In the days leading up to the debate at Washington University, the usually taboo topic of politics was one of the only things people could talk about. Although Missouri is a mostly red state, Washington University is more liberal due to the large number of students from the East and West coasts. If someone is wearing a “Make America Great Again” shirt or hat, those around them will pass by and say, “I hope that is a joke” or “How could anyone support Trump?” While some unabashedly flaunt their views, WashU who support Trump know that people will judge them harshly for their views. Coming from the Bay Area, I have been less exposed to conservative viewpoints, so I thought it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of Trump supporters around campus.
When asked, “Why do you support Trump?,” one freshman – who preferred to be unnamed – simply stated, “I’d rather have a crazy dude as president than a liar.” No prize for guessing which candidate was which in his mind.
Trump supporters seem to value honesty, something that is somewhat strange considers Trump’s relationship with the Truth. PolitiFact found that 27 percent of Hillary Clinton’s statements were mostly false or worse, as compared with 70 percent of Trump’s. Despite this fact, many feel as if Clinton is more of a liar than Trump. This may be because Clinton’s lies are more like cover-ups and feel like excuses, while Trump’s lies are so blatantly false it doesn’t even seem like he is trying to lie. Indeed, this kind of narrative can be described as “post-truth politics”.
Another student who preferred to remain unnamed also is voting for Trump because of their dislike of Clinton, rather than their approbation of Trump. Clinton is “pretty snakey,” too much of a “career politician,” and has done a variety of “illegal things.” This student was upset about Clinton’s use of a private email server, which they felt was a “felony,” as well as the declassification of classified documents, deleting evidence under investigation, falsely pleading ignorance, and worst of all, not taking responsibility. The student thinks that “[Clinton] lacks integrity” because of these actions. As a pre-med student, this student also had a strong opinion on the medical policies of Clinton. They are an opponent of Obamacare, and are concerned that Clinton has plans to continue this policy and attempt to build on it. This student does not particularly like Trump, but has decided to vote for him to keep “Clinton out of office.” There is also a chance they will vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, whom the student dubbed a “lunatic.”
Another student, Daniel Tanenbaum, dislikes both candidates, but has more admiration for what Trump has accomplished in his campaign. Daniel is not voting for Trump or Clinton. He may not even vote for anyone, but his ideal president is Michael Bloomberg – a businessman just like Trump, just “not as extreme.” He thinks that Trump is a “good criminal,” but expressed admiration at the way Trump ran his campaign, because “no one would even consider Trump as president as of a year and a half ago.” He also “brought out a side of our country that no one thought existed,” which Daniel also finds impressive.
Daniel believes that Trump is an expert about the tax system, but he is a “man who does what he wants, which is scary.” His opinion is that Trump has the right to run for president, and he may be qualified or he may not be; no one can know for certain before he gets to office. When asked about Clinton, Daniel stated that, “Hillary has done good, but that doesn’t even the playing field.” For him, the email scandal and Benghazi are enough to disqualify her as a candidate for president.
In talking to the Trump supporters and admirers around campus, it seems that most of them are simply more against Clinton than positive supporters of Trump. They consistently valued honesty and asserted that Clinton was a liar and her sense of morality was off.
As preparations for the debate continued throughout the weekend, Trump supporters became more visible. Many were toting signs supporting Trump and Pence, or insulting Clinton (“crooked Hillary” or “Killary”). As my conversations developed, I came to the conclusion that most Trump supporters regard him as the lesser of two evils, rather than a positive choice. Often the reasons cited by advocates of Trump seem less important than their adverse instincts about Hillary Clinton.