This Family Doesn't Agree On Trump — But They Await His Presidency Together Danny McNeish voted for Hillary Clinton; his father and stepmother voted for Donald Trump. And though they disagree on who's best for the country, this Virginia family keeps things civil, even calm.
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This Family Doesn't Agree On Trump — But They Await His Presidency Together

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This Family Doesn't Agree On Trump — But They Await His Presidency Together

This Family Doesn't Agree On Trump — But They Await His Presidency Together

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Family Thanksgivings can often be fraught with drama. Now add to the mix the most contentious presidential campaign in recent memory. As Americans gather this coming week, NPR will check in with some of them for a series of conversations. We want to hear what people hope and expect as they look ahead to a Donald Trump administration. The state of Virginia voted for Hillary Clinton, but it was a very close race. NPR's Jennifer Ludden visited one politically divided family in Roanoke.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: The cozy cottage on a main road has a white picket fence and a broad front porch.

Hi. How are you?

PHIL MCNEISH: Good.

LUDDEN: Phil McNeish and his wife, Julie, live here. There's a scented candle in the living room, lots of family photos. Phil's son, Danny, also joins us. Julie gets coffee while we settle around a big, wooden dining table.

Julie's a schoolteacher, raised a Democrat. Phil McNeish is a machinist and calls himself a left-leaning independent. Both voted for Barack Obama in 2008, then Mitt Romney and, this time, Donald Trump. Phil grew up in New Jersey. He says he gets Trump's style.

P MCNEISH: He's brash. He's in your face. He - you know, he's rough around the edges.

LUDDEN: But he likes that Trump is toning down his campaign rhetoric and pulling back from some promises, like now saying he wants to keep parts of Obamacare.

P MCNEISH: I mean, he's been a Democrat most of his life. He's going to go more liberal than any of the other Republican candidates.

LUDDEN: And you find that good?

P MCNEISH: Yeah, I do find it good because I want someone in there that's going to get rid of the gridlock.

DANNY MCNEISH: How is he going to get rid it? The Republican Party doesn't support him.

LUDDEN: That's Danny, Phil's son. He's 35, works with a company that supplies and services restaurant equipment. Danny considered Trump's campaign a joke. He's bothered by his positions on climate change and abortion. He does not expect compromise.

D MCNEISH: I think he's going to do exactly what President Obama did and has done with executive orders. If you don't like it, too bad. I don't care. I just - I have no faith in him whatsoever.

JULIE MCNEISH: Did you think Clinton was going to make our life better?

D MCNEISH: I think the ship would have stayed the course it was going in with Clinton.

J MCNEISH: Well, look at us. We're worse off than we were.

LUDDEN: Julie says she's become so frustrated she just has to believe in Trump.

LUDDEN: Phil's working two full-time jobs. We have two adult children and three grandchildren who live with us because, like other young working families, they cannot make it. And how can we be working this hard? And you see we live modestly, and we're having a hard time just making our bills.

P MCNEISH: I think I peaked out in 2000. I'm currently making $12,000 less a year than I was making in 2000.

LUDDEN: When Phil went into manufacturing in his 20s, he couldn't believe the money. Companies would call up and compete to get him. But here in Virginia, he saw things change after NAFTA. When one employer moved to Mexico, Phil was flown there to help train the workers. Today, to make up for falling wages, he started his own company on the side. He works nights and weekends in his basement.

P MCNEISH: All right. This is it.

LUDDEN: They dipped into Julie's retirement to buy used equipment. He stands before a surface grinder and shows me how he smooths out a steel mold.

P MCNEISH: See the sparks there where the metal's coming off.

LUDDEN: These days, Phil's clients are upfront with him. He's competing with more than Mexico.

P MCNEISH: They'll tell me ahead of time, we're going to quote this out to China.

LUDDEN: He says he almost never gets those bids. He's counting on Trump to impose a tariff on Chinese imports.

P MCNEISH: I'm just hoping that there's a way to return to the days when we were a manufacturing power. I believe that's what brought us where we are today, and I hate to see it just gone.

LUDDEN: Back upstairs, Julie says she hopes people rally around President-elect Trump and give him a chance. Phil's son, Danny, says he worries what Trump will say when he's speaking without a teleprompter. But this family, including other children nearby, will keep their disagreements civil, even calm. I ask again, no Facebook feuds or flaring tempers? Well...

J MCNEISH: That's not our whole family (laughter).

LUDDEN: Extended family is far away, she says. But if they could make it for Thanksgiving, they'd be welcome.

Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Roanoke, Va.

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