My Dad Voted for Trump...
And Theirs Will Too
My dad is an immigrant from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Growing up, he would tell me stories about how he often struggled to find resources to feed his younger brothers and sisters, how he'd walk to school every day despite inadequate footwear, and how lucky he was to leave the country behind to build a life in the States.
My dad, and my brother, Circa 1991
When he arrived in the 70s, speaking very little English, my dad hustled to find a job, then two jobs, then three. Somehow, he also earned a degree from Wentworth Institute. A young boy, I remember him working at an electronics company and driving a taxi concurrently. And when he was laid off from the electronics company, I remember him bringing me to a luxury condo building to help him clean someone's apartment. Point is, I recognized from a wee age that my dad never stopped working. And at 60-something, he's still at it.
That's because, even through the hardships that come with being black, being an immigrant, and, at at times, being very poor, my immigrant father still believes in the American Dream. That if you work hard enough, follow the right path, and are smart with your money, anyone can win in this country. America has always been great, again...and again.
That's why he's voting for Donald Trump.
Over the last few months, I've been watching (and contributing to), the conversation around the upcoming presidential election. The media's take is clear: Hillary's untrustworthy, Cruz is a Jesus-freak, Rubio's run out of steam, and Trump...Trump is a hateful liar. I've read countless polls about who the Trump voter is (white, from a flyover state, making under $50K, and wildly uneducated) and why they're voting for him (Terrorism! Mexico! KKK! Misogynists!).
But after talking to my dad - remember, a black immigrant, now upper middle class, educated, and settled in the Northeast - and multiple other people whose parents have, or will, vote for Trump, the business mogul's fiercest fanatics don't quite fit the media's monolithic assumptions.
From my conversations, many parents' reasons for voting Trump are complex. In some cases, like my dad's, these parents are fearful of losing the little wealth they've worked damn hard to amass. In others, like that of the Vitenamese refugees I learned about, they are very attracted to Trump's incessant crackdown on China. The country, after all, brought Communism into Vietnam and ruined the lives of their networks. And, of course, there are those who give into the click-bait of both left-wing and conservative media, choosing to ignore what the actual facts show.
One thing is clear through all of this: The voters that many think they're assailing via social media rants are not the only ones who bleed red, white, and Trump. Their victims look like my dad, they look like our friends, our family members, and our co-workers. These are people who have lived different lives, who have had vastly different experiences than mine or yours, and, from my conversations, they seem to be voting for a specific set of personal reasons.
Here's what some of those I spoke with had to say about why their parents want to Make America Great Again:
Image Via: US NEWS
Lynn, 28, 1st Generation American, Voting for Bernie Sanders*
Lynn's father, a Vietnamese refugee, will vote for Trump in November. He's 65, works for the state, makes "OK" money, and lives in New York.
"He seems to be very affected by conservative media not necessarily because he is swayed that way naturally, but because Fox News is a little more aggressive in its rhetoric. He doesn't know the nuances of government. For him, one thing he said to me was how powerful and great the United States was to him after the war. It was supposed to be one of the greatest countries and, now, we're in debt and things are being done poorly.
My dad feels like Obama is kind of succumbing to idea that we shouldn't worry so much about that the economy [but, rather, social issues]. He thinks we should be more aggressive with the economy. And if we are trying to deal with "terrorists", then we should take a stance against China." (Note: Trump is very vocal about his distrust and dislike of China. At last night's primary acceptance speech in Florida, he talked about the Chinese stealing "trillions of dollars" in American jobs).
"Vietnamese culture is kinda against the Chinese because Communism was brought to Vietnam from there. So he doesn't like the idea that the US isn't asserting our power, and instead allowing China to do what it pleases. He feels like Trump has a strong stance on things, and he says what's on his mind and he feels like that shows strength. For me, I don't think that. But he says that most politicians play political games.
He values success a lot, he comes from nothing and he thinks money and status are very important. For him, Trump is a business man who is very successful. My dad feels like because he is a business man who has run successful businesses he feels like he could insert that life into government."
Brandon, 32, Undecided but leaning moderate to left*
Brandon grew up in rural Pennsylvania, with parents who were a bit more affluent than those in the town. His mother, an arts teacher with an education, along with her friends, will likely vote for Trump in November. Her biggest fear? Terrorists.
"She's just worried that someone's gonna come into a movie theater and start spraying everyone. It's crazy. She's on a Trump email list, and now she wants to buy a gun so that no one terrorizes her in Pennsylvania. And she's worried for me because I live in NYC.
A lot of it is also immigration for her, the wall especially. She likes that he says what it is, and that he's willing to challenge the status quo. But she doesn't follow politics, really. Her political education is based on what's she's fed from her friends, and through these email lists -- basically, the headlines."
Image Via: ETSY
Allyson, 40, Undecided but leaning left
Allyson (and her dad) were born and raised in the Boston area. Her dad, a white male, now 69, nabbed a degree from Bentley, and worked various jobs in finance.
"He would've voted for Bush, he was a big Bush fan. [But as Jeb waned], he latched on to messaging from Donald Trump because it sounded so different. He thinks he's going to be a strong leader in country. I've tried to talk to my dad about things that I don't like about Donald. That Donald is not a diplomatic leader, that he has no ability to remain professional in the most professional systems you'd come up against. My dad doesn't seem concerned about that….he's not denying that he understands my points, but he believes its important to have a strong leader.
We've tried to talk about what is truthful and factual and things that he hasn't fact checked. I feel like the younger generation far more easily triple checks on things, and my dad simply believes there are specific journalists who tell the truth -- the rest is all a lie."
Image Via: NYMag/Michelle Asselin
SP, 31, Undecided
My dad is a Haitian immigrant, who came here in his 20s or so. He's worked multiple jobs at the same time in his history, and thinks that if others would too, we wouldn't have such a vast welfare state.
"My dad's voting on one issue, really. And that's money. As I pressed him on his primary vote for Trump, he repeatedly brought up his struggle to success. He had nothing, and now he has a strong savings, a 401k plan, stocks, etc. My dad, close to retirement, is so fearful that our next president will come into office and favor not those who have amassed wealth and resources, but rather those who desperately need those things. The thought of higher taxes on the money he's worked three jobs to earn lights a fire in his belly. Why can't legal immigrants work just as hard, why does the welfare state need to be expanded, and how dare the government cut into his American Dream. These, to me, are all rational questions and concerns...especially from his perspective. I try to press him on what he'd actually do, the facts, or how he'd ruin the image of America abroad.
'I don't care, I care about my money,' he says."
Nimchy, 30, "Voting for the guy with a good moral compass"
My brother, same dad.
"With my dad being so close to retirement, he wants someone who is going to help in in the short term. He thinks of himself as a smart person who's a forward thinker. He thinks Donald Trump will help the people with money. So he doesn't want Bernie or Hillary because they'd help entitlement. If he was on welfare, maybe he would vote differently. In his head, he's thinking 'how do I get this money in my 401k to me without me losing it in the next four years.
He doesn't hate immigrants. He hates the undocumented immigrants. He did his due diligence to be here legally. He doesn't want to get involved with citizenship. In his day, people had to do things to get here legally and they did them.
"It's not that my dad forgot where he came from or that he doesn't remember struggling, He does. He just sees himself as the American Dream and so anyone can make it, if he could make it. (Which i don't think is necessarily fair or right). It's just that he didn't have any advantage over anyone."
*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the source.