Interview with a Trump campaigner

By December 1, 2016US elections

TCC have had a number of interns working for us over the last few years, through a scheme which brings American students to the UK as part of their academic programme. One such person was Ben Lovin, who interned with TCC in autumn 2015.

Ben backed Donald Trump in the US presidential primaries and went on to work on his campaign team in Arizona. We caught up after the election to get his perspective on the campaign and find out his expectations for a Trump White House. In particular, with the President-elect being such a controversial figure this side of The Pond, we were keen to understand how Ben’s values and life experiences drew him to Trump. Daniel Jackson, Head of Research at TCC, speaks to him here.

Daniel Jackson
Hi Ben, good to catch up. How are you feeling about Trump’s win?

Ben Lovin: I’m excited. As a Field Director here in Arizona, we had a lot of volunteers that spent hundreds of hours making phone calls and knocking doors for Mr Trump. We were always quietly confident our hard work would pay off. I can’t really express what a huge sense of satisfaction I have, knowing all of our volunteer efforts directly played a role.

DJ: Why do you think he won?

BL: People here are tired of the establishment candidates they saw with the other candidates – both among Republicans during the primary, and then among Democrats. [Trump’s opponents] employed the same, age-old rhetoric, and frankly, people were tired of empty promises. Thanks to the scandals and controversies that embroiled the Clinton campaign, people just weren’t trusting much of what Hillary had to say.

DJ: At what point were you drawn to Trump and what part of his message appealed to you?

BL: I liked him initially because he was different. I was curious to see what a businessman would have to bring to the discussion. While he said some things I don’t agree with, overwhelmingly what attracted me was his support of the military and veterans. My family has a history of military service and it was something that I at one point wanted to do myself. I’ve had friends that have served and come home with disabilities from defending our freedoms, so I appreciated the fact he wanted to improve the military and support systems for veterans.

DJ: How would you characterise the values Trump stands for?

BL: I think he values individual freedom more than anything, and that’s something most Republicans value; smaller government, and more personal choice. But I also believe he values a type of “fairness”. He wants to ensure trade deals like NAFTA, the TPP, and trade with other nations benefits the US as much as trade partners.

DJ: What will be the main policy change from a Trump presidency?

BL: It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For me, it’s exciting to know it will be repealed. As a newly married, healthy millennial, I can’t afford insurance under the ACA. My monthly bill is over $100 a person, and doesn’t cover anything until I’ve paid $12,000 from my own pocket. It’s cheaper for me to pay the “penalty” at the end of the year, which is unfair. People shouldn’t be penalised for choosing not to have health insurance.

DJ: When Trump talks about ‘making America great again’, what do you feel he’s going to reinstate?

BL: I think that he wants to re-invest in infrastructure and rebuild our military. But what I want more than anything is jobs brought back that are currently overseas. The average American worker doesn’t – in my opinion – care about GDP. What they care about is getting a job, and providing for their families. And they don’t want the added concern, on top of paying bills, of their job going abroad. So we’ve got to provide for the American family first and foremost.

DJ: Are there any concerns among those who were against Trump that you think have merit to them?

BL: The polarisation’s certainly sad to see. And I wish more people would understand where each other was coming from. I’m bilingual. I love to travel. (Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how the heck to get back to London!) I work with people from all walks of life, and my religion teaches tolerance and love for all. I’m not a racist or a homophobe or a xenophobe.

But unfortunately, those are the labels people throw at me as a Trump supporter. At times it goes the other way and that’s unfortunate too. I think what people need to understand is that there were some clear differences between the candidates and people were attracted to either candidate for a variety of reasons. Do a majority of Americans hate Muslims or homosexuals or Hispanics? Of course not. But unfortunately the media has twisted the extreme thoughts of a few on both the Left or the Right.

DJ: Describe your concerns about Hilary?

BL: There were several things that concerned me about Secretary Clinton. As an active member of a church with a strong pro-life stance, her position on late-term abortion was something that I disagreed with. Given my family’s background, I was concerned about how she handled our military during Benghazi. I was also concerned about her handling of classified information. I just felt that she wasn’t trustworthy or honest.

DJ: What’s your take on reported rises in race hate? Does this concern you?

BL: It does, and it’s something that needs to go away. People on both the Left and the Right need to understand that this election wasn’t about race or religion or sexuality. It was about fundamental differences on policy. It’s unfortunate to see hate crimes taking place on both sides. Republican campaign offices were burned and firebombed in North Carolina, and I saw a video just yesterday of an older, Trump-supporting white man having his car stolen by a group of African-American men, who screamed about his voting for Trump as they beat him. It’s unfortunate that the Republicans are being painted by the media as these awful racists, and I’d like to see more discussion and dialogue.

DJ: Will he build a wall?

BL: I have an interesting view on the wall, because my grandfather was a border patrol pilot. He was killed in a plane crash while tracking a group of illegals. As a result the border is something that’s important my family directly.

Just last week I had the opportunity to escort Alabama Senator Jeff sessions and former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to the border. What we saw was frightening. There’s fencing in certain places, but it stopped at mountain ranges where the cartel smuggled drugs and people through. These mountain ranges are too rocky to station border patrol agents, and people are murdered and raped there, with border patrol agents shot at daily. Scouts live in dwellings in the mountains and act as guideposts for smugglers. On the same trip we visited a border town which faces problems such as cartel members coming into the town and recruiting Hispanic US teenagers into the drug trade, and we were shown a drug-smuggling tunnel which ran hundreds of yards under the fence. So, the border is a real problem.

Will Mr Trump build a wall? I can’t say. But something does absolutely need to be done on the border, to increase the safety of US citizens.

DJ: And how about Hispanic migration more generally?

BL: Do I think all Latinos entering the US are drug lords or rapists? No I don’t. That’s why I believe the process to enter the country legally needs to be made easier and more affordable. At the same time, something has to be done at the border to restrict the flow of drugs and people – regardless of those people’s race or colour.

I served a Spanish-speaking mission for my church and speak Spanish fluently. I worked with the majority of immigrants, legal or otherwise. I understand their plight and realise why many want to come to the US. But I also believe that nations have laws for a reason, and those laws can be changed or amended to facilitate an easier safer immigration process.

DJ: Do you have any final comments?

BL: I think people generally –  and I’ve spoken with many of my UK friends about this – don’t understand that this election was essentially about people’s frustration with the political elite in Washington. Is Trump a perfect candidate? We all know the answer to that. However he provides an exciting and engaging alternative to much of what the American people are used to. People are tired of political gridlock. They want to see progress made and things done, and they want to see that their homes, families, jobs, and livelihoods are protected and not sold off to other countries so that the elite can make more money.

It’s been fascinating to watch Mr Trump, who could himself be described as part of the elite because of his corporate success, really reach out to the everyone. He somehow built a connection with blue-collar voters who’ve felt for some time that no one is listening to them.

So, what I’d say to my friends everywhere is to give him a chance. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him and can say with the surety that he’s nothing like the media caricature. He ran his campaign the way he ran his business; hard-working and committed. I’m confident that he will run his presidency the same way. He wants the American people to be successful, and I would say just give the man a shot.