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One year in, voters reflect on life in the Trump era

A year into the Trump presidency, Judy Woodruff checks back in with a group of voters from the swing state of Virginia to get their reactions on a range of issues, from the economy and democracy to immigration and tolerance.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    But first, as we reflect on President Trump’s first year in office, we check back in with some familiar faces.

    I sat down last night with a group of six voters in the swing state of Virginia, most of whom I had first talked to during the election year.

    Thank you all, again, for talking with us. We do appreciate it very much, a year-and-a-half later than the conversation we had with five of you in August of 2016.

    So I’m going to start this evening with the host, the gentleman whose home we’re having this conversation in, Bill Lupinacci.

    Thank you very much for having us here.

    Let’s just start with the basic question. How do you think things are going in this country right now?

  • Bill Lupinacci:

    I don’t think they’re going very well at all.

    I didn’t want Trump to be the new president. And I think a lot of things have gone wrong since he’s become the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Corey Solivan, you said when we talked to you a year-and-a-half ago you were planning to vote for Donald Trump. How do you think things are going right now?

  • Corey Solivan:

    I at least feel a much more positive outlook, at least financially. I think we had a huge progressive win in our tax reform with the Tax and Jobs Act.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Kia Hamel, what about you? You were a supporter of Hillary Clinton. How do things look to you right now?

  • Kia Hamel:

    Well, I’m surprised and not surprised.

    I’m disturbed. And I was concerned about his temperament last year before the elections, and I’m even more now concerned about his mental stability and whether he is fit to lead the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Alison Katzman, you liked Donald Trump when we last talked.

  • Alison Katzman:

    Mm-hmm.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What’s your sense of how things are going under his presidency?

  • Alison Katzman:

    I’m very, very excited and happy. I’m glad that we finally have somebody who is leading this country who is not going to let us be played for a sucker as a nation, as we have in the past. It’s about time we had somebody that stood up for the American people.

  • Farah Imam:

    Well, I’m looking for opportunities to find a reason to believe that we’re going to pull through as a country.

    But, at the same time, I’m surprised by the fact that we have someone who is the leader of our country who is just unabashedly tearing the Constitution apart, who has no regard for social constitutes and humanitarianism.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tom Smith, you voted for Hillary Clinton. You were not a Trump supporter. We’re now a year in. What do you think?

  • Tom Smith:

    Well, I wasn’t looking forward to a Trump presidency, for sure, but I don’t think I could have imagined anything worse.

    And I feel like I have never seen the U.S. so isolated in the world. Back at home, on one hand, you know, after Obama, we talked about the end of racism. Well, now we know that was hardly the fact. And I think it’s been helpful to see just how strong racism is, and that it’s a minority.

    It’s a significant minority, but it’s a minority of people who are really challenging the bedrock of our national assumptions about equality and justice.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Corey, I want to come back to you on the economy, because several of you have brought it up. You say that’s one of the things you have liked.

    Have you felt that personally, the economy?

  • Corey Solivan:

    Absolutely.

    I mean, just as an example, my children’s 529 plans have done amazing in the last year, to the tune of north of 20 percent returns. My 401(k) has done 25 percent to 30 percent last year. These are all wonderful, positive things I haven’t seen for the better part of 10 years.

  • Alison Katzman:

    The economy is going great. And we look at the stock market. It’s fantastic. Things have gotten a lot better for me in terms of job opportunities. I think there’s more demand. There’s been a couple of jobs that have — I have had to juggle because there’s been so much work.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bill Lupinacci, what about — you can’t deny the economy, at least the stock market, is doing really well.

  • Bill Lupinacci:

    Yes, I think it’s great that we’re doing very well. My business is doing very well. I’m waiting for us to fall off the cliff when it doesn’t meet the expectations of the promises.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Kia, what about you? You’re not a fan of this president, but how has the economy been for you?

  • Kia Hamel:

    Actually, I don’t have any stocks. So I can’t see how a Trump presidency financially has benefited me. I feel like I represent mainstream America.

    Most Americans aren’t invested in the stock market. Most Americans are working, you know, minimum-wage jobs. I happen to be a very small start-up company, an entrepreneur. And I have not seen yet any benefits.

    And I’m afraid that just because the corporations may bring their money back within these shores, it’s not going to trickle down to the employees, because $14 every two weeks in your paycheck extra is not any money.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about immigration? This was an issue the president ran on. He was very tough on that issue, said he was going to build a border wall. He was going to be very tough on people who are in this country without documentation.

    It’s come up again just recently. How do you size up this administration, this president on immigration?

  • Corey Solivan:

     It’s a personal issue for me, because my wife and I have been going through legal migration, and all the DACA bill does is reward those who have broken the law and circumvented the legal process and penalized — it rewards them and penalizes families like my own, who have gone through the legal process to immigrate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How have you gone through it? What is your particular situation?

  • Corey Solivan:

    My wife is of Eastern European descent. And we got married abroad, came back through, and have gone through a very long, five-year process now, and she’s still not yet a U.S. citizen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Kia, you were reacting when Corey was speaking about immigration. What are your thoughts on this president and that issue?

  • Kia Hamel:

    I was always sympathetic to the Dreamers because of the fact that they have been in this country all of their life through no fault of their own.

    But what actually brought me even more strongly into the debate was when the president made the S-hole comment about immigrants from African countries.

    I’m an African-American woman born and raised here in the United States, but my ancestors were from Africa. And for you to advocate that people from European countries such as Norway come over here, as opposed to allowing people from African countries or other countries where people of color would come from, it’s flat-out racist.

    And the president is racist.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is he racist, in your opinion?

  • Alison Katzman:

    No. He’s opinionated, but let’s be fair about this. How many of us are planning a vacation to Haiti?

    I mean, it’s — he just sort of lets it loose, and he’s kind of a New York type. And he lets go with a lot of stuff that he’s thinking. And there’s not a filter on his mouth. And we better get used to it, because that’s what everybody really believes and thinks deep down. And Trump is just saying what’s been there anyway.

  • Bill Lupinacci:

    That’s not what I believe and think deep down. It’s not at all what I believe and think deep down.

    We, as a people, have to decide what kind of society we want. Make America great again can’t mean make America white again. It can’t. We can’t let that — we can’t let the things that he’s saying just go by and say, we have to get used to them and we have to accept them. We don’t have to accept it.

    Racism in this country is becoming emboldened and out of control. And it is reminiscent of things that have happened in other governments in past years, such as the Weimar Republic, when Hitler rose to power, and many other governments where despots rose to power and forgot about — forgot about the notion of mercy tempering justice and the notion of people caring for each other.

  • Alison Katzman:

    I did want to add, I can’t go to any kind of social event or interact with people who are Democrats without somebody — and this was before Trump — some snarky remark or some little snide comment — and they don’t know I’m a Republican, and I have to keep my mouth shut.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I need to let Kia say something.

  • Kia Hamel:

    One thing that President Trump has done is, he’s reenergized that, and he’s told the white supremacists that it’s OK for you to pull off your sheets and it’s OK for you to espouse hate, xenophobia, anti-LGBT views. It’s OK for you to discriminate.

    And this is what is most disturbing about this president, is that he is hateful. And he’s the leader of the free world, and he is openly doing this. And this is hurtful to people. This is divisive to the American people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you all think the country is more divided now, a year into the Trump presidency, than it was, I don’t know, halfway through the Obama administration?

    Corey?

  • Corey Solivan:

    Absolutely. Any time the Democrats don’t win an election, there’s divide. And that’s what my adult history has shown me. And that’s the center and cornerstone of it.

    And it’s not about the right and the wrong or the left and the right or the progressive.

  • Bill Lupinacci:

    I think the results of the interim elections would argue against what Corey is saying. I think that people are starting to come together now.

    Democrats are winning in historically Republican districts all over the country in these interim elections because people are rejecting what the Republicans have done since they have been in power and since Trump has been in power.

    And I’m hopeful — even though I have never been a Democrat, I’m hopeful that this Republican leadership will be gone with the 2018 elections this fall.

  • Farah Imam:

    So, we have heard from a couple of you that politicians have too much power, but who is giving them the power? It’s us. That comes down to us, as the American people.

  • Tom Smith:

    I’m a substitute in local schools.

    In the middle schools, you have children who are more impulsive, mouth off in inappropriate ways. And I’m reminded of President Trump. He reminds me of a middle school bully.

    Now, is he fit to be a president? I don’t think he’s crazy, but I don’t think he’s the model of what I would want in a president, and certainly his policies are hurting more Americans than it’s helping.

    You mentioned divisions. The divisions have always been there. He’s brought them to the surface. And I think he’s done us a favor in that regard.

  • Kia Hamel:

    And you used to want to be — as a child, you aspire to be president.

    What do we have to offer our kids when we have a president that’s, you know, slut-shaming a senator on Twitter? What kind of message is that sending to our children?

  • Alison Katzman:

    If you want to talk about the deterioration of our culture, we’d be here all night, and it didn’t start with President Trump.

    Admittedly, he does say some outrageous things or tweet some things. But look at Hollywood. We could look at movies. We could look at TV. We could look — I mean, there’s just been such a huge — in my lifetime, there’s been a huge cultural shift in everything, and from promoting very liberal values out of Hollywood.

  • Tom Smith:

    Rights for the disabled, rights for gays and lesbians, expanded civil rights.

  • Alison Katzman:

    OK, like transgender everything, gay marriage.

  • Tom Smith:

    Transgender, yes.

  • Alison Katzman:

    It’s just not — it’s not the kind of thing that most of us grew up with.

  • Tom Smith:

    That’s right.

  • Alison Katzman:

    And conservatives are being vilified for believing a certain way, because it’s…

  • Kia Hamel:

    Like, my life is not a reality show.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Alison Katzman:

    Back to Trump — back to Trump — reality TV is a very good example.

  • Kia Hamel:

    But my life is not one.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Alison Katzman:

    You can’t blame Trump for all of the muck that is being foisted on the American people. And this isn’t the 1950s anymore.

    And you can’t just say, oh, Trump shouldn’t say that and he shouldn’t say that, when everybody is swearing right and left.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let’s focus on the future.

    There are big, important congressional elections happening this year. They call it the midterms.

    How much do these elections matter to you? Do you intend to get involved in the congressional or Senate race in your state? And, you know what do you think? Should the Congress continue to be controlled by Republicans? Should it be controlled by Democrats?

    Corey?

  • Corey Solivan:

    I think, if the midterm elections go Democratic to both House and Senate, you’re just going to see a gang rush to impeachment proceedings, because they have been looking for their pound of flesh, for whatever story or story line that they have been supporting.

    If it stays Republican, I think you’re going to hopefully see some more initiatives.

  • Kia Hamel:

    Virginia is going to lead the way the not only resist Trump, but resist Trump with a purpose. And we are going to be energized. We’re going to show up.

    We are, you know, training and supporting more women candidates who are running for office, and we are interested in pushing policies that benefit people.

  • Tom Smith:

    For me, both parties are on the take.

    It’s the rich people who run the show, no matter which party is in power. I think the women’s march last year was a watershed moment, and there are going to be some incredible women coming forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On this question of divided, united, how worried are you about the country being divided, people being divided? Does it affect your daily life? Is it something that you think we need to fix to become more united?

    Or is it healthy for us as a democracy to debate all these things and to have these vigorous disagreements?

  • Farah Imam:

    The civil discourse that we’re having allows for us to find common ground, allows for us to have discussions that are important for us as a nation, without name-calling, without belittling each other’s opinions.

  • Corey Solivan:

    I think a lot of America realizes community starts from exactly that, your neighborhoods, the places you go to church, the places you go to school, the places you enjoy your time as families in your — the areas that you live.

    And I think that’s where the divide can start coming back together, because these are your neighbors. These are your friends, your family. These are the people you relate to. You have that common ground.

    Yet, at the same time, you share those vast differences. And that’s where that dialogue begins. I don’t think we will ever see anyone in Washington or Richmond, for that matter, solve this problem. If anything, it’s to their job description to make it worse.

  • Kia Hamel:

    Absolutely. But we need to be led, and we need to be challenged to actually do those things. It’s nice to say, in my community, this is what I aspire to as an individual, but we need a leader.

  • Alison Katzman:

    I just feel like everybody has become much more tribal, and you don’t identify as Americans at this point. We identify as African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans or whatever — or by our political party or even beyond ethnicity, religious or — there’s — people are not identifying as a whole.

    They’re identifying within their subgroup.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, about the future, just finally, does anybody want to say they feel hopeful? Not hopeful?

  • Bill Lupinacci:

    I’m always hopeful for the future. I think that’s been the great strength of America, our willingness to move forward, to invent, to listen to each other, and to find ways forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.

  • Bill Lupinacci:

    Thank you.

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