November 18, 2018

Trump: True hope for some, lesser of two evils for others

For Peter Weiss, an OB-GYN and director of the Rodeo Drive Women’s Health Center, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump wasn’t his first, second or third choice for president — but Hillary Clinton isn’t even his 10th. 

“It’s more of the lesser of two evils, and I look at Hillary Clinton as not accomplishing anything,” Weiss said. “They talk about experience, but experience only matters if you’re good at what you do.”

Weiss, 59, a self-described moderate, sees Trump’s “non-conservative” outlook and reputation as a “dealmaker” as assets — the very things many “Never Trump” conservatives see as liabilities.

But Weiss, who thinks Texas Sen. Ted Cruz “would have been a disaster” from the right, while Clinton could be “a disaster from the left,” said it will be enough if Trump focuses on improving the U.S. economy and strengthening national security. 

“We don’t need ideology from the left, and we don’t need ideology from the right,” Weiss said.

However, for Jonathan Stern, 32, a Trump supporter and local firearms instructor who identifies as a conservative, either Trump or Cruz — who posed the only real challenge to Trump throughout the Republican primaries — would have been fine.

“I was somewhat torn between [Trump] and Ted Cruz because, on the one hand, Ted Cruz is a very strong social conservative who’s also very, very religious and very pro-Israel, which appeals to me,” Stern said. “But I saw Trump as being more tough on Islam and on immigration, so that’s something that appeals to me a lot, too.”

Ultimately, Stern said, he thinks Trump is the type of “strong leader” who can put America “back on track.”

“We’ve veered so far off course in the last eight years, under Obama, from where we need to be, that it’ll take a tremendous amount of work to set things right again,” Stern said.

And while Stern acknowledges that Trump has changed his stance from numerous prior non-conservative positions — from gun control laws to the minimum wage — over the last two decades, he’s confident Trump will follow through on the campaign promises that helped catapult him to the top of a crowded Republican field.

“I really hope he sticks to his promises and follows through on those promises,” Stern said. “I believe that he will do his best to build a wall and deport illegal immigrants and stop Muslims from coming here.”

For Rabbi Jacob Rupp, a 32-year-old lecturer at a Southern California Jewish high school, Trump’s break from “traditional conservative beliefs” is not a deal breaker, even though he identifies as conservative.

“The Republican Party isn’t the final word on what a conservative is, or what the conservative stance should be,” Rupp said.

Rupp credits much of Trump’s rise to being a political “outsider” and speaking in a “very simplistic,” “fourth-grade reading level” manner. Cruz, meanwhile, came off as an “intellectual,” Rupp said.

Rupp thinks Mitt Romney did a poor job of rallying the Republican base and independents in 2012, and that Trump has figured out how to draw in those groups. “What ultimately this specific election is about is drawing in the outsiders of either side,” Rupp said. “You see it with Bernie Sanders’ tremendous appeal.”

Like Weiss, Tali Leitner, 30, a nurse practitioner, is a Republican for whom Trump is simply the least bad of the remaining options. She initially wanted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and then Ohio Gov. John Kasich after Rubio dropped out, and she said she sees a Clinton presidency as a four-year extension of the Barack Obama administration — and a Sanders presidency as even worse.

“Americans want to feel like Americans again — and that pride that they once had, and I feel like Trump brings that to a lot of people,” Leitner said. “I’m all about making America great again. I don’t believe in everything Trump says, but overall I think he’s a better choice than the other two candidates we have left.”

Leitner’s mother, Mali, who lives in the Orange County city of Villa Park, said she has usually voted for the candidate she thinks would be best for Israel (for her, that meant Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney). This election, she has supported Trump since the beginning of his candidacy last summer.

“I strongly believe that he is a staunch supporter of Israel, but the media somehow tried to make this man, in my opinion, not really who he is,” Leitner said. Asked about Trump’s comment in February that he would be “neutral” between Israel and the Palestinians (a term he has not since repeated), Leitner said Trump “had to say that,” and that Trump has given “a lot of money to Israel,” is a “good friend of many, many Jewish leaders,” and pointed to the fact that he has a Jewish daughter (Ivanka), a Jewish son-in-law (Jared Kushner) and Jewish grandchildren.

For Edo Cohen, a local 36-year-old head of a digital marketing agency, his main issue, too, is immigration. 

“The biggest threat to the Western world is a demographic threat,” Cohen said, pointing to the influx of Arab immigrants to Europe as an example. “When people lose their borders and lose their identity, they slowly lose their country.”

While he liked Cruz for being a “constitutional conservative,” Cohen said he thinks conservatives sometimes “obsess a little bit too much on that.” Cohen sees domestic issues such as fiscal and economic policies as being reversible, while demographic transformations are irreversible.

“To me, the most important thing, and the thing you can’t reverse — you can always reverse economic policy — but you can’t reverse an invasion,” Cohen said.

Asked how his friends, Republicans and Democrats, view his decision to vote for Trump, Cohen said most of his Republican friends plan to vote for him, too, while his Democrat friends “are not very happy about it.”

“They think he’s a racist, and they think that he’s dumb, but I think that’s what they thought about every Republican candidate, so I don’t see the difference,” Cohen said. “The veil that Donald Trump is lifting on the political correctness front, on the nationalistic front … the fact you’re allowed to say things like, ‘This is my country, and I want to keep it’ — that’s the real appeal that I have for Trump.”