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Conversation with a Bennington College Trump voter

Content warning: this article contains discussions of issues that may be harmful or divisive. See below for a message from the editors about this piece.


Who are you voting for in the 2020 election?

“Donald J. Trump.” 

Why? 

“It probably boils down to just upbringing. […] I probably won’t always vote Republican but right now I think that Trump’s a better option than Biden. […] My family is super traditional, old-fashioned, conservative Republican, so my whole life I’ve just heard their take on everything in politics. So it is really awesome, being here, just hearing the other side of it, even though it’s extreme. The side I heard was also extreme, I heard the extreme right. [..] It’s been good hearing the other perspective because I’ve changed my mind on a lot of things.”

Like what? 

“Like, the wealth problem. […] The politicians take money from the rich people and help the rich people make more money.”

Who do you think is more guilty of being influenced by wealth: Trump, or Biden? 

“Trump was a rich successful negotiator businessperson before he was President, so he owes it all to money—to capitalism. So since he’s in the Presidency now, he’s just going to keep advocating for capitalism. Which, I don’t really have anything against capitalism, I just think it’s unfair that he should like, for instance…” he doesn’t tell me specifically what is unfair, but continues, “He hasn’t raised taxes for our income, and I think the Democrats want to raise taxes.”

Who do you think the Democrats want to raise taxes for? 

“The poor people, probably, because they want a more socialized economy.”

The Democrats want to raise taxes on poor people? 

“They want to raise taxes, I think.” 

But on who?

 “On… everyone? Or, rich people, I suppose, which wouldn’t really be us, I guess.”

Do you think raising taxes on the rich would be a problem?

“Not really, I guess, unless I became rich. No, I’m just kidding… Maybe. Maybe if I was rich [it would be a problem], but that’s such a selfish way of looking at it.

So, a couple of minutes ago, you said that you disagreed with what you perceive to be the Democrats tax policy, but that’s different than what you said just now.

“Yeah, it probably is.”

Eventually, we veer onto the topic of foreign affairs.

“[Obama’s] foreign affairs weren’t awesome, I guess. I do like Trump’s foreign affairs better, I guess, even though he says stupid shit like China Virus, and whatever.”

What about his foreign affair policy appeals to you?

“I’m probably going to trigger everyone, but he did build the wall. He did say he was gonna do that and he did secure the border which is important.”

That’s important to you?

“It is important, I think.”

Why?

“Because it’s not really great to have people illegally coming here, you know? You can come here with the direct documentation—you can come here legally, you know? But sneaking here is illegal, so why would we let it happen?”

Do you think it should be easier to come here?

“Yeah, maybe. I don’t really know the rules around that, around how one would even come here, but, yeah, I think maybe it should be easier. I don’t know, it depends, I guess.”

On what?

“On what’s happening in our own country, and… I’m not exactly sure.” He continues, “The border security is fine, I like border security, but I’m not necessarily saying don’t let people in legally. I honestly don’t know what it takes for someone to get here. A passport, right?” 

Well, it can be almost impossible for certain people to immigrate here legally without refugee status. Especially for economically-disadvantaged people, because the U.S. government doesn’t recognize economic migrants as refugees, even though their lives could be in danger because of the severity of their poverty. So some people come here illegally because it’s almost impossible to come here legally.

“But that still doesn’t make it okay.”

So, what would you suggest they do? What would you do if you were in their position?

“Well, I’m not, so I really don’t know. It’s not really our job to fix their lives anyways.” He tells me that the President should prioritize the lives of U.S. citizens “because he’s the president of America. Not Mexico.”

Still, he tells me that voting for Trump was “sort of” a hard decision for him. “I wasn’t going to vote for Biden but I wasn’t sure that […] I wanted to vote for Trump.”

He tells me where this hesitation came from: “I suppose I don’t like that he’s not a respectable person. […] He’s respected by rednecks. […] He’s just not polite and diplomatic, which is what I don’t like about him, but there’s also a good side to that because […] some politicians are just too diplomatic and they don’t really do anything and I feel like Trump has done things. He’s done things that he’s said he was going to do, and he’s helped the economy. In one way or another, he has helped.” 

How? 

“I’ve heard that the Black unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been and the stock market is obviously booming. […] Not everything he does for the economy is just for the rich. I think he does help lower class families in some ways. Like I said, I don’t really know all of the facts or statistics so I can’t really elaborate.”

I ask anyways, How have his economic policies supported lower-income families?

“I couldn’t really tell you, actually. That’s my problem with politics is like, I can’t back up everything I say, I just take what I hear from everyone and formulate my own opinion, which, is okay, but I really should have facts to back up, and actually read articles.” 

What are your thoughts on Trump’s support of alt-right organizations and movements, for instance, his rhetoric about “bad people on both sides” during the Charlottesville protests, or more recently, his support of the Proud Boys?

“Yeah, I don’t really know much about that. I think the alt-right is bad, and so is the alt-left.”

What do you consider to be the alt-left?

“Hmm… What is the alt-left…?

Well, would you consider me alt-left? I ask, knowing that the interviewee is familiar with my leftist political philosophy.

“I don’t know. […] I think that too much either way is bad.

Why? 

Because… it is. You have the alt-right: they’re all racist, hill-billy, fire a rifle in the air, balls deep in a squeelin’ hog sort of people. But… I’d say the alt-left is probably bad, too. Because… they are. They do bad things.

Like what?

“I don’t know. I think the alt-left has the stigma of being triggered. And now that I’m here it seems normal, but socialism is probably… is that a left thing?”

Yeah, socialism is left. But how do you define socialism? 

“Like, wanting socialized healthcare, and helping people who want that. Like, people who would’ve voted for Bernie, because he was a socialist, right?”

Well, he identifies as a Democratic socialist. Do you think people on campus are too far left? You mentioned getting triggered. Do you think people on this campus get triggered sometimes? 

Probably. I get triggered, sometimes. 

Over what? 

“People being rude. On a day to day basis, people who don’t really have empathy. People that don’t respect other people, and especially that don’t respect the dining service. That triggers me, to see people that are entitled. That makes me angry. I mean, it doesn’t make me, like, furious, but that’s something that I think is bad. Entitlement.”

I veer back to the question of social policy: What are your thoughts on Trump’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act?

“I don’t know. It doesn’t really affect me, so I don’t have to think about it. My parents just have me on their health insurance, so…”

How do you feel that your opinions are based on just what affects you?

“Yeah, it’s not great, because there’s more than just me, but, I mean, you’re supposed to vote for the candidate… what people do is they vote for the candidate that represents them and makes their life better. So, that’s kind of how democracy works. But you do have to keep in mind that there are other groups that you don’t want to be screwing over in the process.”

Yeah, I mean, in theory, that function of democracy works fine, but I feel like as cis white people, most legislation will be passed in our favor anyways.

He counters: “Democracy is, like, the majority decides. So if the majority has decided, then there’s nothing wrong with that.” 

I decide to move on. Who’s your ideal candidate? 

“Someone pretty neutral. If Trump was more empathetic towards other groups than just the white upper class, and he reached out to them more, that would be awesome. And then his legislation would follow that, and I feel like a lot more people would not have problems with him.”

But someone like that is your ideal candidate? Because I feel as though Trump’s policies are kind of the opposite of that, right?

He doesn’t have anything to say to that. I ask, Do you think you’d have voted for Bernie if he was the Democratic candidate?

“I think he was a little too extreme. A little too much of the socialism. I’m afraid it just wouldn’t work.”

Why?

“Because it never has?”

When?

“Everywhere else in the world it’s been tried.”

Like where?

“Cuba.” 

What about the Netherlands? I ask, thinking of socialism in the context of the Sanders’ philosophy.

“Yeah, it works there, I guess. But, it’s not good healthcare. You still have to pay more to get good, better healthcare. And people come to America to get surgeries all the time.
Okay, well, if you try to do that [socialized medicine], then the people with the good healthcare are going to oppose you. 

What do you mean? 

I mean, you try to give everyone shitty healthcare, mediocre healthcare, then the people will the good healthcare are going to oppose you. Which, I don’t know anyone without healthcare, personally.

I wouldn’t have healthcare without the Affordable Care Act.

“Okay… that’s one person. Well, yeah, people need to have access to healthcare. But it might not need to be socialized, there could be another option that gives everyone good healthcare. Maybe socialism is the answer, but until you can actually prove that you can give people good healthcare, then you’re never going to convince the people who [already] have good healthcare to vote that way.”

So, right now, are you not arguing for or against a specific policy but you’re just saying why, right now in this country, people aren’t going to vote for that?

“Yeah.”

Would you say that you feel apathetic towards politics?

“Sort of. I don’t know enough of what’s going on. And I honestly don’t care. I don’t really care that much.”

Do you think that you should?

“Yeah, totally, probably.”


The editorial team of the Bennington Beacon would like to address some concerns we received about this Q&A.

Firstly, we’d like to thank those of you who took the time and energy to share your concerns with us and give us thoughtful, constructive feedback. It is essential that we as a publication understand how our work is received by the Bennington community, because our chief goal is to serve you. 

The main criticism common to several readers who responded was that they were distressed by this piece, and expressed a wish that we either had never published it or had been more considerate about how we did.

We published this interview in line with our overall aim of documenting the heterogeneity of our community, and we regret that doing so in this case has caused pain among some readers. We believe that it is tremendously important to have honest and open discourse about sensitive topics—perhaps especially about sensitive topics—and we hope to continue to do so in as mindful and responsible a way as possible. Exchanges like this will, we hope, guide us in that effort.

We strongly welcome any and all perspectives to help us achieve this, and are happy to encourage exactly this kind of dialogue. In fact, if you would like to contribute to our publication or become part of the Beacon’s team, please reach out to our editor-in-chief @sarahlore@bennington.edu.

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