Conversations With Trump Supporters on Inauguration Day, 2017
(Left to right) Charles Thompson, Dan Sullivan, and Kelly and Caesar Marroquan
Jessica Lehrman for the Village Voice
In an effort to leave our much-maligned "newsroom bubble" and better understand the people who traveled to Washington, D.C., for Donald Trump's inauguration, the Voice interviewed supporters of the 45th President of the United States along the parade route.
The interviews have been edited and condensed.
What do you like about Trump?
I’m a conservative, and I really like that we have someone who is an alpha male, if you will, a strong advocate for the right. I think we’ve gone so far left in America, with America being a global power, needs to rebalance things in the world. I look at Trump at someone who is going to add a little more stability, bring things back to the center.
When you say the world has drifted, what do you mean by that?
Specifically, the easiest way to break it down to its common denominator is the balance between nationalism and globalism, I think things have gone too far in the globalist direction and I think that’s dangerous. I think it’s important to have nationalistic sovereign states as opposed to dissolving borders and having a one-world government. It’s too much consolidation of power.
His constituency, you look at the middle America, blue-collar workers who have been absolutely pulverized by these lopsided trade agreements. They’ve been the silent majority. But now they’re proud, they have someone who is a staunch advocate who actually speaks up for many things they believe and want. I think it’s helped him to grow his constituency, they say "Wow, he’s standing up for us. Whoa, he went there."
Doesn’t he also appeal to that white middle-class group through racism? What about his comments about Mexicans, and women, and black people?
Donald Trump is not the most slick speaker, in terms of being diplomatic; he’s very bombastic. He’s the 100 percent shareholder of his business, I think he’s used to that freedom to speak his mind without the consideration of hurting someone’s feelings. He’s more fact-based, so he kind of spits it out there. I think the left is largely about feelings, whereas the right tends to be more about, What do the facts say?
So I think when you have someone like Donald Trump speaking out on these issues, like when he talked about Mexicans giving us their worst people, I think that gets misconstrued. I think he parses words. The mainstream media is largely liberal, and I think they’ve taken a very hard left on what he’s saying, and spun it in a way that makes him look racist. I think he’s largely been taken out of context.
Do you think he should release his tax returns? Or divest himself from his business interests?
From what I understand, he’s still under audit; his legal team advises that he doesn’t release it. As far as his business interests, I don’t know how you do that when you’ve got businesses on a global level. That’s a tricky one. I don’t think it really matters. As long as he is doing right by America — he hasn’t taken any special interest money, no donor money, no K Street, Wall Street, he’s his own man. It’s okay that he has some billionaires working for him, smart guys, they report to Donald and Donald reports to the people.
Did you vote for him?
No, no, I’m a Canadian citizen.
Peter and Nick Mangerian,
Why are you here for the inauguration?
Peter: We’re here to celebrate a little bit, and to see the historic event. I work for the Army down here, and I actually helped organize the inauguration to some extent.
Historic in what sense? What drew you to Donald Trump?
Peter: I think it’s just a change. I think he’s definitely going to strengthen the military, and represent the U.S. in a different way, from a position of strength.
What would you say to Americans who are genuinely worried about their undocumented neighbors being deported, or LGTBQ rights being rolled back —
Peter: I think some of that media frenzy, potential racism or bigotry or whatever was definitely inflated. And I think Donald Trump probably represents moderate conservatives. I mean, he is from New York City, and so I think he carries some of those basic — he’s not quite as conservative as conservatives from the South, or something like that.
So the things he said during the campaign, you think that’s just campaign talk? We shouldn’t worry about a Muslim registry?
Peter: I think that’s the key thing, is not to rule anything out. Some of it is rhetoric, but I think it kind of represents frustration with the current administration; they’re not doing enough. They’re not investing enough in security. It doesn’t make sense to screen people coming in through airports and then to have a wide-open border. I think there’s a plan to invest more on the border, whether it’s a wall or border police, or those kinds of things.
But it’s interesting — when I was 17 in 1980 and Ronald Reagan was elected, and it was a similar situation, where nobody expected, especially in New York, expected to get him elected. So it was a very interesting comparison to now. Broadly, they didn’t expected him to get elected. I think the American people were surprised.
Were you surprised?
Peter: I was surprised because the drumbeat of the media about the polls — I sensed there was support out there, but obviously what you heard in the media was that the polls were against him. The New York Times gave him a 14 percent or a 16 percent chance. Obviously they didn’t have the correct pulse of the situation. But I sensed it. If you drive through central Pennsylvania or the countryside of New York, you saw the Trump signs.
It doesn’t concern you at all that he has no experience in government?
Peter: I wouldn’t say it doesn’t concern me, but he has to show that he can apply his leadership skills and his ability to lead a team to form a government and to run the place.
(Left to right) Rachel Stadler, Dolean Norton, Nick Stadler
Jessica Lehrman for The Village Voice
Dolean Norton, Nick and Rachel Stadler
Where in Wisconsin are you from?
Dolean: Lake Spooner, an hour south of Lake Superior.
Did it surprise you all that Wisconsin helped tip the election for Trump?
Nick: Actually, it did.
Dolean: Not me, no.
Why didn’t it surprise you?
Dolean: Because I was praying that Trump was going to win in Wisconsin. A lot of people wanted him to win.
Why pray for Trump?
Dolean: It’s not so much praying for Trump as it is praying for a president who believes in righteousness and justice and truth. After eight years of lies and cover-ups. I want someone who is going to live the truth, for the people. Someone who believes in the people of America.
What about undocumented people?
Dolean: Well, if we do something illegal what happens to us? We get in trouble. I think there needs to be a plan that doesn’t tear families apart but deals with those who are coming into our national illegally. I don’t know what that plan is but I believe that there are wise people who can figure it out.
There’s a lot of hand-wringing in journalism right now about how the mainstream outlets missed the support for Trump. How should they improve on that?
Dolean: I think you have to quit listening to just liberals. I think you need to listen to people in rural areas. The people in rural areas voted. Small businesses. We have a small business, and a lot of small businesses were persecuted during Obama’s era. And there was a persecution for Christians — lots. They were fired, and it shut down the freedom of speech. People were afraid to say anything. How many programs wouldn’t let Christians on their TV stations? I mean, major TV. They say, "Oh you’re against homosexuals." No, we’re not against them. I had an uncle that was. But it’s okay not to agree with the lifestyle. We can agree to disagree but still love them, but with peace instead of riots.
Did you vote in this election?
No, I’m sixteen. I’m here because my brother is in the Franklin Regional Band — they’re in the parade. Trump is here; that’s an incentive.
What about Trump appeals to you?
Probably his tax plan, the best. It’s more simplified. He’s apparently supposed to keep the good parts of Obamacare. Stuff on immigration.
What about immigration specifically?
Just having a border. I don’t necessarily think the wall is gonna work 100 percent, but he’s going to increase the border patrol and hopefully we can eliminate drugs that are pouring into this country, because it’s killing people and it’s really sad.
Did you think Obama wasn’t sufficiently strict enough with the border? That he just didn’t deport enough people?
I don’t know if he deported anybody. But there’s definitely a lack in border security.
Some people call Obama the "deporter-in-chief" because he deported more people than any other president.
I didn’t know that he deported anybody; I thought people just stayed here and were put into our prisons. That’s just what I thought.
Does the fact that he’s never held office worry you at all?
No, that could be something that’s good, it’s pretty much a 180 from our previous presidents.
What about when he said he grabbed women "by the pussy"?
Well, the whole grab her by the fill-in-the-blank, that is something that is definitely wrong, and that was something that was very hard to admit. There’s no evidence that I know of that supports he actually did that. What I am worried about is Bill Clinton, because he actually did those things and worse.
Kelly and Caesar Marroquan
Why are you guys along the parade route?
Kelly: We are just ecstatic about Donald Trump and Mike Pence winning the election. We just couldn’t hold back.
What makes you ecstatic?
Kelly: It resonates. What he’s saying we haven’t heard in a long time. The mundane things he says, the very important things he says. It’s a lot of common sense. He sounds very American.
What is he saying that hasn’t been said in decades —
Kelly: Merry Christmas. At Christmas. In the United States, where we celebrate Christmas. [Laughs]
Caesar: The message that he brings is that he doesn’t have any political experience. But he’s a very good businessman and maybe there’s a chance that we need, instead of a career politicians in government, we have someone who is good at business. Because government is a business too. Like his message: "Make America Great Again."
Let’s give him a chance. We don’t know exactly what he’s going to do. We have a strong feeling that he’s a very strict person who is for everybody’s rights. Trump wants us to get together and work together. I think he’s savvy enough and experienced enough and wise enough to bring lots of different peoples together to make America great again.
What do you think of him tweeting? Should he be able to fire off a tweet whenever?
Kelly: If what he says cannot be repeated, word for word verbatim, yes. Keep on tweeting. If the media can interpret him appropriately, I doubt he’ll tweet.
What has the media misinterpreted?
Kelly: I don’t think they have taken him at his word. I think they want him to say what they want to hear and he is coming at life in a different way. I think he’s just trying a different approach to bring him together.
Josh Bickel and Sheridan Brewer
I saw you guys cheering right after Trump took the oath. What about him appeals to you?
Sheridan: You want someone who I can identify with, the man you can sit down and have a beer with.
Josh: To have someone who is such an outsider from the political spectrum, who is just — and don’t get me wrong, he says some stupid stuff. But dagummit, to be an outsider from the political spectrum, to have a backbone, would be such a difference from what we’ve seen the past eight years. I couldn’t stand more for the platform that he has.
What do you say to women who look at how Trump has historically treated women? Should they not be afraid of what he will do once he comes into office?
Josh: I think there’s a lot of hate that surrounds this campaign that is not attributed to what he wants to do; there’s more of his supporters who have been extremists who have completely manipulated and molested the idea that he wants to portray. I don’t like the hate that surrounds his campaign.
Sheridan: I think he’s probably the more moderate Republican we’ve had in a long time.
There were people down on the Mall who were chanting "lock her up" during the ceremony. Do you think that Hillary Clinton should be investigated, tried, and put in jail?
Josh: Fuck yeah. Fuck yes. Maybe not in jail but I think she should be tried.
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