The conventional wisdom goes something like this: After offending Mexican immigrants and other minorities since the dawn of his campaign last year, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump can’t hope to find many votes in that demographic — much less those willing to volunteer their time to further his White House chances.
But as the all-important Florida primary begins, reality appears quite a bit different at the Trump campaign office in Tampa, which the New York Times said “yielded some surprises on the subjects of race, ethnicity and bigotry.”
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For a campaign frequently depicted as offering a rallying point for the white working class, the people volunteering to help Mr. Trump here are noteworthy for their ethnic diversity. They include a young woman who recently arrived from Peru; an immigrant from the Philippines; a 70-year-old Lakota Indian; a teenage son of Russian immigrants; a Mexican-American.
They range the political spectrum, too, from lifelong Democrat to independent to libertarian to conservative Republican. To a person, they condemned and sometimes ridiculed David Duke and other white supremacists who have noisily backed Mr. Trump. “I totally do not agree with them,” said one volunteer, Andrew Cherry.
Yet like Mrs. Linsky, many spoke openly about how fears centered on race and ethnicity were at the heart of their support for Mr. Trump. To a large extent, they traced those fears to the scars they still bear from the Great Recession — lost jobs, drained 401(k)’s, home foreclosures, rising debt, the feeling that the country is broken.
More than anything, several Trump volunteers here said, the Great Recession exposed a corrupt, out-of-touch ruling class in Washington that allows big corporations to outsource jobs at will while doing nothing to address millions of illegal immigrants who compete for jobs and drain government coffers. In Mr. Trump, they say, they see a potential antidote to all of this. A man too wealthy to be bought or co-opted. A man with the blunt-force clarity to declare that he is ready to Make America Great Again.
“I think we’ve come to the conclusion that our country is falling apart, and we have to take care of it,” Mireya Linsky told the paper.
Linsky, 55, came to the U.S. from Cuba with her Jewish family when she was 5, lived in public housing for several years, and is a longtime school district employee. But while her background would seem to scream out “Democratic sympathizer,” Linsky told the Times that her numerous racial fears are actually what draw her to Trump.
Among them, the paper reported, are undocumented workers who “come basically to see what they can get,” Muslim Americans imposing their religion on American towns, more U.S. jobs outsourced to cheaper foreign labor — and not to mention her suspicion that President Obama “has a dislike for white folks.”
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“We’re not taking care of our own,” Linsky told the Times.
Among the other 20 workers at the campaign office are Bob Peele, 62, who sported a Harley-Davidson hat along with a T-shirt emblazoned with a bald eagle as he unloaded Trump signs from his pickup truck.
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Just then, Annette Lux, 62, and Sharon Wollen, 70, pulled up in a small Chevy. They had driven nearly 20 miles from their senior community in Valrico in hopes of getting a sign, a T-shirt, a bumper sticker — anything to show support for Mr. Trump. Through the car window, Mrs. Lux, a lifelong Democrat, launched into a tirade against Hillary Clinton, accusing her of always pandering to African-American or Hispanic voters. “When do you ever say you need the white person’s vote?” she called out to Mr. Peele. She quickly added, “I’m not racist or anything.”
The women got out of the car and headed to the Trump campaign office. Mrs. Lux, walking with a cane, and Mrs. Wollen, tiny and frail, explained that everywhere they looked, they saw evidence of a diminished nation, one so hobbled it cannot give decent health care to many veterans. “They even got rid of our space program,” Mrs. Lux said.
Their circumstances have been diminished, too. Mrs. Lux ekes out a living at a check-cashing store; Mrs. Wollen lost her state job working for Florida’s toll system. “Now I’m working retail, and I’m starving,” she said.
In Mr. Trump, they see someone at last willing to acknowledge the needs of the white working class. “I feel that we’re getting left out,” Mrs. Lux said. “There’s more than Black Lives Matter. What about us?”
Loss of wealth, income and property seemed to be a recurring theme with the group of Trump volunteers.
Marcos Quevedo, 45, told the Times that the Great Recession cost him his managerial job with a sleep diagnosis company and then his marriage ended. “Corporate America got a little ruthless,” he told the paper.
Thing is, Quevedo is a registered Democrat who isn’t blind to the racial tensions at Trump rallies — but it’s something he’s letting slide in order to bust up Washington’s foundations.
Deloris Owens, 49, was laid off by Verizon following the 2008 financial meltdown, lost her home to foreclosure and voted for Obama in 2012, the Times reported.
Emma Aquino, 51, was left with the unenviable last resort of allowing the bank to reduce the interest rate on her Utah home — which lost 50 percent of its value after 2008 — but only if she extended her 20-year mortgage to 40 years.
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To her, the mortgage meltdown perfectly encapsulates what she views as the corrupt bargain that rules the nation’s capital — politicians from both parties getting in bed with big corporations and their lobbyists to rig the game against average Americans. “The banks,” she says, her voice rising with indignation. “The government supported the banks.”
As Mrs. Aquino talks about what she loves about Mr. Trump — how “he’s against lobbyists” and how he’s “not influenced by big corporations” — at first it sounds as if she might be talking about Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But then she begins talking about a scourge of illegal immigrants. Mrs. Aquino stresses that when she arrived from the Philippines, she followed every rule, paid every fee. “I went through the process,” she said. She learned English, became a citizen and worked to “create my own American dream.”
Mrs. Aquino brings up a court case she just read about. An Army captain, a Sikh, had sued the Defense Department, seeking the right to wear a turban and beard in adherence with his faith. “Adhere to American culture,” she says disapprovingly. “Adhere to American tradition.”
Andrew and Juliana Cherry, both 35, operate a small real estate business. While Juliana Cherry, who left Peru a few years back to come to the U.S., is on her computer for several hours a day defending Trump on Twitter, the Times said.
Andrew Cherry used to flip Florida houses until the Great Recession hit, after which he said he owed more than $1 million, was left homeless and slept on his office couch for six months, the paper said.
And he has a simple solution if Trump makes it to the White House and doesn’t follow through on his promises.
“If Trump doesn’t make the economy better,” Cherry told the Times, “we’ll fire him in four years.”
(H/T: Young Conservatives)