For Some Trump Loyalists, It's Personality Over Policy | KERA News

For Some Trump Loyalists, It's Personality Over Policy

Aug 29, 2016
Originally published on August 29, 2016 11:21 am

Immigration has been a galvanizing issue in Donald Trump's campaign from the beginning. But in recent days, the Republican nominee has been adjusting his position — first suggesting he'd be willing to "soften" calls to deport people in the country illegally, then returning to a more hard-line stance after criticism from prominent conservatives.

But many of Trump's staunchest supporters seem unconcerned about his apparent policy shifts.

Over the weekend, Trump supporters streamed in and out of a new campaign office opening in the battleground state of Nevada, collecting yard signs and bumper stickers. Outside, Las Vegas-based musician Steven Boz performed a ballad to the real estate developer.

Boz has flowing blond hair, and wears sunglasses as he performs. Outside the Las Vegas office park, he set up a makeshift stage on an Oriental rug in front of his white tour van. He said he loves Trump's "attitude."

"I can relate to it," he says. "It's like, say what's real and get on with it. And stop pussyfootin' around, people."

Boz says illegal immigration is a problem, but when it comes to policy, he trusts Trump to figure that out. "Whatever he wants to do, I'll back him. That's all I can say. It's tough," Boz says.

Inside, Judy Callahan, 69, says she's preparing to retire from her job as a hospice cook — and devote her free time to volunteering for the Trump campaign. Wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat, Callahan says she has supported the real estate developer from the beginning.

"I just love him — I love every second of him," she says.

Callahan says she opposes amnesty and wants Trump to be "strong" on immigration, but it doesn't bother her that his policy positions can sometimes seem unclear.

"I listen to half of what Trump says," Callahan explains. "And then I move on because you have to get people's attention."

Callahan says that strategy worked to help him knock out his Republican primary opponents, but she thinks he will develop more specific policies if he's elected.

"And not everything Trump says is true — I mean, it's not true like it's in concrete," Callahan says. "He said he would stop the border flow, he would build some kind of wall, and he would work on the people that are here. That's all there is; the rest of it's kind of fluff."

Monty Kiefer, 75, says Trump's words are often just a starting point, rather than a firm policy proposal.

"He's a negotiator. He takes a position to start a negotiation," Kiefer says.

He says Trump has been consistent about what he sees as the most important thing — getting rid of what he calls the "bad" people.

Last week, Trump told Fox News he could "work with" people who are in the country illegally and have not committed crimes. That sounded much like a path to legalization — an idea Trump had previously criticized as "weak" when proposed by his GOP primary rivals.

"That's a negotiating point," Kiefer says. "Remember, he wrote the book The Art of the Deal."

For John Delaberta, a retired businessman who also came to sign up to volunteer, what to do about immigration isn't complicated.

"I'm a little older than you," he tells me. "And I have a lot more common sense that I was taught as a young child growing up in America. And common sense and practical solutions seem to work most of the time."

One solution, Delaberta says, is to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

This weekend in Iowa, Trump returned to a hard-line position, telling supporters that on "day one" he'd use existing laws to deport what he called "hundreds and thousands" of criminals who are in the country illegally.

But deporting large numbers of people could be a tough sell to general election voters, and Trump has yet to outline exactly how he'd go about it, but he tweeted Sunday that he'll make "a major speech on illegal immigration on Wednesday" in Arizona.

"Obviously people are telling him that he has to come more to the middle to not offend young white women like you, who are college-educated and just think he's an evil man," Delaberta says.

Trump and his campaign have promised a more detailed policy speech on immigration in the coming days. Still, for the candidate who once told a crowd in Iowa he could "shoot somebody" and not lose voters, the details may not matter.

"He could shoot someone on Broadway and I would still vote for him," says Judy Callahan.

Pressed on whether she meant that literally, Callahan laughs.

"Well, only if he just, if he just wounded them. We'll just let him wound 'em," Callahan jokes. "No, what I'm trying to say to you is, the people who are here today, they're going to vote for Trump."

Callahan says she will vote for Trump no matter what. On the immigration question, her greatest wish is for Trump to build a wall with Mexico. But even if he couldn't do that, Callahan says she'd probably still vote for him in four years.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, if you think of one issue at the heart of Donald Trump's campaign, immigration might well be what comes to mind. For Trump supporters, as well as for his detractors, this is the animating issue. So when the Republican nominee seemed to change his position, suggesting he'd be willing to soften his calls to deport people in the country illegally, you could imagine this upsetting his supporters. But NPR's Sarah McCammon reports that many of them seem unconcerned about his policy shifts.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Over the weekend, Trump supporters streamed in and out of a new campaign office opening up in the battleground state of Nevada. Outside, Las-Vegas-based musician Steven Boz performed a ballad to the real estate developer.

STEVEN BOZ: (Singing) Ride into the sunset, Trump nation.

MCCAMMON: Boz has flowing, blond hair and performs in front of a white tour bus draped in an American flag. He says his admiration for Trump is simple.

BOZ: I love his attitude, and I can relate to it. It's, like, say what's real and get on with it and stop pussyfooting around, people.

MCCAMMON: Boz says illegal immigration is a problem, but as far as policy, he trusts Trump to figure that out.

BOZ: Whatever he wants to do, I'll back him. That's all I can say. It's tough.

MCCAMMON: Inside, supporters pose for a group photo before signing up for door knocking and phone banking trouble.

BOZ: One the count of three, say Trump, all right? One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Trump.

MCCAMMON: Wearing a Make-America-Great-Again hat, Judy Callahan says she's supported the real estate developer from the beginning.

JUDY CALLAHAN: I just love him. I love every second of him.

MCCAMMON: At 69, Callahan is about to retire from her job as a hospice cook and spend her time volunteering for the campaign. It doesn't bother her that Trump's policies on issues like immigration sometimes seem unclear.

CALLAHAN: I listen to half of what Trump says, and then I move on, because you have to get people's attention.

MONTY KIEFER: He's a negotiator. He takes a position to start a negotiation.

MCCAMMON: Monty Kiefer, a 75-year-old retiree, says Trump has been consistent about the most important thing - getting rid of what he calls the bad people. Last week, Trump told Fox News he could work with people who were here illegally and have not committed crimes. That sounded a lot like a path to legalization, a position Trump had previously criticized as weak. But Kiefer isn't concerned.

KIEFER: Remember, he wrote the book "The Art Of The Deal."

MCCAMMON: For John Delaberta, a retired businessman who also came to sign up to volunteer, what to do about immigration just isn't that complicated.

JOHN DELABERTA: I'm a little older than you, and I have a lot more common sense that I was taught as a young child growing up in America. And common sense and practical solutions seem to work most of the time.

MCCAMMON: That solution, he says, is to build a wall with Mexico. This weekend in Iowa, Trump returned to a hard-line position, telling supporters that on day one, he'd use existing laws to deport what he called hundreds and thousands of criminals who were in the country illegally. But deporting large numbers of people could be a tough sell to general-election voters, and Trump has yet to outline exactly how he'd go about it. Still, for the candidate who once told a crowd he could shoot somebody and not lose voters, the details may not matter. Judy Callahan, the hospice cook we met earlier, agrees.

CALLAHAN: He could shoot someone on Broadway, and I would still vote for him.

MCCAMMON: You don't really mean he could shoot someone and you'd still vote for him.

CALLAHAN: Well, maybe if he just - if he just wounded him. We'll just let him wound him (laughter). No, what I'm trying to say to you is the people that are here today, they're going to vote for Trump. I don't care what he does.

MCCAMMON: On immigration, Callahan's greatest wish is for Trump to build a wall with Mexico. But even if he couldn't get that done, Callahan says she'd probably still vote for Trump again. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.