Last week, I asked those who cast their vote for President Donald Trump to explain their choice in their own words. And respondents weren’t shy in the least. I was inundated with thoughtful replies — almost too many to read. It was Wednesday before I could come up for air.
It would be a serious understatement to say readers offered a wide variety of reasoning, but three general schools of thought stood out:
It’s the Clintons, stupid
Ron Gullickson put readers’ No. 1 reason most succinctly: “Let’s be clear. My vote was not a vote for Trump, but it was a vote against (Hillary) Clinton. Shame on both parties.”
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Nancy McDowell wrote, “I voted for Donald Trump because I couldn’t stomach the Clintons back in the White House. They have been dogged by financial scandal for decades. Bill Clinton was impeached (not convicted) for sexual scandal while he was president. I think of him as the un-president. To see him in the role of what, first gentleman — it beggars belief. … As a grandmother and a military veteran, and simply as a citizen, I look forward to the success of the Trump administration and hope Congress gets its act together.”
Bryan Bauermeister wrote that he voted Trump “because I did not want Hillary Clinton as president of the United States. That’s what it boils down to. … Had Mark Cuban run as a Democrat against Jeb Bush, I would have voted for Cuban. So it’s not a Republican versus Democrat thing, although I typically vote Republican. It was a ‘business/real world versus insular D.C.’ thing.”
Stephen Goertzen voted for change: “Hillary promised more of the same — which wasn’t working like it should.” He also took the criticism over how she handled her email seriously. “As a retired military officer, her stories were so laughable. If she had taken her indoctrination security classes, as she said she did, none of that would have even been possible.”
Jan Bentley’s reasoning was varied, and she had criticism for the media. “My friends and I are mostly moderates and conservatives who think Trump is a goon,” she wrote. “It was appalling how much attention the press gave him because it kept him from fading away. I did not want to vote for him but the choice was horrid, so I voted against Hillary. Because I want the next Supreme Court justices to be conservatives. Because of Clinton fatigue. The Clintons are far too ethically challenged.”
Mike Henggeler is “not a Trump supporter here, not even close. Didn’t put him in my top 10 of Republican candidates. … So why did I want to stop the Clintons so badly? I was born in 1954, raised by staunch Democrat parents and, until a few months ago, was registered as a Democrat (now independent). The Democratic Party of today bears little resemblance to what it used to be. It doesn’t stand for anything except itself and what it thinks it needs to do to win. And right there you have the Clintons, who have shown time and again that they will say anything and steamroll anyone who gets in their way.”
Jean Atwell cited Hillary Clinton’s reaction to her husband’s affairs. “I might have considered Clinton if she hadn’t stayed with a man who publicly humiliated her and her daughter,” she wrote. “She tells women that it is all right to stay with a man if it can possibly get you further in politics.”
Parties of extremes
Another theme I heard was that the Democrats had drifted too far to the left under President Barack Obama’s administration, and these Trump voters didn’t think Clinton would speak to their concerns. A number of them think Trump is leading the Republican Party too far to the right as well.
Ronald D. Burri wrote, “I held my nose and voted for Trump.” He elaborated: “The Democratic Party has long held the viewpoint that anyone not having obtained a degree is a second-class citizen, unable to make proper decisions regarding their role in government. Trump’s election surprised me. I hold to the conviction Trump will most likely commit an impeachable offense and be quickly set aside. As a moderate conservative, (Vice President Mike) Pence is still too far right for my taste. However, he displays the calm dignity we expect from our elected officials.”
Pauli Clariday sent a particularly nuanced email explaining that while she holds personal convictions that some people would term moderate, she voted Trump because she believes he has a realistic outlook on the nation’s problems.
“I voted for smaller government, efficient government, fewer regulations and a government that might possibly be able to break free from the embedded, bloated bureaucracy it has become — under the watch of both political parties,” she wrote. “I voted for him because I believe he knows how to fix it. And he is the closest thing to a third party president we will have the opportunity to have in my lifetime. … I didn’t even like him until I started listening to him talk through live campaign feeds and YouTube, and not the media’s reporting on him.”
Gregory Loyd Mann voted Trump to put the Democratic Party on notice. “I don’t consider myself an ideologue by any recognized definition of that word,” he wrote. “Over the past 50 years I have voted Democrat more often than I have voted Republican. However, the last couple of times the Democrats just did not field a candidate that warranted my support. … The Democrats have continued to evolve over the past 30 years and have marginalized themselves from most people who consider themselves moderate. I recognize the fact that the Republican Party has done so as well. … I voted Republican simply because I saw the election as an opportunity to send a clear message to the Democratic Party — get back to basics or face an existential threat.”
Good at business
The third big reason voters went for Trump is that he promised to shake up the status quo, with a view from the boardroom.
Bob Davis “thought a businessman was a good idea even though I don’t personally care for Trump. I am a 70-year-old self-employed white male with a master’s degree. I am a Vietnam veteran and America-first kind of guy, having grown up in rural Kansas. If Ted Cruz had won the nomination, I probably would have voted for Hillary.”
Reta Cailteux wrote: “First of all, I don’t agree with everything Trump says or hows he says it, but Trump actually tells it like it is. The truth hurts. Everything is not politically correct or fair in life. Everyone learns that in school or they should. Work in the business world and find out how fair life is. The world is not fair, so people need to get over it and just take care of themselves.”
Tyrol Wear “voted for Trump because he was not a politician. I was tired of those politicians promising all the right things, then doing nothing except lining their own pockets, and to hell with the little guy here in fly-over country.”
A few readers cited religious beliefs as their prime motivator. Michael McGhee wrote that “there is much with our president that makes me cringe a little. But I cringe only with his delivery, not with his heart and intent. … Yes, I am a conservative Christian Republican voter. … Donald Trump serving as president of the United States gives me and my family and loved ones our best chance to live a Christian life with uninhibited Christian values and ideology.”
Jennifer Leeper said that opposition to abortion is her “baseline voting standard.” She continued: “Trump is delivering on his promise to stand by this purest form of equality and respect for others. I should mention this is the only reason I voted the way I did.”
Most notable in the responses I got was how infrequently immigration came up as a significant reason for a Trump vote. Of the handful of writers who mentioned it, almost all called for “sensible” standards. None wanted all immigration cut off. And only one approvingly characterized Trump’s views as “against Muslims.”
Looking at these responses from 30,000 feet, I see yet again how our traditional labels of “left” and “right” mislead us. Few people live up to stereotypes and caricatures — or the straw man we create in our heads. And I expect all of our viewpoints to morph over the sure-to-be surprising next few years.