Trump: Views on the 45th President-Elect.
By: Brian Nowak
A static noise engulfed the room and the sound of pens striking ballots was evident. November 8th was an unexpected expression of the will of the American people. The 2016 election was a Presidential race in which a Hillary Clinton win was expected to be decisive early on.
Instead, something extraordinarily different happened, Americans were glued their television all evening and into the early morning. Around 2:45 a.m., Donald Trump was announced president elect after winning the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania had voted for Republican candidate Trump, the first time the state voted Republican since 1988.
Trump won Wisconsin, a state that had not voted Republican since 1984. Trump also won the state of Michigan, a state Republicans have not won since 1988. He racked up narrow victories in swings states, including Florida, and Iowa, and North Carolina. Few of these state-by-state victories were expected and even supporters of the nominee were surprised at the results.
Following the election, Hillary Clinton supporters began to examine what had happened. Some blamed the short reopening of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server two weeks before Election Day, after it the case was closed in July. Others brought up the failure to turn out enough of Senator Bernie Sanders’s supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton. Still others mentioned the effect of the new voting laws changing the turnout. Some in the Democratic coalition blamed the candidate herself and her low favorability. Others pointed to the lack of outreach from the candidate Clinton.
43 percent of Democrats voted for Sanders in the Democratic Primary. Sanders built a national campaign from nothing to go up against Clinton’s well-financed and seasoned campaign staff. He was able to attract voters that were younger, more liberal, and were whiter than the general Democratic Party electorate. Sanders was able to win primary elections in 22 states and came close to winning in three others.
Sanders delegate from Buffalo, New York, Chuck Hess said, he “noticed a ground swell of the public distrust regarding economic policy and their elected officials not fixing it.” Hess didn’t believe there were enough angry voters to give the election to Trump. A Trump win was surprising to Hess and said that his win “has sparked an even wider discussion now amongst Democrat loyalists as to what direction the party needs to take because its current trajectory has been catastrophic.”
In Hess’s view, Democrats took their voting base for granted by not talking to the base directly about issues that affect them. “Here we are with state, gubernatorial, congressional and presidential control by the Republicans.” Hess hopes the loss will be a will turning point for the Democratic Party and the political left in the Unites States.
Barack Obama’s 8 years as president coincided with the largest gains for the LGBT movement. During Obama’s administration, marriage equality became law. The Affordable Care Act included provisions that made it easier for members of the LGBT community to receive health care. Overall social acceptance of the LGBT community grew considerably.
Bryan Ball from Stonewall Democrats of WNY said he is “simply scared for the people in the LGBT community” because “so many of their rights depended on the results of the election.” Ball is concerned 8 years of work under the Obama administration will be undone. Ball said, “I’ve seen more progress in the last 8 years than I have seen in my entire lifetime.” Trump’s campaign rhetoric was, in Ball’s view “Racist, sexist, xenophobic, and homophobic.”
Stonewall Democrats has received a multitude of phone calls, from young people whose parents voted for Trump. Ball talked about one young person in particular that was afraid to come out of their family following Trump’s election on Tuesday. When asked to look for a silver lining or source of optimism in the election, Ball offered this, “one of big things is hope that Trump may not go all the way to damaging the LGBT community and taking away rights.”
Trump’s election represents real uncertainty for the LGBT community. Trump has expressed acceptance of same-sex marriage in the past, but he has also expressed willingness to appoint anti-LGBT judges. “Anything can happen now…there’s a lot of uncertainty because Trump’s been on both sides of the issue,” says Ball. Trump’s supporters are suggesting the LGBT community give him a chance, offering a wait and see attitude.
African American turnout in Tuesday’s elections was lower than turnout in 2008 and 2012. 2016 was the first election in 50 years without the protections of the Federal Voting Rights Act. The voting rights act was brought before the US Supreme Court in 2013. The Supreme Court ruled section 4 of the law unconstitutional. As a result, states that were covered under the law began rolling back voting rights protections that protected people of color, the poor, and the elderly. In states all over the country, voter ID laws were passed into law, early voting was rolled back and early voting was eliminated
Young Black Democrats of Western New York member Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux said after being asked how the Democrats ran the general election campaign that she saw a need for “to reach out to young Republicans after the primary elections.” She said that Democrats “did a great job of reaching out to the black Churches, but they need to go beyond that to reach black progressives and other progressives.” To her, Democrats failed to engage the progressive left and give them a reason to vote.
“What’s scary to me as an African American is that what Obama was for the African American community is what Donald Trump can be for white people all over this country,” said Martin-Bordeaux. When it comes to policy priorities, Martin-Bordeaux said she was “terrified” to think about children who would be deported under Trump campaign polices, the movement towards school privatization, stop-and-frisk policies being introduced nationally, and more. She said, Trump “has no plan to deal with the 2.7 million people locked up in jails in the United States.”
Vicki Ross of the WNY peace center shared her thoughts on Trump’s election as well, speaking more to a broken political system and concerns over how the process is conducted “secret money goes into our elections and the result ended up being two of the least popular presidential candidates ever to make it to a general election.” Ross mentioned voter suppression efforts and the issues associated with some electronic voting machines.
Among her biggest worries of a Trump presidency are the treatment of refugees, immigrants, Muslims, people of color and women. In Ross’s view, the United States “just elected someone who is a demagogue and a hate-monger.” She added “I’m the daughter of a German Jew.” She was particularly concerned and outraged that Trump managed to win the votes of white women in the election.
Like Ball, Hess, and Martin-Bordeaux, Ross has a sense of optimism about the future. She said, the “crises are equal to opportunity and there’s a resurgence to commitment and energy from people in all communities.” Ross was present at a Buffalo, NY rally organized against Donald Trump. She said the rally brought out droves of people, estimated to be over 400, to oppose Trump and what he stands for.
Ross said that too many people “don’t know about Trump, he’s being brought up on very serious criminal charges.” She makes reference to a court case involving a 13 year old plaintiff. More important than ever, in Ross’ view, a “movement is needed to work with young people and other activists,” she said, “the Arc of history is long, but we will get to a place of peace, love and justice.”
When all the votes are counted from the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton will have won the popular vote despite Trump’s winning the Electoral College and becoming President-Elect. Trump won 30 of the 50 state-by-state contests that determine which presidential electors are sent to Washington to vote for president on December 19th.
The media talked around the clock about demographic breakdowns and how that would affect the outcome of the election. It was expected that Trump would do well among older voters, white voters, southern voters, voters with a high school education and voters in rural areas. Clinton’s base of voters was younger voters, minority voters, voters in the West, Northeast, and voters in urban areas. The battle over voters was expected to end up in suburban areas in swing states, but actually took place in the rust belt.
Both Trump and Clinton found support in unexpected places, Clinton with ideological conservatives and Trump with minority voters. Ahmed Hamedi, owner of House of Hummus in Buffalo, leaned towards Donald Trump in this election and saw him as the “lesser of two evils.” Hamedi was “not too fond of Trump, but he was better than Clinton. Hamedi liked Sanders in the primary and watched the election results till 3 a.m., but did not cast a vote in the election.
Hamedi suspected that Trump would win the presidency. He said he saw in Trump as a “fresh mind in politics that would bring in different ideas.” He said people “wanted a new face, someone needed to shake up the system.” Hamedi is hoping that the president-elect will reverse the Affordable Care Act because of the effects it’s having on regular people. He’s a supporter of a universal health insurance system because “Obamacare is not like the Canadian system and our system leaves too many people out.”
Hamedi sees in Trump a chance to make changes to international trade agreements and help American businesses. Foreign policy is a top priority for him, and he saw Clinton as someone more likely to go to war. Hamedi said “she would start world war 3 if she became president and escalate tensions with Russia, China, and Iran. Clinton was ready to go to war in Syria.” On other policy items, Hamedi said “maybe Clinton is better than Trump, but we can’t be at war.” He was worried about Clinton’s approach towards Palestine and referred to Clinton as a “warmonger.”
Trump’s rhetoric and proposals relating to the Muslim community were a cause of concern for Hamedi. He said, “I worry about Muslim rights, surveillance is worrisome in Mosques, I’m sure it’s happening already. Trump can be another George W Bush.” Hamedi said stopping wars abroad should be our first priority and that the president-elect needs to focus on rebuilding our infrastructure in this country. He stressed the need for more job creation and expressed that Trump might be able to deliver.
Michael Weston is a Professor at Genesee Community College and supported Donald Trump in the presidential election. He’s assisted the Bush administration in preparing a component of the Bush Doctrine and was an early supporter of Donald trump. Weston describes himself as upper-middle class by way of “moving up the ranks.” In his view, the government under Obama abandoned people like Weston, which garnered support for Trump.
Weston said that Democrats outnumbered Republicans nationally even as voting began. Large states like California, Illinois and New York always votes Democrat and that makes winning a challenge for any Republican. Despite that, before Election Day he believed that Trump had a reasonable chance of winning.
Weston was optimistic that motivated Trump voters, many who haven’t voted in several election cycles or ever before, were going to show up and put him over the top. When talking about the state-by-state breakdown, Weston was not surprised about the support for the President-Elect in Florida. He said Trump had “lots of support in Palm Beach. I spoke in Trump’s Club; he had lots of support among retirees.” What surprised him were Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. When away from big cities, Republicans have to get large numbers of voters to win.
When he was asked about why he supported Trump, Weston described trump as genuine and said, “That’s appealing to me. I have two attorney friends who are friends of Donald. What you see in public is who he is. He speaks off the cuff at times but speaks what is on his mind.” Trump’s reputation and experience as a businessman factored into Weston’s support as well.
Weston spoke about the need to change relations between the United States and Russia. He said, Obama was someone “Who can be pushed. Russians respect boundaries and stability. They’re sure they can’t push Trump more like they could Obama.” He added “we are going to have a reset in our relations with Russia” and referenced recent news stories that suggest just that is happening. The Russians have suggested a willingness to work with the United States on fighting ‘common enemies’, a willingness not shown often, previous Tuesday’s election results.
Many in the media claimed Trump lacked a ground campaign or a quality campaign operation. Michael Caputo was among those who assisted Trump with media relations and other campaign strategies through the spring of 2016. He was state director of the Trump campaign in New York for a time and assisted in preparing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He has known Trump since 1988 and he was among a group actively recruiting Trump to run for Governor of New York State in 2013. Trump ultimately decided against it.
Caputo lost confidence in a likely Trump victory just days before Election Day. He said Trump had “no visibility in Michigan and Wisconsin, internal tracking polls in certain key regions were tightening.” Caputo said polls were apparently wrong and went against his gut instinct, but that he approached politics as a technology, and put weight into polls coming out in the days leading up to election.
Caputo described Trump as a moderate and said the campaign tended towards exaggerations. In his view, the 2016 campaign was defamation-based and the issues were not a major focus.
Among the critiques of Trump are allegations that his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is a white nationalist: “I’ve known Bannon, interacted with him. Don’t buy the spin that he’s some white nationalist and anti-Semite,” said Caput. He noted that Bannon has worked with Jewish community organizations and that Jewish leaders have come to know and trust him.
Caputo has his own reasons to be concerned about the next 4 years, in part, because of Trump’s ability to carry out his agenda. Reince Priebus is among the appointees Trump has made that are more in line with the political establishment that Trump ran and railed against during the primary. Caputo trusts Priebus’s conservative instincts and said Priebus would help pass Trumps agenda, but added “Trump’s agenda will be derailed by some establishment appointees. There are simply not enough experienced anti-establishment Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to staff the administration.”
Trump has said that one of his primary objectives was to undo many of the executive orders passed during the Obama years. Caputo spoke about a group of businessmen who were asked to research Obama executive orders and present Trump with a plan on how to undo them. According to Caputo, it took George W Bush nearly 2 years to undo much of what Bill Clinton passed via executive order, and Bush essentially ran Bill Clinton’s White House for the first two years.
Weston and Caputo spoke about all the work needed to be done in this country. Weston said “the country is being torn apart, even during the Vietnam war it did not appear to be this bad,” Weston said, “I don’t think Trump came in with a mandate. He won the Electoral College and in the end, he has to extend an olive branch to half of the electorate and assuage anger on the left.”
Caputo and Weston asked that the public give Trump a chance. He mentioned that with all the cultural change and increased acceptance that it is possible Trump will be the most pro-LGBT president the country has had yet. Caputo asked Trump’s opposition to “Take a breath and let him lead, give him an opportunity…I think many of the groups in the Democrat coalition will be very pleased with Trump.”