Trump supporters, who make up 30-plus percent of the nation’s electorate, still strongly support him, even though their expectations have changed enormously.

Shilling grew up in western Pennsylvania – coal country. She’s 60 and retired, still grieving for her 32-year-old son who died of a heroin overdose last April.

Candidate Trump promised the building of a wall along the Mexican border, repealing and replacing Obamacare and bringing back steel and coal jobs. The voters in this part of the country were ecstatic when Trump won the election. At first, they were impatient for him to deliver on his campaign promises – or else.

Since that time, the unemployment rate has dropped a percentage point in their region and some jobs have returned in the mines, according to the article. Other than that, not much has changed. The drug problem has not improved, but Shilling’s attitude is, “I’m a supporter of him, 100 percent.”

She’s like most of the Trump’ 2016 supporters and she reflects the people I know who supported him. They would vote for him again, even if he hasn’t kept his promises. Nothing is going to change their minds. Their expectation goalposts haven’t moved – they’ve disappeared, according to Politico.

What do they like about President Trump? His anger and bombastic approach. “For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting.” His enemies and theirs are the same and they love him for it: Democrats, establishment Republicans and the media. They are particularly ticked at “Black Lives Matter” protesters and kneeling NFL players.

Their perception is that Trump is hard-working: “probably the most diligent, hardest-working president we’ve ever had in our lifetimes.” They see former president Barack Obama as a person who slept until noon and went golfing every weekend.

When told that Trump also likes golf – and actually plays more than Obama did – surprise was their reaction, and then the changing of subjects.

They know candidate Trump promised to bring back the steel mills, but they also realize that it’s unlikely. They know that his promise to build the wall probably won’t happen, but they don’t care. When asked about Obamacare, the blame fell on Congress, not the president. Yet, one Trump supporter, after acknowledging all of the above comments, stated, “But I like him, because he does what he says.”

Although defunding Planned Parenthood has not materialized, one respondent replied, “Not his fault.” The thing that angered many of the Trump supporters interviewed was the NFL players who kneeled. One’s resident’s response was, “N——— for life.”

Do these western Pennsylvania comments reflect all Trump supporters’ attitudes?

My experience from the Trump supporters I have talked with is yes and no. The ones I know generally agree with their unwavering support for President Trump, for many of the same reasons. He’s doing what they wanted him to do – stir up the country and bring about change by returning to America’s core values.

They like it that he says what he thinks and doesn’t pull any punches. His tweets are a form of direct democracy. Tweets are able to bypass the mainline media, which only represents elitist thinking. Real news can only be found on Fox. The rest is fake news or should be muzzled.

The western Pennsylvania supporters differ from the Trump advocates I know in that racism is not the locals’ major motivation. For them, the Trump presidency represents “draining the swamp” that is Washington, and a reaction to rapid change – too rapid for many of Trump’s followers: a black president followed by a strongly-disliked white woman presidential candidate, coupled with the legalization of gay marriage and treating immigrants better than white Americans.

Attitudes of Trump’s supporters have not changed since November 2016. They are behind him because he speaks for them. For them, Trump is working to keep his promises, even if he hasn’t been successful. In their minds, if only the Democrats, establishment Republicans and the media would quit criticizing him and blocking his initiatives, America could become the nation President Trump has described in his rallies and his tweets. He’s working to make America great again, as he promised.

Richard Elfers is a Green River College professor.

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