WASHINGTON: Though Donald Trump’s first week in office has ignited nationwide protests and condemnation from elected officials at home and abroad, the Republican’s initial moves have left one group all smiles.
The conservative base that launched the new US president to his shock November victory has by and large voiced satisfaction with Trump’s bold executive actions — including his controversial decree that closed United States borders to refugees and barred entry to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Josette White, a 44-year-old owner of an online crafting business from West Virginia. “He’s doing exactly what he said he was going to do.”
“Except for convicting Hillary, but I understand that,” she added, referring to Trump’s Democratic former rival.
Last May, White waited in line more than six hours to attend one of the billionaire’s campaign rallies. And she remains convinced that the CEO-turned-commander-in-chief will change business as usual in Washington.
“Most politicians promise, promise, promise,” said the Republican voter, whose father and grandfather worked in coal mines.
“But right now, he’s still speaking to the working men.”
Interviews with several voters across the nation back up what polls indicate: more than 80 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s initial presidential performance, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
Nearly three-quarters of Republicans said they believe it is “strongly” or “somewhat” necessary to ban those from Muslim-majority countries to prevent terrorism, showed a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Just 19 percent of Democrats agreed.
Other studies also indicate a stark division among US voters: Republicans support the president, and Democrats roundly reject him.
“We need to keep our country safe, whatever it takes,” said Milan Davich, a 66-year-old Pennsylvanian who considers himself a political independent.
For Davich, that includes Trump’s order to build a wall on the US-Mexico border: “they should electrify the damn thing, and put machine guns and barbed wire on top of it.”
And when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets in outcry over the new president’s policies, Davich has little patience.
“They’ll protest every damn thing he does for the next four years.”
‘Give him a chance’
Don Krepps, a retired construction worker from rural Ohio, remains convinced that Trump likely is doing “a better job than Hillary (Clinton) would have done.
“It seems he’s doing the things he said he was going to do.”
Krepps, who enjoys watching television news, is exasperated by Trump’s vocal opposition: “If they would leave him alone, I think he would do okay.”
“But Democrats and the movie people in Hollywood complain about everything he does.”
Retired Fedex courier Dan Wallace, who said he watches both cable television rivals CNN and Fox News, is fed up with the media’s coverage of Trump.
“There’s no doubt about it,” the 62-year-old said. “It’s quite obvious they don’t give this man a chance.”
The supposed blunders — a very public fight with Mexico, the chaotic rollout of his migration order, Twitter wars — are for them mere blips.
“The media takes what it wants and blows it out of proportion,” Wallace said. “He’s on the right track — people just need to give him a chance.”
‘He’s already running’
Republican members of Congress express private concern about the president’s first steps — and a number of them have criticized Trump’s executive order on immigration.
But in general the Republican majority is hoping it can weather the storm and stick to their original agenda. By partnering with the president, Republican leaders can finally push through conservative reforms former President Barack Obama systematically vetoed.
Trump’s move on Tuesday to nominate Neil Gorsuch — a staunchly conservative judge — to a vacant seat on the Supreme Court drew cheers from the American right.
House Republicans will “be very patient,” said one congress member on the condition that he remain anonymous, warning that Democrats “will hammer the shit out of us — and we’ve got to be prepared.”
When it comes to Trump, political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia sees no signs that the new president will extend his hand across the political aisle.
“He is the first president, at least in the modern period, to make not even gestures in the direction of the 54 percent who didn’t vote for him,” Sabato said. “Everything he does is for the base.”
The president’s strategy, Sabato said, is to “please the 46 percent who voted for him” in his bid for reelection.
“He’s already running.”