The Right Wing

A Handful of Trump Voters Are Coming to the Painful Realization That They've Been Had

The vast majority are still buckled in on the Trump train. Some are looking for the emergency brakes.

Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

A quick glance at FiveThirtyEight suggests that Donald Trump is as unpopular as he's been at any point in his brief, turbulent presidency. The website, which takes a weighted average of polls from the American Research Group to YouGov, finds his unfavorables stand at 50.6 percent against 44.4 percent favorables amongst likely or registered voters. That split widens to 52.4/41.5 for all American adults, and none of these numbers account for this week's stunning collapse of the American Health Care Act, the GOP's replacement for Obamacare.

What these numbers don't reveal, and what will likely keep the president in power for the foreseeable future, is that Trump remains broadly popular with the Republican base. After attempting to strip 14 million people of their insurance next year and hollow out the very social health care program he pledged to preserve, stocking his cabinet with former Goldman Sachs employees and proposing a budget that would slash funding for transportation and education, he still enjoys an 81 percent approval rating with his party, according to Quinnipiac. A recent Mood of the Nation poll found as few as 3 percent of Trump voters would recast their ballot if given the chance.

While the regretful Trump voter is mostly a myth, a small and increasingly vocal minority are proving exceptions to the rule. They are grief-stricken dads and credulous wives, Iowa electricians and Georgia farmers. Their stories are baffling, infuriating and occasionally tragic, sometimes all at once. While they may not deserve your sympathy, they at least demand your empathy.

Here are a handful that have emerged in the two months since Trump assumed office.

1. Helen Beristain (Granger, Indiana)

According to the Independent, Beristain cast her vote for Trump "believing that only 'killers' and cartel members would be deported." On Friday, her husband was scheduled for deportation from a detention facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Roberto Beristain had been living in the United States since he emigrated from Mexico in 1998. He'd obtained documentation to work and was checking in regularly with immigration authorities. But two years later, he was detained after accidentally crossing the Canadian border during a trip to Niagara Falls. Because he had refused to self-deport, he became a target of ICE under the Trump administration.

Beristain owned a popular restaurant in Granger called Eddie's Steak Shed. He and Helen have three children.

“[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported," she told Indiana Public Media. "The good people would be checked.” 

2. Kraig Moss (upstate New York)

Once dubbed the "Trump Troubador," Moss traveled the country for Donald Trump, crooning his support at 45 separate rallies. As the Washington Post reports, he even sold equipment from his construction business to stay on the campaign trail.

Moss, who lost his son to a heroin overdose, believed the current president was "most capable of bringing an end to the [opioid] epidemic sweeping the nation." Trump gave him reason to believe. In January 2016, the Republican candidate addressed him personally at a rally in Iowa. "I know what you went through," Trump said to the crowd. "And he's a great father. I can see it. And your son is proud of you. I'll bet he was a great boy."

Moss' confidence in Trump has evaporated since the introduction of the American Health Care Act, which he calls "an absolute betrayal of what Trump represented on the campaign trail."

The one-time supporter recently broke down during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. "My son was a good man," he said. "He was — he had a big heart and he showed everybody his heart."

3. Tom Godot (Clinton, Iowa)

A union electrician and a life-long Democrat, Godot cast his vote for Trump because he was persuaded by his promises to cast aside Washington lobbyists and increase the number of high-paying jobs. He also thought Trump represented the "lesser of two evils" in a presidential race against Hillary Clinton.

Less than a month into Trump's presidency, Godot was already feeling "embarassed."

“I didn’t think he would come in blazing like he has,” he told the Washington Post. “It seems almost like a dictatorship at times. He’s got a lot of controversial stuff going on and rather than thinking it through, I’m afraid that he’s jumping into the frying pan with both feet.” 

4. Kenneth Peek (Ellaville, Georgia)

Peek's path to Trump is as exasperating as it is typical. A farmer by trade, he spent 2016 working odd construction jobs after a drought devastated the farm where he and his wife grew corn, wheat and soybeans. And while his health insurance was covered by the Affordable Care Act, he claims that climbing premiums propelled him to seek out an alternative.

Enter Donald Trump and his vow to repeal Obamacare.

Peek has since learned what half of the country already knew: that the Republican Party never had a replacement plan and the makeshift legislation they assembled would make millions of Americans' lives exponentially harder.

"The way they talked about it, it was supposed to be better," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.

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