The Q&A Hole: Why Would Someone – Why Would Anyone – Vote for Trump?

With Leslie Bonnell, Arcie Cola, Lashonda Lester, Tim Doyle, and more

The Q&A Hole: Why Would Someone – Why Would Anyone – Vote for Trump?

Because this is the day, right?

Finally, after all the blustering and braggadocio, all the mud-slinging and the whingeing … after months and months of impertinence and perfidy … after all the Clinton pantsuits have glowed fashionable and all the Trump fingers have been stretched, pussyward, to almost human size … well, here we are, ladies and gentlemen.

With many of us still pining for that cantankerous, white-haired feller who made us feel the Bern, yes.

And with some of us voting very enthusiastically for Hillary – and others of us thinking, as we mark the appropriate box, oh well, at least she’s better than the alternative.

I, for one – your Austin Chronicle journo who runs this ongoing Q&A Hole series, and not all that politically active a person – am nonetheless compelled to wonder a thing about this presidential election. And so I asked that thing, that question, of several people I know. And now you’ll find – either before or after you’ve voted, right? – you’ll find, below, those responses to the question:


Chad Salvata, composer, playwright: Because they are stupid.

Leslie Bonnell of Stitch Lab: Oh man. I have asked myself this question from the get-go. It’s easy to dismiss Trump voters as racist idiots. Then I began to realize that a handful of people I truly love and respect were going to vote Republican no matter what. We’re talking about reasonable, compassionate, highly intelligent and well-informed people. For the record, they are pro-choice, not racists, and could care less that Hillary is a woman. I asked myself, “How could this be happening?” and then asked them directly. I’ve had in-depth and civil conversations with these folks because I truly wanted to understand! It just always came back around to their fundamental Republican beliefs about trade, taxes, and too many people being “on the dole.” They truly believe that the GOP makes America a better and more wealthy country. They always have and they always will. They’re able to overlook and dismiss Trump’s lack of integrity, experience, and racism/sexism because they despise the Clintons so strongly. They believe that the Clintons are totally corrupt and just as flawed, if not more so. I still don’t get it. I thought they would be swayed. I hate that they are voting Trump. There was absolutely no way I could change their minds, but I had to give it a shot. The worst thing you can do is “unfriend” people, write them off, and treat them with hostility and disrespect. We have more in common as humans than we do our political beliefs, but if we keep the conversation going, we keep each other open to a spark of change. I really believe that.

Danny Palumbo, comedian: Because they're my Grandpa and they won't be around long enough to see the world end.

Jeanette Moreno King, cartoonist, animator: I wish I knew why, so I could talk them out of it. I truly can’t get my brain around how anyone would even consider him. Most of my Republican friends and family don't understand it either!

Erika May McNichol of ColdTowne Theater: The glib response to your question is: They have a secret thing for Oompa Loompas, and it drives them like that dude in The Manchurian Candidate. The serious response, though, is that people are afraid. I'm not sure the Dems have done enough to ensure the rising tide lifts all the boats, you know? I think it's easy, as a person who uses and works with technology, to see the recent economic boom as having benefited everyone equally – but it hasn't.That's why you've got a lot of hand-wringing in states like Michigan and Ohio right now. The white working class isn't doing better, they're falling behind, and they see it. No one is helping them, and Trump does an incredible job of presenting complex topics in simple terms. I know Trump supporters, and as much as I want to tell them they're idiots, and that he's a snake oil salesman, I don't see how the Dems have given them much to vote on in the past few administrations. I hope Hillary wins (for the love of Christ, please). After that, we need to get to work on making sure we put the republic back together again, and helping everyone win.

Tony Fitzpatrick, artist: People who would vote for the Tangerine Baboon are basically frightened and spoiled by centuries of White Privilege – these are the white people we try not to put on the posters or brochures.

Lashonda Lester, comedian: I have no idea why anyone would vote for that guy. He seems mentally unstable, racist, sexist, and any other -ist that’s bad. Who knows what goes through the minds of our fellow citizens? They're probably the same people who also liked Zima and Crystal Pepsi and were sad to see it go.

Arcie Cola, artist provocateur: They probably one of my blood kin who thinks women should stay home with the kids and keep their opinions to themselves, and them Mexicans need to go back to their own country and quit mooching off our taxes. Oh, and abortion is murder. Plus, I like him on that TV show.

Kelly Phillips, cartoonist: I had to unpack this question for a few minutes. My initial reaction would be along the lines of "hate" or "ignorance" or "mob mentality." But I've been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about the reasons why people are voting for Hillary (or at least the reasons they talk about), and they certainly tend to fall along the lines of "fear" or "complacency" or "duty." Something I realized that’s been missing in this campaign from the Democratic side is the sense of inspiration that we became so accustomed to during Obama's two elections. There was an undeniable fire that made people deeply, passionately believe in this person's ability to change the world for the better, and it made them feel proud and energized to voice their support. Now, the typical Hillary supporter will likely talk to you about how we have to do our best to keep Trump out of office, rather than any of the things Hillary hopes to accomplish (many of which were driven by the conversation Bernie inspired us to have during his run). On the flip side, I’ve noticed that Trump has been pretty successful at inspiring his supporters with his ads and his rhetoric – you don't end up with a vigorous, vitriolic, violent crowd that often without having the power of persuasion and the ability to "inspire" the choir. So, I think my answer is that someone would vote for Trump because he’s had the ability to energize something within them, but what truly churns my stomach is what he’s been able to energize in those people.

Tammy Gomez, playwright, director: During lunch at Mother’s Cafe, I watched a guy come in, set his trucker hat on the table, and order a “regular” iced tea. Of course, that became complicated when the server offered an assortment of herbal flavors as well as organic options. He twisted his face, visibly uncomfortable in this awkward moment. Like that trucker, Trumpsters tend toward one flavor, one culture, on a familiar terrain of existence extending from their castle (be it trailer park hovel or gated condo fortress) to the grave. And for the in-between, there’s the chain restaurants, shooting or driving ranges, and cheesy casino weekends. Such a predictable routine seems largely devoid of variety and adventure – the very things that help us grow and change. Samuel Beckett once wrote, “Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.” Blechh – sameness is vomit. But many of these Trump folks, I’d wager, have never been to a Juneteenth BBQ east of I-35; a Kwanzaa program at the public library; a Diwali banquet with Pakistani students; a Sunday afternoon Czech polka dance with the family; or a Dia de los Muertos parade on S. Congress (Austin), N. Main (Fort Worth) or S. Colorado (San Antonio). I tell students that the U.S. as a melting pot is filled with ceviche, pho, naan, and spaghetti – along with the people that brought these to the mix. Many of us are swimming in this multicultural mash-up and the water is fine! If you’re just slumped on the perimeter of the pot, despising us – for blending in so well and so joyously indulging our curiosity and adventurous appetites – well, that’s just sad, because you’re denying yourself the full American experience. As far as that Mother’s Cafe trucker, he ended up with a glass of orange pekoe, because that was the closest to “regular” that he’d find there. People like him want a “Mayberry R.F.D.” sameness – which means everything and everyone else must be avoided, squelched, and eradicated at all cost. Trump is their guy to help get that done.

Kristin Hogan, artist: I only know one Trump supporter personally, so I can relay a conversation I had with this woman. Yes, a woman – who kept her Trump sticker on her car after the whole "pussy-grabbing" incident. We were having a conversation about how I’m having difficultly making ends meet as a professional artist in Austin with raising rent rates. I told her about Salvage Vanguard Theater, how important it was to our art community, how the arts had been shoved out on the street, and what a problem this was in our city. Her answer to that was “Well, the property owners have rights, too" and that I should "just make more money." Oh, yes, I'll just make more money, why didn’t I think of that? If your amassed wealth is more important to you than your fellow humans, your heart stands as idle, vacant, and dark as that property on Manor Road does now.

P. Kellach Waddle, composer, musician: On the positive side (if there is such a thing) or perhaps less deplorable side, people voting for Trump are doing so just to pull the metaphorical red lever that they would pull regardless of who’s running. On the more realistic side, these people are voting for Donald Trump to prove something – to prove that the words carved under the green sandals of our gifted-from-France Staten Island statue have always been a farce, a lie, a delusion, and a hideous joke. A country that cheerfully declares itself a melting pot? Please, this is a country that wouldn't let people of a different color drink out of the same water fountains less than 75 years ago, and less than 50 years ago wouldn't even let females get their own loans or credit cards. All of this hand-wringing and pearl-clutching about this country's wealth of xenophobia, racism, hatred, and what-have-you is a bit silly in any sort of context that implies any of this revelation is shocking. Because it isn't really a revelation, nor is it new. This stuff and these people have always been here. Voting for Donald Trump proves that the purveyors of these feelings aren't going to stage-whisper said feelings on a sideline of darkness anymore. No, voting for Trump proves that these folks have crawled out from under their rocks and doffed their sheets and hoods in public now, for good. Because a vote for Trump proves now that all said hate-filled hating haters now have a face – an orange, media-drenching face. What’s scary is not any chance that DT is actually going to be president; what’s scary is that the people voting for him will be looking for a new face come Wednesday.

Tim Doyle of Nakatomi, Inc: Why would someone vote for Trump? Because they're scared and uninformed. They see their way of life (rural, manufacturing, white people as far as the eye can see) eroding, and are looking to blame someone, instead of embracing the future. Trump gives them the scapegoat. It is dangerous and shortsighted, and unfortunately, we've seen it happen before. *cough* Germany *cough*. They've been lied to and manipulated by their niche media outlets like Infowars and Breitbart. Nobody gave them the tools to educate themselves on how the media works in the modern age. They're intellectually lazy, and deeply fearful. They've lived in an isolated homogenous community for their entire lives, and never had to interact with anyone of a different race or religion on a daily basis. They are intellectually small. A lot of them are also single-issue voters, and that one issue is abortion. You can show them all the facts and figures on how Planned Parenthood and sex ed actually result in a reduction of abortion, but they're not hearing you. They don't want to solve a problem, they just want to be right. Their faith has let them down, and led them to a point in their puritanical blue collar myth where they'd vote for a rapist living in a golden skyscraper, as long as that person was also promising to ban abortion. We can understand these people without endorsing or pitying them. They're our extended families, our neighbors. They are fellow Americans. And while they may be stupid, uneducated, racist, and misogynist – they are also us, and it's our job to show them a better way. Or we could just wait them out: They're mostly old and will be dead soon.

Troy Miller, improviser, screenwriter: The other day, a couple friends came over for lunch. They brought sandwiches. I had looked at that particular deli’s menu in advance, and asked them to pick me up a “turkey pastrami.” When they handed me my sandwich, I saw that it was actually turkey and pastrami, not turkey pastrami. I said, “Did you say turkey pastrami?” They said yes. “No and? There was no and between the words when you ordered?” “Yes,” they said, “but the guy on the phone did seem confused by that order.” I immediately rechecked the menu. Sure enough, there was “turkey pastrami.” I said, “How the hell is that confusing? It’s on the menu? It’s that guy’s job to know what meats he sells and doesn’t sell. That’s bullshit. Now I gotta eat two meats I didn’t want, longing for the one meat I did want. You know, this whole lunch has become a disaster.” That’s why people want to vote for Trump: Because he’ll make damn sure no one ever orders from that deli again.

Steve Brudniak, sculptor: We need to be reasonable in the debate we’re having today over this election. So let me say this, in a nutshell: There are many who are merely sick of the status quo. Top government corruption, to be specific. It’s a legit reason. However, truth is, that since evolution hasn’t brought us to a better place yet, and it will, we literally have to accept that no one gets to the top without corruption. Donald Trump has made a career of screwing people and the taxpayers over and has of course lied on numerous occasions publicly in this spotlight – and has treated women, minorities, the disabled, etc. with tremendous disrespect his whole life. Does this fall under the definition of corruption? I don’t see him making any miraculous changes if he gets into office. So why would someone vote for him? Three reasons, in my opinion: 1) Most of the people voting for Trump aren’t college educated (this is a fact) and many live in rural communities, having little exposure to the modern world in terms of gay and minority exposure as well as exposure to progressive ideas. They’ve been sheltered in tighter communities that share fundamental Christian beliefs and other (sorry, people) antiquated beliefs. Many of these communities have been repressing their, what most would call, politically incorrect beliefs since the Seventies – when they became, well, politically incorrect. Since the Obama election, when so many people began to release their repressed beliefs, it became vogue again. And now we have Trump, who’s saying, “Hey! It’s OK to be this way. And by the way, I’m gonna make sure you can keep your guns!” Which brings me to point 2) Most well-read people know that no one wants to take away your guns. They also know that terrorists are not about to take over this country, nor are they even infiltrating to any major extent. They also know that immigration isn’t really an issue worth building a wall over. Trump would be screwing himself if he implemented his own “policy” on immigration. Who would build his towers, who would clean his hotel rooms cheap? But I digress. So – why? Simply because of the unprecedented amount of false information being generated by the right. My own father used to send me emails from his right wing friends on a daily basis during the Obama election – about Obama’s death camps, his ties to terrorists, and his not being a citizen. Unbelievable and horrible news, daily, that simple trips to Snopes and other truth sites very quickly cleared up. They’re getting better at this kind of propaganda, but of course it’s all fear-based and almost always empty. “Hillary has emails that we found! Thousands of them!!!! Imagine, thousands! Your security is at a huge risk. They may have things in them that show without a doubt how corrupt she is!” “Benghazi!” … Anything and everything is being blown up beyond all reason. And, yes, Hillary is corrupt! All politicians are! Kennedy and Lincoln were! And Trump … isn’t? Somehow, because Trump wasn’t a politician until now, his extreme, extreme corruption isn’t considered corrupt. “Well, we’ve all made comments about women and we’ve all lied about stuff and cheated on our taxes – that’s just normal manly stuff to do.” But politicians must have perfect records. Fear-based propaganda, it’s just an old game with a new wrapper. And it controls people like a charm. It’s the form of control that doesn’t require force and it’s quite – quite – in vogue today. The last (and easiest) point to make, 3) Old white men (like myself) with money (not like myself). Need I say more? OK, for those who don’t know already: They don’t want a woman in office; they want to see taxes lowered on the rich, and they like a good ol’ boy, heh-heh, who knows how to rate a woman from 0-10! Heh-haaaaaa! Fuck YAAAA! HAAA! *cough* But let me finish up here with a little plug: Hillary didn’t get there without corruption, but look at what she’s fought for since college, before even becoming a politician: The little guy, human rights, children, equal rights. She’s stuck with that all this time. Trump has switched positions from Democrat to Republican, from pro-life to “Christian” values, etc … and why? Well, to get elected, of course. Hillary doesn’t need any more money or power. If she gets into office, she’s at the top. Now she can implement her policies with relative ease – policies that she’s stood for her whole life. And, thanks to Trump, the Senate and House won’t be blocking them. Imagine what Obama could have done had that not been the case. Now here’s a gal who has all the strings to pull nowadays – and a good agenda to pull for. Let’s give her a shot.

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