Last night, out with my girlfriend’s family, I discovered something thrilling: One of them was a Donald Trump supporter.
We couldn’t have been in a less Trumpy place: Sitting in a little Los Angeles cafe, waiting for Pete Holmes’ comedy show at Largo, where comedian John Mulaney would do a brilliant set about how politics is like “Family Feud” and Trump isn’t smart — he’s just smart for a “Family Feud” contestant.
My girlfriend and I couldn’t believe we had a Trump supporter in our midst. We’ve lived in the kinds of places where people imagine Bernie Sanders could be president — places like New York, Massachusetts, and L.A. We never get to meet people who like Trump. We were fascinated.
And despite what people might think about people on the coasts, we like meeting people who think differently than we do. So I asked my Trump-supporting friend a lot of questions about what issues matter to him, to learn what I could. And I’m sharing what he told me with you. (Full disclosure: I’m an undecided voter who doesn’t think much of Trump.)
The Trump supporter was a 40ish, nice, interesting white guy from the South who became a self-made success in the tech industry, without going to college. Names have been omitted so my girlfriend doesn’t get mad at me.
Me: Why Trump?
Trump supporter: Because of two issues: Jobs and immigration. My friends in the Midwest are getting killed trying to find jobs. You guys don’t know what it’s like because you’re on the coasts.
Me: What? I grew up in Los Angeles. My high school was 40 percent Latino. Of course I know what immigration is like.
(The Trump supporter shook his head, agreeing to disagree.)
Me: You know we’re never going to build a wall at the border, right? That’s insane.
Trump supporter: We approved it years ago. We just need the political will.
(He was talking about this, which I have to admit, I had forgotten about. Judge for yourself.)
Me: Do you want to ban Muslims?
Trump supporter: No. That’s hyperbole. It’s not really going to happen.
Me: Do you seriously want to raid homes and deport 12 million people?
Trump supporter: If we did it just a few times, a lot more would self-deport.
Me: But Obama has deported people, and that hasn’t happened.
Trump supporter [laughing]: Obama has deported, like, 110 people.
Me: How’s it going to work, logistically? What if the parents are here illegally and there are kids in school born in this country?
Trump supporter: You’re assuming the kids wouldn’t want to go to Mexico and that Mexico is a bad place. It isn’t. Immigration hurts the U.S. and Mexico, because Mexico’s best and brightest come here, and leave their country behind.
Me: What if there are disputes over which country a child belongs in? Do you remember the Elian Gonzales case? Imagine that millions of times. It would tear apart families.
Trump supporter: That’s a tough one, it’s true. But crime is also a factor. I look at the arrest records where I live, and it’s all Hispanic names.
Me: That’s anecdotal. Studies show that immigrants commit fewer crimes, maybe in part because they don’t want to risk getting arrested and deported.
(At this point I Googled on my phone. This Wall Street Journal article appeared instantly: “The Mythical Connection Between Immigrants and Crime.” So I attempted a rhetorical trick. I knew the Trump supporter wouldn’t care what, say, The New York Times thought. So I asked him what news outlets he trusted as reliably conservative: The Wall Street Journal, perhaps?)
Trump supporter: All coastal newspapers are open borderers.
Me: (At a loss for words. The phrase “open borderers” sounded like some kind of conspiratorial buzzword, but I can’t find a reference to it anywhere.)
At this point, our significant others intervened and told us not to argue. But we both protested and said we weren’t arguing, we were enjoying ourselves: That it’s important to talk with people you disagree with, because that’s the only way you learn anything.
Me: I appreciate that you don’t want to ban Muslims. We’re having a good back and forth.
Trump supporter: Yeah, this is fun.
We went down the street to watch Mulaney make fun of Trump, and shared a half-hug-half-handshake at the end of the night.