“If you voted for Hillary in 2016, there’s probably very little about Trump in the last four years that would have appealed to you and made you say, ‘Oh, I made an error. I didn’t see all those strong, warm feelings that he had,’” Peter Hart, a longtime Democratic pollster, told me. He cited another Wall Street Journal/NBC survey showing that only about 4 percent of the people surveyed who backed Clinton in 2016 now favor Trump. Approximately 6 percent of Trump 2016 voters now support Joe Biden. “People are in their party silos,” Hart said.
A Clinton-to-Trump voter is obliged to hold a set of countervailing thoughts in their head. They voted for a candidate in 2016 (Clinton) whom Trump has said should be in jail; now they favor a candidate (Trump) whom Clinton contends is a mortal threat to democracy.
One thing to know about Murray, though, is that he had little affection for Clinton in the first place—and hadn’t been particularly cold to Trump. “She just rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. “I felt she felt entitled to the position and didn’t really want to fight for our vote.” Yet he saw her as the better choice back then, believing the former senator, secretary of state, and first lady possessed experience that Trump lacked. “It made me nervous voting for someone who was completely outside of the political arena,” he said.
Four years later, he says that plenty about Trump’s behavior makes him uneasy, and he wishes Trump would “act much more presidential.” But he said he’s voting for Trump chiefly because of what the president is not: a Democrat. “It’s becoming more of a socialist party,” he said. “As a capitalist, I’m very fearful of that.”
Murray has other reasons too. He likes the president’s handling of the economy, although he believes the tax cuts passed in 2017 could have given a bigger boost to the middle class. He agrees that the nation needs stronger borders. He’s worried about some of the same episodes of street violence that Trump has hammered in his campaign messaging.
At one point, his wife, Kristy, came up and joined us on the roof deck. I asked her what she makes of her husband’s political odyssey. After all, Trump’s polarizing presidency has strained and tested families. She didn’t say whom she’s backing in the election, but offered: “It’s his process, it’s his business, it’s his choice … Whatever his journey would be, I would support it. That’s what makes America, marriages, relationships, families, and the world go around.”
The conversation struck me as a kind of anachronism. It reminded me of how people talked about politics before Trump came along. Back when conventional candidates competed in accordance with agreed-upon norms—not to mention a shared reality—people did vote based on issues like tax policy. They parsed the candidates’ records on law enforcement and immigration. All of that now seems quaint. The whole American experiment feels like it’s wobbling. Trump won’t even commit to bowing out if he loses, raising the possibility of a constitutional crisis with no way out.
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