Opinions

These people told us in 2016
why they voted for Trump.
Here’s how they’re voting in 2020.

(Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post, 2016 file photo)
By

After the 2016 election, The Post asked readers to share why they voted for Donald Trump. This cycle, we checked back in with the voters whose responses we published four years ago to find out whether the president could count on their support again. Here is what they said — then and now.

“However much or little you ascribe blame for the current restlessness of the country to Trump, he’s definitely not the solution.”

Max Mordell, 34

Spring Valley, N.Y., in 2016 → Cincinnati

2016: I am a Cruz/Rubio Republican, and I voted for Donald Trump because, first, he will upset the status quo in government (on both sides of the aisle) — a status quo under which the government keeps getting larger while the rest of America keeps gets smaller. Second, Trump will expose the cynicism in the media — an industry that thrives off of the appeal to the worst of human impulses. Trump may not pursue constitutional conservatism, but he has an excellent chance to enact policies and to create an environment in which this country’s economy can get going again. I am also convinced Trump is well suited to restore American leadership — with all of its values — around the world. The American spirit (the term may need to be defined for some millennials, and the best resource is simply a standard history text), which has driven the successes of our past, is sorely lacking at home and around the world. Trump understands this, and I believe he is genuinely interested in making America great again.

2020: The only part of my jubilant and somewhat vindictive remarks from 2016 that I can look back on without any disillusionment is the bit about the (pre-pandemic) economy. I was, of course, as aware as anyone of Trump’s character flaws, but I was confident the soberness of the Oval Office would shape the man as president. Sadly, he has not risen to the occasion. When it comes to actual policy preferences, I’d be hard-pressed to say that any other Republican president could have done better; the Supreme Court vacancy, too, will put a little spring into my step as I head to the polls as a reminder to GOP voters of what’s really important long after the Trump hurricane passes. But there is a lot more to a successful presidency than just the right policies, and however much or little you ascribe blame for the current restlessness of the country to Trump, he’s definitely not the solution. So when I pull the lever for Trump this time, it will be much more transactional — I simply don’t think that an unpleasant standard-bearer for my side should drive me to a more pleasant candidate with a wholly unpleasant platform — and I’ll save the aspirational stuff for 2024. Here’s praying the country makes it there in one piece.

“In 2016 … I held my nose and voted for Donald Trump. This time, I won’t be holding my nose.”

Jay Maynard, 60

Fairmont, Minn.

2016: I am not one of Donald Trump’s fanboys. The choice was not cut and dry. What finally decided the question for me was Hillary Clinton’s hostility to the rule of law as exemplified by her behavior and her promise to select Supreme Court justices willing to overturn District of Columbia v. Heller and Citizens United. Taken together, those two things meant her election represented an existential threat to the Constitution, its design for our government, and the First and Second Amendment. I concluded our country would not survive a Clinton presidency. That meant she had to be stopped cold. The only way I had to push in that direction was to vote for Trump, so I did.

2020: In 2016, the choice was not cut and dried, but in the end, I held my nose and voted for Donald Trump. This time, I won’t be holding my nose. The Democrats have gone so far to the left that only full-on Marxists or Never Trumpers could support them. Joe Biden has clearly lost a step, and Kamala Harris will pull the country even further to the left than Barack Obama did. The Democrats’ pro forma denunciations of the rioting and looting committed in the name of Black Lives Matter and antifa ring very hollow. All in all, we need Donald Trump today worse than we did in 2016.

“It’s easy to say, ‘I’m a conservative,’ and vote that way when the person I supported was humble and thoughtful. … These times are not those.”

Lesley Newman, 57

Scottsdale, Ariz.

2016: I’m a college-educated, white, working American female, and I have found Hillary Clinton’s arrogance since her days in the White House so off-putting that anything and anyone, including Donald Trump, has more appeal.

2020: I simply don’t know yet. I will not blindly support the incumbent, so I feel I have more homework to do on actual positions and policies. It’s easy to say, “I’m a conservative,” and vote that way when the person I supported was humble and thoughtful in their approach to our nation. But, these times are not those. I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer. The world feels a little broken and out of sorts. No one person or constituency is going to fix it. So I’ve work to do.

“If I were in a swing state, I might consider voting for Trump, but not Biden.”

Rhonnie Cough (née Enterline), 32

Sacramento in 2016 → Columbia, S.C.

2016: He was an outsider. He spoke truth about political correctness. He has great kids who stand by him, which means something to me. And most important, he is not a Clinton. If I weren't in California where my presidential vote doesn't count for much, I might not have voted for him. But, I thought, why not be part of sending a message to Washington?

2020: I will not be voting for Trump, and I won’t be voting for Biden. The last time, when I voted for Trump, I lived in a very blue state. I have since moved, and I now live in a very red state. My vote back then was somewhat symbolic, to send a message, to feel somewhat represented in a state where I rarely felt represented.

If I were in a swing state, I might consider voting for Trump, but not Biden. I don’t support either candidate, but Biden seems unfit to hold the presidency, and he and Kamala Harris want a different America than I do.

I don’t have a lot of respect for Trump as a person. But his views are more in line with my values than Biden’s.

“I don’t see either party working to fix … systemic problems. That’s why I’m putting all of my energy behind getting more options for our future.”

Kirsten Johnson, 35

Minneapolis

2016: I was literally undecided until I went into the voting booth. I was a strong advocate for Gary Johnson for most of the race, but I changed my mind after I saw him at a lackluster rally in town. Then Trump came through, and the energy and passion was astounding. He overflowed an airport hangar with 24 hours’ notice on a Sunday during a Vikings home game. Holy crap. So, in the end, I voted for the economy, against Obamacare and against a corrupt government, just as I was planning to for Johnson. But I also voted for the people, because Trump was the clear choice of the silent majority I eventually became a part of.

2020: In 2020, not only am I voting for, but I’m an active volunteer for the Libertarian candidate, Jo Jorgensen. Part of Trump’s appeal in 2016 was that he was a political outsider who could offer new solutions to government problems. While I can acknowledge the good work he did for the economy before covid-19 and recently in international peace agreements, I am disappointed he’s perpetuated many of the issues both parties have exploited for decades. Our immigration system is still dysfunctional, our criminal justice system is at a boiling point with no solutions in sight, and our national debt is at a record high. I don’t see either party working to fix these or other systemic problems. That’s why I’m putting all of my energy behind getting more options for our future.

“ ‘Hidden’ though we may be, my friends and I are all voting Republican again.”

Diane Maus, 65

Suffern, N.Y.

2016: On Tuesday, I voted Republican for only the second time in my life.

The media did the United States a huge disservice in covering this campaign. As I watched, I got the impression that voting was a mere formality. The commentary was all about how Hillary Clinton was set to get down to business once the pesky election was over. It was obvious watching the election returns on several networks that not one of them prepared for the possibility of Donald Trump triumphing. Why was that?

My vote was my only way to say: I am here and I count. I wish President-elect Trump all the best and have hope that Washington will, in the next four years, actually work for all Americans.

2020: Yes, I will be voting for President Trump again. “Hidden” though we may be, my friends and I are all voting Republican again for several reasons. Our retirement accounts flourished under Trump’s economy before the pandemic, and we believe the economy will come back under his leadership once we get past this. Covid-19 was not Trump’s fault. Was the pandemic handled perfectly? No. That being said, no country in the world was prepared for this.

The Biden/Harris ticket makes us all sick and scared for our country. Why would anyone vote for a candidate who thinks his voters do not deserve to know where he stands on an issue, like court-packing? The thought of becoming a socialist society should scare everyone in this country. My friends and I have worked all our adult lives to provide for our families and achieve the American Dream. We see no good reason to support undocumented people. Our grandparents came to this country and went through the process to become citizens and were proud when that citizenship was earned!

The Democrats insist upon labeling every Trump supporter as a racist. Generalize much? Insults aren’t a platform, and neither is “Vote for me because I’m not Trump!” “Patriotism” has become a dirty word for Democrats, but Donald Trump loves this country.

“All of the mindless chatter about his tweets and political incorrectness is childish and ridiculous.”

Phil McNeish, 61

Roanoke, Va.

2016: I am an independent voter who leans slightly to the left. I am a small business owner. I am not an uneducated, deplorable redneck. Donald Trump, despite his imperfections, will be the most left-leaning Republican president of all time. Hillary Clinton would have steered the country further to the extreme left, while Trump will be a good mix of left and right. We, in the middle, are weary of partisan bickering. Trump was our best hope of a president willing to compromise.

2020: I will be voting for Donald Trump again. He followed through on most all of the promises he made before being elected. I work in the manufacturing industry. He stood up to China and is bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. It has directly impacted my ability to make a good living again. All of the mindless chatter about his tweets and political incorrectness is childish and ridiculous. I can hardly bear to sit through news broadcasts these days because they’re all peppered with disrespect and insults made to a man who has done a great job as president.

“I’m still glad the Clintons are not in the White House, but I will be voting for Biden in November.”

Howard Gaskill, 80

Georgetown, Del.

2016: I remember the Clintons from back when they tap danced around the Gennifer Flowers story. Then came Whitewater and then Hillary Clinton’s billing records were nowhere to be found, and then there was Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton looked right at me through the TV screen and said “I did not have . . .” The lies never stopped. Then came the Clinton Foundation, foreign donations and the emails. I have 100 percent Clinton Fatigue.

If Bernie Sanders had been on the ballot, I would have voted for him, even though I agree with him on virtually nothing. But he seems to be honest and stands up for his beliefs and not for enriching himself.

2020: I voted for Trump in 2016 for two reasons: He promised to shake up D.C., and I couldn’t stomach the Clintons. I will not vote for Trump in 2020 for more reasons than that.

His shaking up of D.C. does not appear to have followed any logical plan. It seems it was merely the creation of chaos. Some of his ideas are good, as least from my standpoint, but he is incapable of following most of them through to a successful conclusion. For example, after all the wheeling and dealing, China buys some more soybeans and chicken, but continues to build landing strips and naval bases in the international waters of the South China Sea, and has effectively annexed Hong Kong. Russia, Iran, North Korea — all our enemies are giving Trump the finger. Our allies, with the exception of Israel, do not have our back.

At home, the president should be a leader of his nation. Trump always seems to collapse when faced with a crisis. Covid-19? It is what it is. Violent protests in the streets? It’s the fault of the mayors. Constant turnover in his Cabinet? They’re disloyal and incompetent.

Trump is floundering. He did okay in a small pond of NYC, but the big pond of the whole country is more than he and his shifty lawyers can handle.

I’m still glad the Clintons are not in the White House, but I will be voting for Biden in November.

“President Trump’s foreign policy achievements in four years are impressive and have exceeded that of many two-term presidents.”

Mackenzie Gans, 32

Las Vegas

2016: We need to focus less on individually placating all the groups that make American wonderful and more on solving issues related to the economy and foreign adversaries.

Tap-dancing around our national debt, our failure to contain Iran and North Korea, and our long-term unemployed citizens helps no one.

2020: President Trump’s foreign policy achievements in four years are impressive and have exceeded that of many two-term presidents. The peace deal between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free-trade deal have earned my vote in November.

“While I don’t agree with some of his social media statements, his actions speak volumes.”

Helene Berkowitz, 41

Hashmonaim, West Bank

2016: Unlike most Americans, I know how to compartmentalize and separate my personal opinion of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and my belief about who is better for the job. I have always said — years before Trump was ever interested in politics — that the country should be run like a business. Meaning the United States should be led by someone who knows how to delegate, and understands complex budgets, negotiation and leadership. That is why I voted for Trump.

I don’t need my president to be nice to everyone and to give them a warm, fuzzy feeling. Get a bathrobe for that. I also don’t have to agree with him on every single opinion or policy. I don’t need to be friends with my president; I need him or her to lead the country, provide solutions for our problems and make a stronger and greater United States.

2020: Yes, I plan on voting for President Trump again. The reason is because he does what he says he’s going to do and unabashedly puts America’s interests first. He accomplished more in his first 100 days in office than other presidents did in their entire terms.

While I don’t agree with some of his social media statements, his actions speak volumes. His administration has enacted laws and created programs that help put people to work, protect the borders, lower minority unemployment and create fair trade policies.

His administration passed paid parental leave for federal workers, a major benefit that frankly should have happened years ago for all Americans. He moved to the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, something that was promised for decades and never implemented.

I want the country to be governed by a leader who doesn’t cater to the whims of lobbyists but to the people he serves.

“They have not given me any reason to vote for Biden except that Trump is bad. And that’s not enough.”

Shoanna Crowell, 49

Boston

2016: I voted for Jill Stein, which my friends all yelled was a vote for Donald Trump. I don't fully disagree. It was clear early on in the Democratic primary contest that the mainstream media discounted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) even when he was winning states. Then the Democratic National Committee emails came out, and I had proof of what I suspected. The Democrats and the mainstream media had handpicked their candidate and were manipulating us. They felt entitled to shove Hillary Clinton down our throats. I'm glad they didn't get away with it.

2020: I voted for Jill Stein, which my friends all said was a vote for Trump. Though I’m definitely not voting for Trump this go-round, either, I won’t be voting for Biden. I am once again disgusted with our political process. Bernie Sanders was storming the country until the establishment Democrats, who are more concerned with maintaining their clutch on money and power than helping our society climb out of this horrific mess, pulled their Obama-led power grab. Biden? Are you kidding me? He’s the one they chose? And then Harris? She couldn’t even make it to the Iowa caucuses. The establishment Democrats have shut the progressives out of this party. Just look at the convention for more proof. They have not given me any reason to vote for Biden except that Trump is bad. And that’s not enough.

Watch Opinions videos:

Read more:

From the Archives: Why Americans voted for Trump in 2016

The ultimate survival guide to election night and beyond, in 17 questions and answers

Marc A. Thiessen: An interview with President Trump: Why he’s confident in reelection and reopening

Our Democracy in Peril: A series on the damage Trump has caused — and the danger he would pose in a second term

David Byler: Nobody can predict this election. Here’s why.

Lizette Alvarez: Cuban Americans fear socialist dictators. So why are they backing the caudillo for president?

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