With his celebrity lifestyle and made-for-reality-TV personality, some people didn’t take Donald Trump’s presidential bid seriously – but his polling numbers aren’t a joke, and he is seriously in the lead.
Trump is buoyed by a rising legion of supporters: people who want to help Trump make America not only great again, but “bigger, better and stronger.”
This hour of Reveal will delve into the hearts and minds of these Trump supporters. Who are they? Why do they support Trump?
We sent a team of reporters and producers to Trump events to find the answers to some of these questions. We also teamed up with the polling group YouGov to find out even more about the people who support Trump. Some of the results will surprise you – they surprised us.
Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.
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Al: From the center for investigative reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson, just when you think Donald Trump can’t say anything more outrageous he tops himself. You’ve already heard one of his latest viral sound bites, he made it while traveling through Iowa ahead of the February 1 caucus.
Donald Trump: I could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay. It’s like incredible.
Al: Yes, it is pretty incredible, even if he was joking, he has a point. Trump’s pole numbers keep going up, now matter what he says and does. It’s not just what Trump says that shocks many American’s, it’s that so many people support him, so what is it about Donald Trump that’s brought together so many people. That’s what we set out to discover on today’s show, we teamed up with the polling group UGOV to find out more about the people who support Donald Trump, who they are, where they live, what issues are most important to them. Some of the results will surprise you. They surprised us.
We also hit the road, for the past month we’ve had a team of reporters and producers traveling to Trump events, we went to three early primary states in three different parts of the country, Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina. We didn’t register as press, we just joined in with the rest of the crowd and recorded what we heard and on you’ll hear everything the way his supporters hear it. Whether it’s at a rally or on TV, for out first stop let’s bring in Katharine Mieszkowski, hey Katharine.
Katharine: Hi Al.
Al: We sent you to Las Vegas in December, what was it like going to a Trump rally in Sin City?
Katharine: Well a lot of people know Donald Trump because of his casinos in Atlantic City, so it was kind of fitting that this rally was at a hotel with a casino in Vegas. To get in I made my way by slot machines on the casino floor and then I joined a massive security line with hundreds of people waiting hours before the event and then I finally got inside. There was red, white and blue everything, there were Trump buttons and signs and sweatshirts that said, Mr. Trump, build that wall. A Trump impersonator was walking through the crowd offering to take selfies with people, most of the people there were white. There was a big age range from teenagers to retired folks.
Al: You’re in the rally and it sounds like people were pretty hyped to see their candidate as he took the stage.
Male: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next President of the United States. Mr. Donald J. Trump.
Katharine: It’s basically a total love fest here.
Donald Trump: This is really beautiful, fantastic, what a crowd, what a crowd. All right, thank you, good job.
Male: We love you Trump.
Donald Trump: I love you, I do love you. That’s why I’m doing this, I had such a nice life, I had such an easy life now I’m doing this, give me a break. We’re going to make America great again folks.
Katharine: The fact that Trump already has so much and is still running for President is one reason why the guy standing next to me supports him.
Michael: He doesn’t have to be here, do you understand. He’s already got the American dream, the guy can do whatever he wants. He wants to be President because he wants to fix America, not because he hates [inaudible 00:03:32].
Katharine: That’s Michael Augustine, in a lot of ways he’s a typical Trump supporter. He’s white, 54 years old, a registered republican, makes less then 50,000 dollars a year and doesn’t have a bachelors degree. Michael told me he voted for none of the above during the last presidential election, he has a thick mane of long, dark hair that falls to his shoulders. It’s somewhere on the fashion spectrum between good old boy and subversive. On stage, Trump invites the ralliers to picture the wall he wants to build between the US and Mexico.
Donald Trump: This is a big building, see that ceiling? That ceiling is much lower than my wall, believe me.
Katharine: Not everyone in the crowd is feeling the love, at Trump rallies throughout the country there have been dust ups between protesters, security and the crowd. Tonight’s not different, it’s not long before we hear a protester yell for gun control. [crosstalk 00:04:33] the crowd quickly shouts him down. [crosstalk 00:04:34].
Male: Get him out of here.
Katharine: Across the room and African American protester is on the ground being restrained by security. Someone yells the Nazi slogan. Seed Hayam and a reporter for Buzz Feed captured this.
Male: Light that [inaudible 00:05:00] on fire.
Katharine: I asked Michael about this moment later.
Michael: I didn’t hear that and what I heard was support, for that voice it took less than 3 seconds for the Trump, Trump, Trump to completely squash it.
Katharine: Throughout the night more protesters keep popping up and being escorted out, a white woman yelling black lives matter is dragged out. Trump even jokes about the protesters.
Donald Trump: Actually, I just want to say, I staged that, I actually put that person because that was the only way I was going to get the cameras turned to see how many people were in the room.
Katharine: Trump wraps up the night on a high note.
Donald Trump: The American dream is dead, but we’re going to make it bigger and better and stronger than ever before.
Katharine: The rally goers throng the stage, taking photos on their cell phones and seeking autographs, so that they can take a little piece of Trump back home with them. A couple days later I visit Michael at his home about an hour west of Las Vegas. He’s a little embarrassed about where he lives, right down to the name of the town, Perump.
Michael: It’s P-town, anything but the name, when we go to Cali or Vegas, the only time we ever tell anybody where we’re from is if we’ve been partying with them and it slips.
Katharine: Michael’s been in real estate here, he’ll be the first to tell you that has not made him a wealthy man in recent years. He drives a beat up old truck and is back living in the trailer he grew up in.
Michael: Okay, me, look where I’m at, do you know where my life is? I am poverty, I am poor, white trailer trash. My life, which half of it is child support, arrearages that I still owe for my son is 700 dollars a month, that’s what it takes me to live.
Katharine: The Obama years haven’t been prosperous ones for Michael, he doesn’t pin that on the president. But he does blame Obama for sharpening racial divisions in the country.
Michael: When Obama was elected president, I had hoped that he would bring us together. I’m of the opinion that, that my black friends still like me the same as they liked me before Obama, but there is a line in between us now that was not there before. Obama divided us, I don’t know how to explain it without sounding racist or bigoted as a white man I’m afraid to have white pride. I’m afraid to speak my white voice and I never used to be.
Katharine: He says that he loves that Trump is a bit of a wild card, that’s a sentiment I hear a lot from the candidates supporters.
Michael: Now this is where I fell in love with him, okay. When he first announced his candidacy I remember looking and going, is this insane, Donald Trump. You know and I’m listening to him and he’s kind of an ass, he’s pompous and you know, the crazy hair and all that stuff. But in simple layman lifestyle he really uncomplicates it.
Katharine: Trump has everything that Michael doesn’t. Starting with wealth, fame and celebrity. But the surprise is that the billionaire reality TV host, now republican presidential candidate has a way of making Michael feel better about his own life.
Michael: I’m sleeping in the same bedroom I slept in in 1975, okay. I lost something along the way, I know it was brought on myself but, Trump gave me a little bit of that back.
Katharine: He told me that Trump makes him feel rich inside, that feeling is worth a lot to him. Here’s just how much, he’s willing to set aside his top political issue to support him, these days Michael’s become a backyard pot grower and marijuana activist.
Michael: I need a gram a week for religious purposes and by religious I mean spiritual.
Katharine: Michael back legalization but done what he calls the right way, so small growers don’t get stamped out. That’s his number one political issue. Donald Trump is luke warm on legalization, saying it’s a states right issues but he’s skeptical, so if Trump vanishes Michael’s throwing his support behind democrat Bernie Sanders.
Michael: Well Katharine, that’s easy, you know he’s the only one that says legalize.
Al: That story was from Reveals Katharine Regowski, so is there a typical Trump supporter. We teamed up with UGOV an internet polling company to try and find out, they’ve been polling the same group of about 5,000 people since last May. That allows them to track changes in opinions over time, Doug Rivers is the chief scientist at UGOV, he’s also a professor of political science at Stanford University and he joins us now. Welcome Doug.
Doug: Good to be here.
Al: Doug can you talk a little bit about the Trump supporter that we just listened to, Michael. It just seems sort of strange that he would be a really hard core Trump supporter, but then at the end of the piece basically say, but if Trump doesn’t get the nomination he’s going with Bernie. It just seems like those two things don’t fit in the same place.
Doug: People say that politics make strange bed fellows, here you have a voter picking candidates at the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. But in fact, I think there’s some similarities in the appeals of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. What they seem to like about Trump is that he offers simple, direct solutions, you want to stop illegal immigration, build a wall. If it costs a lot of money make Mexico pay for it, in Sanders case it’s things like free college tuition, and healthcare for all paid for by the government. They appeal to voters who aren’t inherently ideological and I’d say that was Michael’s story.
He’s not happy with the way things are going, how the country doesn’t seem to belong to him anymore and Donald Trump, he’ll fix things for you, he’s the deal maker, he’ll bring these magical solutions.
Al: Doug, if we just look at demographics, is there a profile of the typical Trump supporter?
Doug: They typical Trump supporter is not quite what you would guess, they are more likely to be women than men, Trump gets nearly half the votes among republican voters over 65, but loses to all of them among republican voters under 30. They aren’t terribly religious so, which isn’t too surprising given Trumps personal biography. The event that Michael was at I wouldn’t describe as a gospel service and so Trump has this appeal to people who’d go to Las Vegas, who aren’t among the religious base that has been supporting republican candidates so overwhelmingly in recent elections.
Al: Do you have any idea who they supported in the last presidential election?
Doug: There are a big chunk of them who voted for Barack Obama, surprisingly, in 2008, 20% of the people say they are voting for Donald Trump in republican primary say they cast the vote for Barack Obama. That’s a surprise because these are two such different people, but at this moment it looks like the Trump appeal is one that seems like a solution to a lot of peoples problems and that’s why they’re enthusiastic about them.
Al: Do you have idea if the people that say they support Trump will actually end up voting for him? What are there past voting records?
Doug: Well, the Trump voters are not typical republican voters, so some people say we’re polling the wrong people, they’re people who like Trump. But actually won’t show up to vote for him, the one thing I would caution you on is they said the same thing about Barack Obama’s supporters in 2008 and he actually doubled the turnout in the 2008 Iowa caucuses.
Al: Yes, I was about to say, it feels like we’re looking at a mirror. Barack Obama got so many people excited, I mean it was a historic election. It seems like Trump has the ability to do the exact same thing.
Doug: People are excited about this guy, he’s funny, entertaining, they think he’s strong, he’s different and overwhelmingly they think he says what he means. Whereas most of the other politicians think they’re just trying to win votes.
Al: Doug Rivers is chief scientist at the internet polling company UGOV, he’s going to be joining us throughout the show with the results of a new poll on Trump supporters. Thanks Doug, we’ll talk to you in a few, and when we come back we head to the cold, the bitter cold of winter in Iowa. This is Reveal, from the center for investigative reporting and PRX.
Male: Hey listeners.
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Cole: Hey, listeners, Cole Goins here from Reveal. This week check out our Instagram feed. We’re featuring portraits of Trump supporters and scenes from the rallies we attended to make this show. You can find us there at Reveal News. You’re probably on your phone right now, so it’s pretty easy to give us a follow. Each week we’ll have new photos from our stories sprinkled with a newsroom hi-jinx. Again, that Reveal News on Instagram.
Al: From the Center for Investigation Reporting and PRX, you are listening to Reveal. I’m Al Leston. This hour we’ve been following republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump all over the country. He’s bringing out record crowds and shaking up the status quo. We wanted to learn a little bit more about the people who support him. A couple weeks ago, I took a trip to Iowa before the [inaudible 00:14:55] to see what some of his supporters had to say. Trump’s rally in Clear Lake was held at the Surf Ballroom, a historic venue, where back in the name big name acts performed, the Temptations, the Beach Boys, Waylon Jennings just to name a few, but the ballroom is most famous for being the last place and Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens played in 1959 before dying in a plane crash. Not a lot has changed in the ballroom since that time. The place is well care for, but stepping on the hardwood floors feels like walking through a portal to another error and while the past is still present, today, it’s all about the future and Donald Trump is the rock star on the stage.
Announcer: Please welcome the next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
Fran: I just saw Donald Trump. He is my guy. Go Donald.
Marvin: I got to say you’re glowing right now.
Fran: Yeah, yeah.
Al: Dedicated Trump supporters Fran Kirschner and her husband Marvin came to the rally to see Trump for a third time. Fran was downright lethal.
Fran: I thought this was very exciting.
Al: The Kirschner’s live about a ten-minute drive from the ballroom in Mason City.
Fran: Iowa always has a lot of activity around election time, especially a presidential election. Otherwise, no one knows we exist. I mean, we go back to sleep.
Al: That’s just how they like it. Fran is originally from Iowa, but lived on the East Coast with Marv for a while, but when Marv retired, they decided to head home. That was almost 20 years ago and they haven’t looked back.
Fran: I like getting away from all the traffic and it seemed like when we lived in Virginia, if we wanted to go a concert, you left three hours ahead of time and sat an hour and a half in the traffic. You waited a half an hour in line.
Al: A lot of people like Marv were first introduced to Donald Trump through his TV show in NBC, The Apprentice.
Marvin: I don’t think I even heard the word Trump before he had the reality programs on TV.
Donald: With that kind of decision, you destroy that company instantaneously. Bradford, you’re fired.
Female: Oh, my God, oh my God, oh, my God.
Marvin: I loved the way it always ended, “You’re fired.”
Al: Fran came across Donald Trump the old-fashioned way. She saw his lofty real estate properties.
Fran: The first time I ever heard of Donald Trump is I was on a gambling trip with my sister in Atlantic City and I was just awestruck when I saw the Trump Towers.
Al: Fran’s Catholic and her religion is extremely important to her. She’s anti-abortion and against gay marriage. These convictions, they inform the way she lives her life, but those principles aren’t the driving force of Trump’s campaign.
Fran: I though, well, boy, I hope he runs because he’s the one I want to support because I’m kind of fed up with the political system. I think our government is corrupt.
Donald: Many of those people that come, they’re sick and tired of these phony corrupt politicians like Hillary. I get a vote for Trump …
Fran: Nothing ever gets done. They don’t represent us when they get to Washington. They represent their donors and I think the while Republican party is changing. We’re just getting fed up and I think one of the attractions about Trump is he’s his own man. He projects himself as being strong and a winner.
Donald: I’ve given to Hillary, I’ve given to everybody, because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. They kiss my ass.
Al: Maybe it’s that tough talk, Trump’s swagger that speaks to something just under the surface of our conversation.
Fran: My neighbor is afraid to fly. I’m not afraid to fly. Hopefully it won’t be my flight that gets blown up. No one feels safe anymore with the dumping ground we’ve become.
Donald: What’s happening is we don’t have a border. We don’t need a constitutional amendment to stop this craziness.
Fran: We live in a dangerous world. We want to know who’s coming in. They’re coming into this country, the bad people, for one reason and that’s to kill us.
Cole: We want to bring back in Doug Rivers, chief scientist of the internet polling company, You Gov. We teamed up with him to dig a little bit deeper into Trump supporters and what they care about. Doug, we keep hearing from Trump supporters, them talking about terrorism. You just listened to Marv and Fran and they’re really scared. How does that square with the poll and what you found?
Doug: We found the Trump voters are a lot like Fran. When asked what’s the most important issue for them in this election, they overwhelmingly said immigration or terrorism. Those two things are intertwined. People think that, as Fran said, bad guys are coming over the border and stopping those is the biggest threat that we fact today.
Cole: How does this compare with the overall population? Do most people in the US feel this way?
Doug: No, even among Republican voters, the Trump voters are unusual in the extent to which they name those two issues. Other people are interested in the economy, gay marriage, abortion, issues like that. Now, Fran has conservative positions on those issues and the key to Trump’s success will be can he win those voters over as well as the ones that he appeals to on issues like terrorism and immigration.
Al: I think it’s interesting that for Fran, those issues, pardon the pun, trump everything else, like she’s taking her conservative values and her religious convictions and it’s not as important as the idea of safety and stopping illegal immigration.
Doug: If you’re worried about those issues, it’s pretty understandable why they would trump everything else.
Al: A lot of people have talked about political correctness and they love the fact that with Trump there’s no hold barred, like he’ll just say whatever. What did Trump supporters say in the polls about that?
Doug: Well, Trump is the anti-PC candidate. Among Republicans there aren’t a lot of people who in favor of political correctness. Only 4% of the people in our poll said they thought political correctness was a good thing and 71% thought it was a bad thing and Trump really appeals to this because he’s the guy who will stick his thumb in the eye of anyone who might be offended by the off-color things that he says.
Al: Race has definitely come into this. Earlier we heard from Michael in Las Vegas and he was saying like he feels like he can’t be proud to be white and that he feels like President Obama has divided the country on race. Did you address that issue in your poll?
Doug: A bit. We asked Republicans about police treatment of blacks and most Republicans and even those that favor Ben Carson don’t think American has a race problem. So, you’ve got a group that, they don’t like Barack Obama, that’s definitely the case and whether that’s due to race or ideology, I can’t say, but these are not people who think that we need to take actions on race different from what we’ve done in the past.
Al: Do you see any parallels between Donald Trump’s rise in the poll to back in 2007 and Barack Obama’s rise in the polls?
Doug: I think these are two very different types of candidates. Trump was very well known whereas Obama was hardly known at all, so they’re different on that score. Obama is the candidate who, while he can give great speeches, sees all the complexities and issues. Trump, his speeches are nearly incoherent, but you can feel the excitement of the audience of the show biz. He’s making everything simple and easy to understand and as the music pipes up at the end, the audience is thrilled by it.
Al: Doug Rivers is chief scientist at the internet polling company, You Gov. Thanks for all your help, Doug.
Doug: Thank you.
Al: When we come back we head to South Carolina with what we’re calling the Trump Gain. That’s next on Reveal. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Julia: Hi there, I’m Julia Beech Han, the digital editor here at Reveal. Our host Al ends every show by saying there’s always more to the story and there really is. At revealnews.org, you dig deeper into the issues and stories our show brings to light. The entire Reveal archive lives on our website. You can catch up on past episodes, read original investigations or interact with our stories in surprising new ways. Check it out at revealnews.org.
Al: From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this Reveal. I’m Al Let-
Donald: We used to have victories but we don’t have them.
Female: Oh, absolutely.
Donald: When was the last time anybody us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal.
Female: He’s a business man. Okay, he’s talking about we don’t have victories. If you don’t have victories, we don’t win the war.
Al: You’re listening to someone playing the Trump game. Reveal report Nate Halverson made this game up and took it to a political rally in South Carolina. Hey, Nate, how are you?
Nate: I’m going good Al.
Al: So, tell me about this game. Where’d you take it? What were you doing?
Nate: Basically, I wanted to find a way to get people to react to Trump and understand what it was that they liked about some of his more controversial or stump speech rally stuff and so I threw 15 audio clips of it on an iPad and let people listen and I recorded their reactions.
Al: Let’s hear some more.
Donald: We’re going to take our country back, folks. We’re going to take it back. We’re taking our country back.
Female: That’s what we believe. We believe it. He’s going to give us back our country. We, the people, are going to matter again. I love his voice. That’s another think I like about him. I love his voice.
Al: Nate, you were asking people in South Carolina to play this game during a week when Republican candidates were criss-crossing the state.
Nate: Yeah, my first Trump event is at the Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach with a few hundred people crammed into a hotel banquet room. It feels like a pancake social decked out in red, white and blue. Trump starts with a joke. Then he touts his performance at the Republican debate two days earlier.
Donald: For me, it’s been a great experience. I’ve never-
John: You won.
Donald: I did, yeah. Who said that, stand up.
Nate: The man who yelled, “You won” stands up. He’s wearing a Trump T-shirt, khakis and holding a bag full of Trump stickers. It’s John Steinburger, a normally straight-laced no-nonsense property manager from Charleston. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem like a fairly reserved composed person. Were you surprised by how electrified you were by Trump as his rallies?
John: Sure, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never experienced this before so it really is moving.
Al: John was the Republican chair in Charleston county until last April. He felt he had to step down so he could declare his support for Trump. He’s the first to play the Trump game.
Nate: You click one photo and it’ll play a quote and you just tell me what you think of it.
Donald: Who’s going to pay for the wall?
Donald: Who’s going to pay for the wall?
John: He knows how to handle a crowd.
Donald: I’ve never done that before. That’s actually cute.
John: If you look at his plan on donaldjtrump.com, he explains how Mexico will pay for the wall and the primary way is increasing the border crossing fee.
Nate: You’ve been to 30 plus rallies. Have you ever heard anyone handle a crowd that way?
John: Never, not even close.
Nate: Can you just describe what it’s like being there when he’s working the crowd?
John: Well, it’s electric. You skin tingles and everybody’s just so excited and happy to be there and it’s an electric atmosphere.
Nate: Trump has ignited a spark in John. I witnessed this passion among Trump supporters throughout South Carolina. My next stop is Merle’s Inlet, small hamlet tucked into the state’s coastal marshes. I arrive at a waterfront home built on pilings. It’s raining, the kind of driving rain that made you wish you had stayed home in bed. I step out my car and dart up the doorsteps of Trump supporter Jane Spillane, widow of legendary detective writer Mickey Spillane.
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Nathan: Widow of legendary detective writer, Mickey Spillane.
Jane Spillane: Good morning! How are you?
Nathan: I’m great, hey, Jane, Nathan.
Jane Spillane: Good to see you, Nathan.
Nathan: We walk into a foyer full of posters and photos of her husband’s career.
Jane Spillane: This is the original photograph, 1946, of the first book Mickey ever wrote. We have Kiss Me Deadly, we have posters of My Gun is Quick. That became a film noir, that became a classic, Kiss Me Deadly.
Nathan: Mickey Spillane, with his tough-talking characters, was a master entertainer. Jane says Donald Trump reminds her of her late husband.
Jane Spillane: Straight talker, just like Donald Trump.
Nathan: How entertaining is Donald Trump?
Jane Spillane: He’s very entertaining. He doesn’t give a flying rip. He will say something that I’m thinking and nobody else – and it’s funny sometimes. You know, we get his humor.
Nathan: What I’ve been having everybody do is play the Trump game, and its just, you listen to Donald Trump’s quotes, and you respond.
Jane Spillane: Okay.
Nathan: She taps a photo of Trump, whose face is clenched with emotion.
Donald Trump: “And this Country needs to get away from political correctness, it’s killing us. It’s killing us.”
Jane Spillane: Amen, Donald Trump. Just what I’ve been thinking. We’re tired of political correctness. Sick of it, you know? I’m sick of people saying, “I’m insulted.” Well, you know what? That’s life. We all get insulted. You know you gotta face it. You go through life, you’re gonna get insulted and you don’t go home and cry about it and complain.
Okay. What do you want to do next?
Nathan: Should we try another one?
Jane Spillane: Okay. Let’s see, that was the …
Donald Trump: “We talked about what’s happening at the border, we talked about the illegals pouring in, and all of a sudden, people started seeing lots of crime and they started really seeing if it was focused, because it was like a magnifying glass and …”
Jane Spillane: Yes, yes.
Donald Trump: “We had beautiful Kate in San Francisco who was killed and shot five times, and then we had so many others. We had the woman a few weeks ago in California …”
Jane Spillane: He cares. He cares.
Donald Trump: “Raped, sodomized. 66-year-old veteran, raped, sodomized, and killed, by an illegal immigrant.”
Jane Spillane: That should have never have happened.
Nathan: The way he describes these events, they’re infused with such violence and detail.
Jane Spillane: He could’ve been a writer. I mean, he is the writer. You visualize things when he talks.
Nathan: Trump doesn’t always get his facts straight, but what he says connects with supporters on an emotional level.
Jane Spillane: He’s probably the most brilliant campaigner we’ve seen, when you think about it.
Nathan: I say goodbye to Jane, but everywhere I go I hear similar reactions from people playing the Trump game. Especially when it comes to political correctness. They hate it.
Donald Trump: “Political correctness is killing us. It’s killing us.”
Speaker 4: I got to agree with it a thousand percent.
Speaker 5: Political correctness was designed to shut the truth up. I mean, we’re losing our Country because of it. If you try to tell the truth about something, they call you names.
Speaker 6: I think political correctness has gone crazy and it’s really had an effect of shutting people down. I’d like to say a lot of things, but I will not say them on your radio station.
Nathan: What’s an example now of something that a person would want to say, but they’d have to hold their tongue?
Speaker 7: Somebody might want to say that two men getting married, or two women getting married, was a bad thing. They won’t say that now, but when I was coming up, that was a bad thing.
Nathan: There’s someone else in South Carolina, I want to play the trump game. A well connected Republican, Susan Chapman. I drive to Conway, a small Southern town near Myrtle Beach. Her home, with a sweeping front porch and columns, is surrounded by Willow trees. Sits just behind Main Street.
Place is beautiful.
Susan Chapman: Come on in. Can I get y’all something to drink? Water, maybe?
Nathan: The house was built before the Civil War, Susan says, by a man who holds a special place in Southern history.
Susan Chapman: He, actually, signed the Acts of Secession.
Nathan: Susan has deep political ties.
Susan Chapman: Of course, I worked for Lindsey for years.
Nathan: Lindsey, is South Carolina’s Senator, Lindsey Graham.
Susan Chapman: This is a photo taken at the White House, my son, Cliff, with Laura Bush, President Bush, and myself, Susan.
Nathan: It seems like you’re really part of the Republican establishment, or, at least, you were?
Susan Chapman: I was. That’s a whole another story we’ll go talk about.
Nathan: We go to her parlor.
Susan Chapman: I was Republican, Senatorial life member, inner circle, you name it. All that stuff.
Nathan: What happened?
Susan Chapman: I think what happened is when all these people went to the stage to take down the Flag – of course, I was against taking down the Flag.
Nathan: The Confederate Flag. It was removed from the South Carolina Capitol, last July.
Susan Chapman: That’s when I went to Trump.
Nathan: You went to Trump?
Susan Chapman: I went straight to Trump, and I’m on his leadership team, or steering committee, in South Carolina.
Nathan: Susan feels betrayed by the Republican establishment.
Susan Chapman: I think most people saw this as an establishment move. A political move to try to bring the South into this. Let’s pull down that Flag, and in doing this, we can bring the blacks into the Party, we can become more diverse. The thing is, it opened my eyes, and a lot of people’s eyes.
Nathan: I pull out the iPad. Can I show you this? Can we play the Trump game?
Susan Chapman: I’d be glad to.
Donald Trump: “Washington is broken. [crosstalk 00:33:47] And our Country is in serious trouble and total disarray.”
Susan Chapman: Oh my gosh, it is so broken. Idiots. He’s so right, there.
Donald Trump: “Very simple. Politicians are all talk, no action.”
Susan Chapman: Exactly.
Donald Trump: “All talk and no action.”
Susan Chapman: Exactly.
Donald Trump: “and it’s constant. It never ends.”
Susan Chapman: I think [crosstalk 00:34:02] that’s probably the most important thing he said, out of all of this.
Donald Trump: “I’m a Conservative, actually I’m very conservative, and a Republican, and I’m very disappointed by our Republican politicians.”
Susan Chapman: That, I think, that tells you right there, what Trump supporters believe. It’s broken.
Nathan: Susan and other white voters I spoke with feel their legacy is being pulled down, just like the Confederate Flag.
Susan Chapman: It is not racist to us. Maybe to some, it is racist. To me, it’s history. When you grew up in the South, the Black families were your families. I was basically raised. I can name off the ladies that basically raised me. Ruby Lee, who basically raised me, was a Black lady. Her children were my friends. When my father died, she rode with us in the car. When I got married, she sat with the family.
Nathan: These were people who worked for her family.
Susan Chapman: But everybody had someone that was part of their family. My Grandmama had a guy that worked in the yard, and the lady who worked in the house, and we didn’t think of them of being less than us, or whatever. They were our family. They were extension of our family.
We didn’t see it as racist. Now, I’m sure that there’s some Blacks that do. I concur on that.
Nathan: Susan said something to me I was going to hear over and over again from people playing the Trump game.
Susan Chapman: If we’re a party of the big tent, where we want diversity, we want Blacks and immigrants and women and gays and everybody else in it, but we don’t want Conservatives, then we, as Conservatives need to go somewhere else. We need to go where we’re wanted.
Nathan: And Trump wants these supporters, Susan says.
Susan Chapman: That’s why every time he says something that they say, “Oh, this will get him,” people are saying, “Hallelujah, they’re finally saying what I think, and what I’m afraid to go out and say.” Of course I’m not, but most people are.
Nathan: What do you think of the Trump game?
Susan Chapman: I like it. That’s fun. That’s really fun.
Nathan: Susan taps another soundbite. It’s a Fox news anchor interviewing Trump back in November. He’s asking about a Black protester, a member of Black Lives Matter, who reportedly got punched, kicked, and choked, at a Trump rally in Alabama.
Fox Anchor: Can you comment on that, and whether or not you want to remedy the [crosstalk 00:36:40] situation?
Susan Chapman: I remember this.
Donald Trump: The man was, was, I don’t know, you say roughed up. He was so obnoxious and so loud, he was screaming. I had ten thousand people in the room yesterday. Ten thousand people, and this guy started screaming, by himself, and they did – I don’t know, roughed up? He should have been, maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting, what he was doing.
Susan Chapman: This is the kind of thing, I think, that makes him so popular, is that everybody sitting in that room probably was thinking the same thing, but was scared to say it, because they knew what they would say about them, that they were racist. I think he says, what we think.
Nathan: Do you think, though, it’s almost like he was encouraging or saying it was okay to rough people up. I think that’s what people reacted to and got upset by.
Susan Chapman: I think most people don’t want people to be roughed up, but in the backside of their minds, they’re probably thinking, maybe they ought to be roughed up, you know what I’m trying to say? We have a conscience, and we know what we, as human beings and Americans, should feel. Yet, on the other side of our brain, we’re thinking, well, but maybe it is?
Nathan: Susan says the Country needs someone like Trump. Someone who can take control.
Susan Chapman: My father once said, the best person to run a Country is a benevolent dictator. That’s probably what he will be – a benevolent dictator, to get it straight again.
Al: A benevolent dictator. Nate, what’d you think when she said that?
Nathan: Yeah, that one caught my attention, no doubt about it. I was hearing it in various forms from other people I talked to. Trump supporters want, essentially, a really strong leader.
Al: The National Review, the quintessential Conservative magazine, just put out a whole issue dedicated to dissing Trump. What do you think has caused this riff between the base and the leadership?
Nathan: I can say among the base that I spoke to, they feel like the leadership doesn’t represent them. They feel like the leadership represents a small number of wealthy, affluent people. I had people use the language to me that the Republican Party was run by the one percent, that they were the ninety-nine percent, and that they were rising up against those political insiders that run Washington.
Al: Nate, thanks for bringing us that story.
Nathan: Thank you, Al.
Al: That’s Reveal’s, Nathan Halverson. You can try out the Trump game for yourself, by going to our website, reveal news dot org.
Issues around race have come up a lot in this show. Trump supporters are mainly white, about eighty percent according to the [inaudible 00:39:40] poling data. We should note that there were a few people of color at the Trump events we attended. When I was in Iowa, I was just one of a handful of African-Americans at Trump’s rally, and most of them were working the event, like Secret Service, or, in the media. I was definitely the only black man with dreadlocks there.
When Reveal’s producer, Ike Sriskandarajah, showed up to cover that Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach, there weren’t many other brown men in the room. He picks up his story outside the event, where he ran into a group of bikers supporting Trump.
Ike: About a hundred motorcyclists crowd the road leading to the hotel convention center where the Tea Party rally’s happening. They’re waiting to cheer on Donald Trump. He’s expected to drive by any minute on his way to make a speech there.
Alan Flores: Trump, banners and everything, flags, the whole deal. Crazy blonde lady with a Trump sign yelling in every direction.
Ike: [Alan 00:40:33] Flores is a member of the motorcycle club, Knights Templar. They take their name from a secretive sect of Holy warriors who fought in the Crusades. These days, they tell me they’re still defending Christianity, but instead of shining armor, these knights have leather jackets, sleeve tattoos, and lots of Trump signs.
For you, why Trump?
Alan Flores: The way everybody’s so politically correct these days, and apologizing to everybody. Apologizing just to apologize. People call him brash, or arrogant, and an arrogant American is how we got to be what we are today, and we’re losing that a little bit at a time.
Ike: As we’re talking, the police ask the bikers to move farther down the road, because they’re blocking traffic, and I want to go with them.
Okay, now my ride just took off. Is there anybody here I could hitch with?
Alan Flores: Yeah, you could ride with me, if you need to.
Ike: I hop on Alan’s bike. It’s a 2014 Victory Cross Country. All white, polished, curves. From the front, it kind of looks like a Stormtrooper’s helmet on wheels.
What do I do?
Alan Flores: Put your feet on the brake, just don’t fly off.
Ike: Okay. Oh, wow. This is the best part of my day.
Alan put out the call on Facebook to get his motorcycle buddies to show up today. He’s inviting, easy to talk to, and doesn’t mind pulling into a Trump rally with the public radio reporter on the back of his bike.
Have you been involved in other political events like this?
Alan Flores: Not one. This is it. In the last two weeks, this is everything that we’ve every done, politically.
Ike: Alan’s a big guy. Over six feet tall, broad, former military. He’s wearing wraparound sunglasses and has a wiry bristle of a bread that hangs off his chin. I feel guilty that I’ve trained myself to avoid guys that look like Alan, like avoiding bright colors in nature. Part of the reason is something that happened to me a few weeks ago. I was eating at a roadside place, and there was a group of bikers there. When I left to get on my bicycle, one of them followed me outside. He said, “Hey, Isis,” and told me if he was riding next to me, he’d kick me off the road. Then he said he was just messing with me, and made me shake his hand. A classic bully move.
I’m reluctant to ask this group my next question about Trump.
What about some of the more controversial things, that he’d ban Muslims, a temporary ban on Muslims [crosstalk 00:43:22]
Anthony Leggio: I agree with that a hundred percent. Banning Muslims …
Ike: Anthony Leggio is a New York-born biker who now owns a small business in South Carolina.
Anthony Leggio: He’s not banning everybody, he’s just stopping it until he gets a grip of what’s going on. I’m not saying all Muslims are bad, there’s a lot of Muslims that are wonderful people. We just have to figure out who’s who.
Ike: Another biker names AT from Myrtle Beach, agrees.
AT: There’s always going to be people that hate us, and I understand that, but listen. We’re not over there trying to chop people’s heads off. We don’t want that (bleep) going on here, either. So, for that, we need a strong man who’s going to take care of all that.
Ike: I talk to another strong man who looks and sounds like a professional wrestler.
“Wrestler”: How you doing, my man?
Ike: And got the question I’d been asked a lot on this trip.
“Wrestler”: Where you from, sir?
Ike: It’s kind of hard to hear over all the engine noise.
Originally, I came from Wisconsin.
So, he asked me where I’m from, and I start where I live, now, in Oakland, California, then go back to where I was born, Wisconsin, but I know where this question’s going.
“Wrestler”: What’s your, what is your nationality?
Ike: I’m Sri Lankan.
“Wrestler”: What is that?
Ike: My family is Sri Lankan, which is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean. He latches onto India. He says, we’re cool with India, which is a Nation of mostly Hindus, as long as it’s not Pakistan.
“Wrestler”: I know India, I don’t like Pakistan. We’re cool with the Hindus.
Female: There’s Donald, right now. Donald Trump is pulling in. Hi, Donald! Donald Trump!
“Wrestler”: The [inaudible 00:45:12] says, he’s not going to stop when he leaves, and we parked the bikes on that pavement, I wanna go to Damon’s for a half hour, and then I’m coming back over here, because I want to speak to Donald Trump. Let’s all go to Damon’s.
Ike: They didn’t want to spend the seventy-nine bucks to get inside the Tea Party convention, so they hope to catch Trump on his way out. In the meantime, they peel off to go to Damon’s, a nearby bar. I part ways with the bikers and head into the Convention Hall, just as Trump is taking the stage.
This was a couple days before Sarah Palin through her Tea Party support behind Trump. Some people in the crowd don’t like it when he takes aim at the other GOP front runner, Ted Cruz. They’re onboard when he repeats the same concerns I heard from the bikers.
Donald Trump: I turn on the television today, and what do I see? Islamic, right? Right? Radical, Islamic, terrorism. That’s all I see. We can’t just do this. We got to make sure the Syrian, the migration. We don’t know where these people come from.
Ike: He raises the same question I had heard earlier. Where do you come from?
Donald Trump: We have to destroy the Trojan Horse. This could be the ultimate Trojan Horse. We have no idea where they come from. we have to be smart, we have to be tough, we have to be vigilant, and we can do it, and we can make America greater than ever before. Thank you, thank you, everybody. Thank you everybody.
Ike: Trump supporters stream out of the conference room and into the hall, and they carry his message with them, kind of like when you leave a concert and your favorite song of the night gets stuck in your head.
Female: He’s the only one that put it all the way. Nobody else dared to say, no more Muslims, until, just until things get taken care of. You know that he [crosstalk 00:47:23] didn’t mean it for the bad. You know he didn’t mean it to offend anyone. He just wants to say, this is the way we need to do it.
Male: It’s the right statement, and there was no other way to say it. No other way to say it.
Ike: That’s when I hear an unlikely voice. A black woman, in her thirties, wearing a Guns n Roses t-shirt, speaking to two older white ladies. She’s criticizing Black Lives Matter for attacking the GOP.
Anita MonCrief: … anger, and all that negative’s coming from Black Lives. There are problems. There is still racism, but since we’re ignoring the problems, it’s getting bigger and it’s going to tear us apart. Let’s talk about it.
Ike: That’s Anita MonCrief. She’s an ex-Liberal, and the “us” she’s talking about, is the Conservative Movement. She tells me she isn’t a Trump supporter, but she’ll vote for him if he gets the nomination. A Group called the Black Conservative’s Fund, pays for her to go to right-wing events, like this one. She’s often the only black person in the room, and has conversations about race with people who hate political correctness.
Anita MonCrief: You’re never going to be able to have real relationships until you can have real conversations. That means talking about things. I create safe-spaces, and I let people ask me stuff. I’ve had people want to touch my hair, I have had people ask me questions about blacks and how they feel about things, but it’s okay because there’s no judgment there, because there’s a level of curiosity and a fear of being labeled something they aren’t.
Ike: It’s lonely work, but Anita can picture a more inclusive and more diverse Republican Party.
Anita MonCrief: I don’t care if you’re wearing a do-rag, or a business suit, there’s a place for you in the Republican Party, but it’s not only a get in blacks and other people of color that realize it, but it’s getting the Party to accept that we’re not going to change.
Ike: Do you think you’re going to stay on this side for the foreseeable future?
Anita MonCrief: I think that I will always be a Conservative, but I have been leaning towards Libertarianism. They’ve got so may great ideas, and Rand Paul’s hair, I just want to touch it. I guess some people would tell me I was being culturally insensitive. If I could get close enough and I go, can I touch your hair? I imagine him saying, “Yes.”
Al: That story was from Ike Sriskandarajah.
We decided to do an hour on Trump supporters, because we wanted to see what Trump’s America looks like. We went all over the Country, from casinos to dance halls, into people’s homes, on the backs of motorcycles. Anywhere we could find them, because we didn’t just want to get the soundbite, we wanted to get to the heart of the matter. What we found, we people who were disenchanted with the status quo, who felt like no one had heard their voice. The things they held dear, a way of life, traditional values being lost.
We also heard a lot of fear of the distant threat of ISIS, and of immigrants crossing the boarder illegally. But, there was something else: people echoing some of the racist rhetoric of Donald Trump. His slogan, “make America great again,” feels like solid ground, a place to plant a flag and say, “No more.” The idealized America they want to go back to, wasn’t ideal for everyone. When I hear that slogan, combined with that racist rhetoric, what I really hear, is get to the back of the bus.
What did you think of Trump’s America? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter. We’re going to tell you about next week’s show in a minute, but first, today’s show was edited by Deb George, Senior Editor, and Jennifer LaFleur analyzed our poling data, Rachel de Leon produced our story on Iowa and helped produce our poling segments, along with Senior Editor, Andy Donahue. We had additional production help from Michael Montgomery, Amy Walters, and Julia B. Chan. Our lead Sound Designer and Engineer is my man, J-Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs, with help from Claire Mullen. Our theme music is by Camerado-Lightning, Amy Powell’s our Managing Editor, and our Head of Studio is Christa Scharfenberg. Susanne Reber’s our Executive Editor, and our Executive Producer is Kevin Sullivan.
Next week we got a great story coming up. You will meet a man who works at a privately-run prison for immigrants, who says the medical system there is so bad that …
Guest: I’d close this whole facility down, and I’d start over again.
Al: That’s next week, on Reveal. Support for Reveal’s provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
I’m Al Letson, and remember, there is always more to the story.
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