After Charlottesville, Trump Supporters Stand By The President NPR's Dwane Brown checks in with the Washington Examiner's Salena Zito to hear how rural Trump supporters are reacting to the week's events.
NPR logo

After Charlottesville, Trump Supporters Stand By The President

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/544727399/544727400" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
After Charlottesville, Trump Supporters Stand By The President

After Charlottesville, Trump Supporters Stand By The President

After Charlottesville, Trump Supporters Stand By The President

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/544727399/544727400" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's Dwane Brown checks in with the Washington Examiner's Salena Zito to hear how rural Trump supporters are reacting to the week's events.

DWANE BROWN, HOST:

With everything that's been going on this week, we thought this would be a good time to check in with some of those who voted for President Trump to see how they think he is handling the many controversies, shake-ups and the presidency overall. We'll start with Denise Galvez. She's founder of Latinas For Trump. And she says, she still has confidence in her vote and wants him to stick to his agenda that made her vote for him.

DENISE GALVEZ: I think he's an effective leader. I just don't think he's used to being scrutinized at these levels. And he's not used to, quite honestly, just keeping quiet when things like this that don't really matter in the grand scheme - like, I think he really needs to be able to take that criticism and just bite his tongue and then just stay focused and stay on message.

And, like, we completely lost any, you know, communication or anything that was effectively communicated via - about infrastructure when he decided to instead start answering questions, again, about everything that had happened over the weekend in Charlottesville. And he should have just stayed on message because those of us that voted for him were dying to hear the infrastructure plan (laughter). And it, of course, got completely lost.

BROWN: We also spoke with construction tradesmen Kevin Eisbrenner, who voted for Donald Trump. He says he's approved of Trump's responses to the events in Charlottesville, which are in line with a common Republican view that racial division throughout the country could be helped by focusing on common nationality.

KEVIN EISBRENNER: Most of the common sense people - Americans - that I know, whatever their ethnic background, they look at it and they say, you know, I just have to avoid ignorance. I have to walk away from it. I'm never going to change that person, and that's just how it is. You know, we got Americans and then we got hyphenated Americans. Let's have Americans. Everybody I associate with that's nonwhite, their ethnicity never enters my mind when I'm with them. The ones I don't like to associate with, that's all they let you think about through their speech, their manners, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Who cares what your ethnic background is? Great. You know, maybe we can learn something. Maybe I can teach a dish. You know, I'm fourth generation here, so I don't have a - I didn't have a grandmother teach me how to cook ethnic. But if you did, great. You know, come on over for a meal. I'll go over your house for a meal. And the left likes to teach us diversity, which is just a thinly veiled balkanization is what it is, you know. E pluribus unum - many one, and they teach the opposite.

BROWN: Well, one person who has had her pulse on the rural Trump voters that made such a difference in the 2016 election - Salena Zito. She's a political columnist for the Washington Examiner and the New York Post. And she's also a political analyst for CNN. She has spent the last few years traveling the U.S. by car, taking the pulse of the small cities and towns off the interstates. This week, she was in her car again talking to rural voters from around the country about how they responded to Trump's handling of Charlottesville.

SALENA ZITO: People have this expectation that every time President Trump does something or says something that insults people's sensibilities that voters are just going to say, OK, well, we're done. Well, he was a different kind of commodity to voters in the Rust Belt and in rural America. They knew he was flawed. They understood that. That's how that whole sort of line came out - voters take him seriously but not literally. And we, in the media, take him literally but not seriously. And...

BROWN: Is that still the case?

ZITO: Absolutely. That's never changed. You know, they've known who he was for 20 years. That's been imbedded in their psyche, and that's not going to be the thing that detaches them from him. I mean, here's what would - if he became part of the swamp. I mean, that is the thing that they dislike the most - the establishment.

And here's the thing that'll shock everybody - most of the people that I interview voted for Obama twice. The - race is not a factor in this. And people don't understand that. They paint this broad brush that because you supported Trump and because you still support him when he says stupid things, that you are then a racist.

BROWN: And you say race is not a factor. So what matters to these voters in these rural areas?

ZITO: Race is not a factor in why they support him. And race was - is not - I mean, the biggest thing people missed was that they thought this was about anger and bitterness and resentment. And it's more aspirational. They want their country to be more united. They wanted to feel more connected to people. But I would argue - people say trade has hurt these people the most.

I would say that automation and technology is really the problem. And too many, for too long, and especially in the areas that I've covered, Democrats have been in power in those areas - been in power since FDR, right? And they kept being promised that under this next Democrat, things are going to be better for them. But it turned out that the policies or the growth of technology has, in fact, hurt them the most. And nobody has sort of put anything in place to replace those jobs.

And the thing that they hear all the time is, well, just move. And here's the problem with that - in these communities - and we're not just talking about rural America. I'm talking about towns like Youngstown and East Liverpool and Akron, Ohio, and places like that and Johnstown, Pa. Community means a lot to them. It means something to them that they live near their children.

And part of this disconnect with the Democratic Party was that they are losing power in their communities - not power in the way that we think of when we think of a boardroom in New York or power in Washington - power in that they live in the same town that their father's father's father lived in. But they know that their children and their grandchildren cannot live there. And that's very difficult for them to accept.

BROWN: Do you see any waning of confidence from these voters in their candidate-turned president?

ZITO: No. Here's what I will tell you I see right now - and I just got back from 27,000 miles in the country. It is November 8, 2016, and it's about midnight. And if you voted for Donald Trump, you're still very optimistic and hopeful and anticipating to see what he does. If you dislike Donald Trump, you still dislike Donald Trump, and you still do not believe his presidency is legitimate. Nothing has changed since November 16.

BROWN: That was political reporter Salena Zito with a view from rural America.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.