Trump Supporters And Skeptics Discuss His First 100 Days

Apr 26, 2017
Originally published on April 26, 2017 7:30 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, we are just days away from the official 100-day mark of Donald Trump's presidency. This is a milestone that the president has both promoted and dismissed. But it's one that NPR's Don Gonyea has been asking voters about all across the country. And Don is back in our studios this morning. Hey there, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So a basic question, I mean, how do you hit the road and actually find voters who you're going to talk to?

GONYEA: It's the best part of what I do and I do it week after week. I fly some place. I get my rental car. And I decide which direction to point. And I drive and I find people. And I talk to them. And for this story, other NPR reporters were out doing the exact same thing. So, David, if you want to ride along with me...

GREENE: I do. I do.

GONYEA: ...We'll start with what Trump supporters told us.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I think he's right on schedule. I'm proud of him. I'm happy with everything that he's done so far.

GARY FREDERICK: You have to give him an A-plus because he's done a great job.

ROXANNE WALLACE: I'm glad that we finally have what I consider a leader. Doesn't mean we're going to like it but at least he's doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: If you want the best, you voted for Trump. You want a mess, you voted for the rest.

GONYEA: In the mix there you heard voices from Ohio, New Jersey and North Carolina. Now let's allow them to explain themselves a bit, starting with Gary Frederick. He's 64 years old and owns a diner in Trumbull County, Ohio, a place that went big for Trump after previously going Obama in '08 and '12. I first met him two days after the election.

He voted Trump and he was then looking forward to the demise of Obamacare. Last week, I went to see him again and we talked about that.

FREDERICK: Yeah, it still sucks (laughter).

GONYEA: You guys all wanted it repealed right away.

FREDERICK: Yeah.

GONYEA: It was a big problem.

FREDERICK: Yep.

GONYEA: What was your take on that?

FREDERICK: Well, that's more of Congress, not Trump's doing.

GONYEA: And that's a pretty common reaction from Trump supporters. There is a lot of finger-pointing at U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan for being too establishment. Trump also gets a lot of praise for naming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

And his backers don't seem too concerned about whether he'll keep a promise to make Mexico pay for a wall along the Southern border. Here's Roxanne Wallace. She was at a recent candidate town hall in Flanders, N.J.

WALLACE: I think he's finally addressing the immigration issue. I think - I hope he does something about the taxes, at least he's willing to address it. What I like is he's not giving lip service like so many politicians do just to get elected and then they forget about everything.

GONYEA: Now, let's go down to Rock Hill, S.C., where John James was having lunch. He works for the local school district and says he likes that the president is keeping Democrats and Republicans off balance.

JOHN JAMES: And I kind of - I like them to be unsettled. And so it wasn't necessarily what Trump was saying, it was more like what he represented in terms of anti-establishment.

GONYEA: Now to some voters who are not liking what they see. These are voters we talked to in Minnesota, New York and New Jersey.

BARBARA BABCOCK: The man is a disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Style is a negative 100. Substance - zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I have a real problem with a leader who basically outwardly lies, does not concede the facts.

MARIE SCHUSTER: The word that we hear so often is bully and I do feel that he has acted as a bully.

GONYEA: For these Trump detractors, the hundred days played out first in disbelief and now ongoing anger at what they're seeing. Barbara Babcock is a retired New Jersey schoolteacher.

BABCOCK: He has ties to Russia. He won't show us his tax returns. He has ties to Russia. He wants to - I mean, every time I hear anything that comes out of his mouth, I'm just horrified. It's just like a new horror every single day. I don't think he reasons. I don't think he thinks things through.

GONYEA: And in Buffalo, Marie Schuster, who works with refugees, says it's offensive how Trump as president still deals with his opponents.

SCHUSTER: I am very concerned with a leader on the international stage of any country that can't take humor, critique and that reacts so viciously towards those who do criticize and personal attacks on the Internet.

GREENE: We're listening to voters who spoke with our colleague Don Gonyea as he traveled across the country. And, Don, such extremes on both sides there. But we have this president, I mean, he has the lowest approval rating for any modern president this early in a term. Did you find Trump supporters who have sort of begun to sour at all?

GONYEA: I have yet to encounter a Trump voter - a Trump voter - who says never mind, he's lost me. But I have, David, talked to people who say they supported him once he took office, that they wanted to back their president, that they wished him well but that he's made that impossible just by how he's carried himself in the job.

Take Brett Sommer, a high school teacher in a suburb of Buffalo. He is a Republican. He voted third party but says he gave Trump a chance. It didn't last. Give a listen.

BRETT SOMMER: If you can't discipline what comes out of your mouth or in that case what comes out of your thumbs, to me that's a very strong indication of how disciplined your mind is and being able to make a decision that is not just off the cuff and instinctual.

And you have to understand that you just can't say what you want to say when you want to say it. I can't do that as a teacher. I can't do that in my marriage.

GONYEA: Now, let's head back to Northeast Ohio and Tom Zawistowski, who heads the big Tea Party group there. They worked hard in a key battleground state to get Trump elected. Now, he stresses they are still with him but he also makes it clear they don't like the way Trump ripped the Freedom Caucus after the health care bill collapsed.

And they don't like reports that Trump adviser Steve Bannon - he's the firebrand conservative in the West Wing - may be losing out in White House infighting. I asked Zawistowski about all that.

TOM ZAWISTOWSKI: Yeah, it is a problem for us. We elected Donald Trump. When I say we, I mean the grass roots core Tea Party, you know, type people. We carried the flag. And we believe that earns us a certain amount of import. And if you say Steve Bannon's going to go, well, then who are you going to replace him with? OK, who are you going to replace him with?

GONYEA: We don't know Steve Bannon's fate but the message from Zawistowski is clear. They support Trump but it's not unconditional.

GREENE: All right, road tripping with NPR's Don Gonyea. Thanks, Don.

GONYEA: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.