Perry Hooper Jr. was a supporter of Donald Trump the moment he saw him on television. His mother, he said, took some time to come around.
“I went and told her and the first thing Mom said was, ‘You know, Perry, he doesn’t say nice things about some people,’” Hooper said. “And I said, ‘I know, Mom, but sometimes you’ve got to have somebody that’s going to be plainspoken, tell the truth, and be tough.’ … It took her a couple of weeks, but then she signed off for Donald Trump.”
Hooper, who took an active role as the co-chairman of Trump’s Alabama campaign, said his feelings toward the president have not changed in the first six months of his term. In fact, he said, he is more impressed than ever.
That feeling seems to be true for most Trump supporters, despite recent polls that show the president’s approval rating plunging among the majority of surveyed voters. Trump’s approval rating was 34 percent as of June 8, according to a survey by Quinnipiac University, with 57 percent of those surveyed disapproving of his job performance and only 32 percent saying he did nothing wrong in his relationship with Russia. Daily tracking by the Gallup organization shows that as of June 11, Trump’s disapproval rating is at 59 percent and his approval rating at 36 percent.
Through it all, though, Trump’s supporters maintain a high opinion of the president — and that’s certainly true in red states like Alabama.
“He’s interested in one thing and that’s truly — and I don’t mean to act cheesy about this — but I truly believe he wants to make America great again,” Hooper said. “He’s done several things so far that are exciting to me. And if you look at it, the national mainstream media is not going to say this, but up until this point President Trump has probably done more than any other Republican president since Ronald Reagan, and he may have done more than any other president, period,” said Hooper.
Lance Adams, a fellow Trump supporter, is more frustrated than impressed, but with Congress rather than the president. Adams said his frustrations lie mainly with how Congress has handled Trump’s presidency.
“I feel the best thing is, we’re not any worse off,” Adams said. “Probably the biggest [frustration] is really the Republicans in Congress being obtuse and obstructionist because they’re just playing a game of survival for themselves. They like to listen to The New York Times and Washington Post to try to see how they should base their opinions off of that rather than getting behind him and helping him out.”
The biggest example, said Adams, is the healthcare bill: “The very fact that [Congress] didn’t have anything ready to go the second he was inaugurated, after all that talk… I can’t even begin to say it has anything to do with Trump. The House should have had that ready to go, like day one, and they didn’t. And they just kind of beat around the bush and put out something that everyone has different opinions on because nobody really even knows everything that’s in there at this point still.”
Channon Brown Edwards, who describes herself as somewhere “in the middle” of the Democratic and Republican parties, said she is optimistic about Trump’s future in the White House. But, she said, her biggest disappointment lies in how he has conducted himself in office.
“The only thing that’s letting me down as an American person is seeing his unpresidential behavior. I mean, I think if he could do something about that … I think that he’s creating these enemies in his own party, and I think that’s unnecessary. … It’s making it impossible to reach on the other side of the aisle and say, ‘Work with me!’ and it’s causing this huge divide,” she said.
Even diehard supporters believe Trump should reconsider some of his personal behavior. Hooper, for instance, agrees with Edwards that the president could change the way he conducts himself on social media.
“I’m not particularly crazy about his tweeting,” said Hooper. “I wish when he gets to doing the Twitter, I wish he would keep it factual and keep the editorial part out of it. And I think that would be good, because I think it’s a good communication piece for people to find out the real facts.”
Added Edwards, “I think he feels that even though he does not have an accurate voice in the media, I think that what he’s tweeting is being used against him and is creating some drama which is not necessary.”
Not a politician
Throughout his campaign, Trump was the center of several controversial topics, and yet the allegiance of his supporters never wavered. Adams said that the majority of supporters were attracted to Trump’s “straight-shooter” attitude and his unwillingness to apologize for his actions.
“Sometimes apologizing for something because it was taken the wrong way as opposed to you actually being incorrect, it instills this sense of weakness in people,” Adams said. “And I think that’s something that Trump, for better or worse, ends up coming through as — strong or as a straight shooter.”
Adams continued that, prior to Trump’s campaign, he had grown apathetic to politicians — but the way Trump handled his campaign caught his attention. “I don’t agree with every single thing he wants to do politically, but there’s a time to be expedient about things. … I really feel that’s where [other politicians] lost me, and that’s when Trump got me on board,” Adams said.
“So often he says things that so many people would like to say, but they’re too afraid to say it. But there’s a lot of truth in this silent majority,” Hooper said.
Hooper agrees that most of Trump’s appeal was due to him not being a politician. “People, they’ve just gotten fed up with politicians, with the Republicans and Democrats. [They are] tired of big time lobbyists keeping bills from passing. They’re just tired of it. They want people — whether it’s Donald Trump or any elected official — when they get elected they want them to do the people’s job,” he said.
The media filter
Adams said most of the media is “disconnected” from what’s going on in the world, and it impairs how the rest of the world sees Trump. ”There’s no media that portrays Trump in a positive light,” he said. “You have to read it through a filter.
“If you read any of these anti-Trump articles, they almost always start with, ‘Our anonymous sources say…’ and it’s just gotten almost ridiculous how many stories they come out with that don’t pan out and they never apologize for. The Washington Post and New York Times and CNN have probably been the most at fault for that,” Adams said.
Edwards, on the other hand, is not as convinced that Trump’s image is all the doing of the mainstream media. “I think we’re getting maybe the worst of what’s really happening, and I’m not sure why that is. But a lot of the news is not fake, because we can clearly see his tweets and his actions,” she said. “So on one hand, I think we should give him a chance. But on the other hand, I think he’s not handling things in a presidential fashion.”
On June 8, former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress about his interactions with the president and whether or not the president was under FBI investigation. Since then, Trump and his lawyer have claimed victory, while opponents have been ramping up efforts to get the president impeached.
Trump supporters seem unswayed by what Comey said. Adams said he does not think Comey’s testimony will affect the president’s term in the White House. “I honestly think Comey just likes attention, and he just sees another opportunity to get attention. I don’t think anybody got anything out of this on either side,” he said.
Hooper did not see Comey’s testimony as hurtful to the president, but said he is glad that the focus is off of the former director. “I think now Congress can start getting things done,” he said.
With the majority of Trump’s supporters staying steadfast in their allegiance, the question arises as to what would shake their faith in the commander-in-chief. Adams said that he would only resign as a Trump supporter if he “rescinded on the wall” or apologized “for something that he didn’t actually do. You know [people] get accused of something and people make apologies for it, and then you never hear from them again. I think the same thing would happen for Trump. But I mean, it he gets accused of something new every single day and none of it has really been proven to be true yet,” Adams said.
Hooper, however, sees the question as completely hypothetical. “I don’t see that ever happening,” he said. “I’m going to support Donald Trump. When I’m with somebody, I don’t back up. That’s a Hooper trait, and I’m with him. I’ll be the last guy in the foxhole with him. If he [doesn’t have] any other friends, then I’ll be there.”
There is a small chance that Trump could lose his support — if Trump were to side with the “left or the Democrats in New York,” Hooper said. “He’d lose me. But that [isn’t] ever going to happen.”
Edwards said she’d lose what faith she has in Trump if something damaging appears in his tax returns. “If it turns out he lied on his tax returns, that would be a huge thing for me,” she said. “But I don’t think he would have run for president [otherwise].”
Hopes for the future
With six months under the president’s belt, many of Trump’s supporters are happily looking to the future. Adams said he hopes to see results regarding the border wall after a budget is finalized in September.
Hooper said he is looking forward to the anticipated changes ahead and that his confidence in Trump cannot be shaken. “I like him. I think he’s great. And I just want everybody to give him a chance to fix these issues,” he said. “Donald Trump — his ego is too big for him to not be successful.”
Edwards said she hopes that Trump’s accomplishments in the White House will have an impact on important local issues such as job creation, and that there will be a battle in the 2020 election. “What is he going to do for Birmingham? That’s the big question, …what’s he going to do for us here?” she said.
“I think if Trump succeeds in bringing jobs and bringing some economy that causes our country to prosper, then I think he or somebody in the Republican Party will be elected in 2020, but I do know it will probably be the huge-est fight we’ve ever seen in our lifetime for president. I think it’s going to dwarf what we saw between Trump and Hillary,” she said.
Overall, Edwards is choosing to stay positive about the possibilities ahead. “I know we’re going in a good direction, so I’m willing to give him some more time,” she said. “We have big problems in this country and big issues, and it’s going to take a big person and a lot of debate to get through it all,” she said. “I think on one hand it’s a negative — we can say, ‘Oh it’s the most negative time in our life.’ Well is it? Or is it really just kind of maybe trying to clear the air just a little bit?”