Getting to know Sonoma County’s Trump voters
There are the so-called “shy Trump voters,” who support the president but are reluctant to put it out there publicly. And there are in-your-face Trumpers, such as those flying flags proclaiming “Trump 2020: F--- Your Feelings.”
Elaine Groff of Santa Rosa is a scared Trump voter — not in the sense that she’s afraid to share her political affiliation. Standing outside the Registrar’s Office Friday, she expressed her fear for the future of the country.
“I’m 78 years old,” said the Coffey Park resident. “I was born three months after Pearl Harbor.” When she was a young girl, her family in Elgin, Illinois, housed refugees from communist Russia.
“I know what the issues were,” she said, of those years at the dawn of the Cold War. “And I struggle with the extremeness of the left now.
“It scares me,” she said of the gulf today between Democrats and Republicans, and the degraded discourse between them. “It sounds too much like what was going on when I was a little girl.”
She appreciates Trump’s emphasis on the nation’s military, and his sometimes bellicose tone.
“He’s like a protector. He’s ready. He’s prepared.”
Trump, she added, is “making peace in the Middle East,” and “helping our economy the best way he knows how.”
To be sure, not every voter would give Trump a passing grade on the economy, which surged early in his presidency, before being torpedoed this year by the coronavirus, which has resulted in historic job losses and wiped out thousands of small businesses.
But the president’s supporters — many but not all of the county’s 54,000 registered Republicans — point to the tax cuts and soaring stock market that marked the first three years of his term. They praise his foreign policy decisions, his appointments of conservative judges, and his “prioritizing,” as one delicately put it, the nation’s citizen’s over its immigrants.
Not taking it personally
Hannah Levin is a sophomore at Sonoma State University. She intends to transfer to UCLA or UC Davis, double-major in political science and English, then possibly become a “lobbyist, policy analyst and journalism pundit.”
In the meantime, the Rohnert Park resident is vice president of the Sonoma State Republicans. “I am used to taking a lot of heat for that,” she said in an email, “and it has led me to be excluded from hanging out with certain groups of people, but I stay pretty strong and don’t take others’ opinions too personally.”
If someone is going to dislike her just because she has different view, if that person isn’t interested in “an open and honest discussion, I don’t think they could have become a real friend to me anyway.”
Yes, she is voting for Trump, but with this disclaimer: “I want to make it clear that just because many Republicans back President Trump politically, it does not necessarily mean they condone his actions in his personal life.”
She notes approvingly that the president has taken a chainsaw to regulations, appointed scores of conservative judges, presided over major tax cuts, and pulled the U.S. from the Paris climate accords and Iran nuclear deal. She’s especially pleased that the president has backed up his promise to be an advocate for the anti-abortion movement.
That issue is intensely personal with Levin, who has younger, triplet sisters. Many multiple pregnancies end up being terminated, she said.
A lot of people are going to vote for Trump, she said, based solely on the fact that “the only other option is Biden” — a candidate who leaves her deeply underwhelmed.
That’s not quite true. Luke Gover, her fellow and the president of Sonoma State Republicans, is casting a protest vote for Libertarian Jo Jorgenson.
Trump, he believes, “has turned Republicanism into a nasty cult of personality.”
“I didn’t change, but the Republican Party platform did.”
Beyond the bluster
Gover is on the same wavelength as Joshua Simmons, a Republican who cast his ballot for Biden Friday. Moments later, he talked about his disgust both with Trump — “I don’t like his policies, or the way he treats people” — and the Republicans who have enabled him.
Simmons is a Raiders fan — he spoke through a silver and black mask — and a special ed teacher who holds Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in similarly low regard. “She’s a horrible person, just like him.”
Joe from Santa Rosa, who insisted on anonymity in order to avoid the wrath of the “Sturmabteilung and Red Guards” of the left, allowed that yes, Trump “is crude sometimes, and given to bluster and bombast, but if you look behind that he is doing the job, and doing it well.”