So, why did people vote for Donald Trump?

Despite the fact that I resigned from the Republican Party when Donald Trump was nominated and wish he were out of the White House tomorrow, I have been very troubled by the ugly characterizations of anyone who voted for him, to include, at worst: deplorable, unredeemable, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic and/or jingoistic. At best, they are perceived as ill-informed.

I have had many discussions with people who voted for Trump, and I have not met a single one who fits the descriptors above. Most of them were willing to share with me their reasons, and this column is a summary of what I heard. It’s amazing what you can learn, and how people will open up, when you listen not with the intent of arguing or judging, but rather with the intent of understanding.

Many of them thought Trump had little or no chance of being elected, but voted for him anyway. Here’s why (in no particular order):

  1. They were opposed to four to eight more years of what they saw as the progressive politics of Barack Obama as reflected by Hillary Clinton’s swing further to the left in response to Bernie Sander’s primary challenge.
  2. Perception of weak border enforcement.
  3. The unwillingness of the Obama administration to call radical Islamic terrorism by its name.
  4. Objection to President Obama and Justice Department officials putting their fingers on the scales of justice when racial incidents were involved.
  5. Concern about the IRS discriminating against TEA Party and other conservative groups.
  6. Great concern about liberal judges and justices appointed to the federal judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court.
  7. Anxiety about the declining percentage of GNP dedicated to the military, and concern about reports of declining military readiness.
  8. Distress about the left-leaning political indoctrination, and suppression of free speech, running rampant on college campuses and in public schools.
  9. Resentment toward the condescension exhibited by Barack Obama when describing people in the heartland as clinging to their guns and Bibles and distrust of people unlike themselves.
  1. Hillary Clinton’s use of the term “deplorables” was a deal breaker.
  2. Complete distrust of Hillary Clinton. Perceived her as a phony, with no acceptance of her explanations with respect to either Benghazi or the much-disputed emails.
  3. Concern about the national debt, believing that Clinton would only make the situation worse.
  4. Expecting Clinton to win, they wanted to minimize her margin of victory and thus be unable to claim a large political mandate.
  5. Perception of universal health care as a budget buster.
  6. General opposition to what they perceived as an ever-increasing size, scope and power of the federal government.
  7. Trump was seen as a successful businessman, and it was thought that he could run the administration in a business-like manner.

Many were disappointed with Trump’s pre-election commentary and behavior. Most of them supported other Republicans during the primary. However, when it came down to Trump or Clinton, they held their noses and voted for Trump, some with trepidation. In fact, some of them today would be happy to see either his resignation or impeachment. But at the time they were willing to take a chance, kick the card table over and let the chips fall where they may.

My conclusion is that these people do not represent a basket of deplorables. For most of them, expecting him to lose, this was a protest vote. Many came from the professions, from the military or from government service. These are well-informed and patriotic Americans who were desperate for a change, even if it meant rolling the dice, in some cases against their better judgment.

Filko lives in Williamsburg and has taught economics and American government.

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