After more than 1,400 days of Donald Trump’s presidency – after two bitter elections, two impeachments, more than 26,000 presidential tweets and four years of near-constant upheaval – it is left to American voters to tally it all up.
Where they are. How they got here. Regrets and rage, trepidation and hope.
The Associated Press talked with Americans of all political stripes and asked them to assess this astonishing moment in their country’s history. They do not fall into neat categories: There are two Air Force veterans, one a Black investor who admires Trump, the other a white retired major who bemoans what has become of the Republican Party.
While some expressed confidence that the days ahead will find their country in a better place, others said they were fearful of the future, whether because of the violence displayed at the Capitol in recent days or because of concerns about the incoming Biden administration.
They offered broad smiles for these portraits, posing in or near their homes in the East, the South, the Midwest. But all, to some degree, bemoaned the discord that has beset the United States.
“We have become more Democrats and Republicans than we are Americans,” said Trump supporter Bobby Mitchell.
JEFF BUTCHER considered himself a nonpolitical centrist before he came to admire Trump, who would “run the country like it was a business.” He praises Trump for fighting to protect jobs and industries from foreign competition. The 51-year-old welder at a forklift factory in Celina, Ohio, feels the election was rigged and leftists were behind the attack on the Capitol, though there is no evidence that either is true. And while he hopes “everything goes smooth” with Joe Biden, he fears what Democrats will do – and he wants Trump to run again in 2024.
CYNTHIA MORRAZ, a 26-year-old student at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, volunteered to help with early voting there. She feels the incoming administration will be more inclusive, and hopes it will find a permanent solution for young immigrants who arrived as children and are in the country illegally. And Morraz says the background of the new vice president, Kamala Harris, will be beneficial: “To see a woman of color in such a leadership position, and someone who embodies the immigrant experience and is a product of that is so uplifting for so many of our communities.”
FRANK AYLLON does not regret voting for Trump twice. Ayllon, a 37-year-old food services consultant in Miami, credits Trump with dispelling political correctness, with bringing jobs back from overseas and regaining international respect for America. But he decries the violence committed by Trump supporters – “The rioting, the looting, the antifa methods. We are doing the same thing.” – and says he thinks Biden’s respectful personality will serve the country well. Ayllon says he will support the elected president, regardless of whether he voted for that candidate: “I am an American at the end of the day.”
JASON PRATS tried to argue with fellow Latinos who supported Donald Trump, pointing out that he had curtailed immigration and restricted asylum. He thinks the reason he was unsuccessful was the influence of disinformation in social media and on the Internet. Prats, 30, works in accounting and finance in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; he thinks Biden will be a “great model” who will restore America’s character, and that Republicans will work with him. “It’s not going to be perfect. Politics is never perfect, but at least never as bad as it has been.”
BOBBY MITCHELL feels authorities should have ordered a recount he says was needed to restore confidence in the electoral process. While the 39-year-old investor and Air Force veteran from Columbus, Ohio, does not condone the violence at the Capitol – “any patriot should not support that type of behavior” – Mitchell, who is Black, thinks Black Lives Matter demonstrators do not receive the same scrutiny. He praises Trump for “taking care of Americans first in every trade deal,” though “I don’t think there’s any Republican that I know that agrees with everything” the president has done.
SUE-ANN DIVITO has never been as politically active as she has been for the past four years. A 58-year-old real estate agent from Solebury, Pennsylvania, she helped start a local pro-immigrant organization and went to the Mexican border to protest the Trump administration policy that separated immigrant children from their parents. She deplores the nation’s divisions and the “toxic mentality” of some Trump supporters she knows. And she hopes that this is the beginning of an era of political involvement, that “people stay engaged and not think ‘Hey, everything is going to be fine.’”
SANDY ATKINS is 59, but she never voted for president – until 2020, when the self-described Christian from Syracuse, Indiana, cast her ballot for Trump. “I like that he won’t back down,” she says. She hoped until Jan. 6 that God would intervene and keep Trump in office; if Biden had won fairly, “I think everyone, even Donald Trump, would have accepted that.” Now, she says, there is too much hatred, and a lack of trust that will lead people not to vote. Will she vote again? “If Donald Trump runs again, yes.”
COLE SHEPHERD left the Air Force just two years ago, and 2020 was a jarring return to civilian life. After so many years “in a rather ordered society, where everybody has a single agreed upon set of facts and way the world works, to confront the messiness of the last year was surprising,” says Shepherd, 60, a retired major who lives in Gallatin, Tennessee. A centrist Democrat, he voted for Biden, believing that the former vice president might repair relations with U.S. allies. “The Republican Party has moved so far to the right.”
KENNETH EATON, a 63-year-old Nashville businessman, was proud to serve as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention in 2016. Trump has been a great president, he says, but should have conceded: “It’s like when you’re 6 inches short of the touchdown you need to win the Super Bowl. It happened, you lost, and you have to move on.” Biden, he says, is “a nice guy,” and he hopes his administration will succeed. “I don’t believe we’ll have as much turmoil,” he says, “but at the same time I don’t believe we’ll get as much done.”
LATRICIA ROBINSON never liked Donald Trump: “I see him as the Antichrist. I’m sorry. I do. He’s evil. Pure evil.” Robinson, a 48-year-old Black woman who works in health care in St. Petersburg, Florida, was incensed when Trump challenged votes in states like Georgia – part and parcel, she says, of efforts to silence Black voices. The election of Biden and Harris has made her hopeful, as have the results of the Georgia runoff election. “The African American women did get out to vote. It’s always been the African American women, the queens,” she says.
AP reporters Adriana Gomez Licon, Tamara Lush and Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this story.
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