U.S. Debate

An average Trump supporter weighs in on the debate

In rural Ohio, Arthur Robertson and his family watched the U.S. presidential debate—and saw 'a big heart' in Donald Trump

Arthur Robertson. (Photograph by Ricky Rhodes)

Arthur Robertson. (Photograph by Ricky Rhodes)

Two weeks before the presidential debate, on a ranch in rural Ohio, 40-year-old Arthur Robertson snapped a wheel on his lawnmower. He couldn’t afford to replace it, nor could he fix it himself due to his recent spinal surgery. Without hesitation, his father arrived to drill a new hole through the axle; his wife’s uncle welded a wheel back on, and his friend mowed the grass. Such industrious kinship—the guarantee that one does anything for his or her people—is what Robertson, while watching the debate, sees in Donald Trump. “We gotta work on our own problems here instead of trying to fix the world’s problems,” says Robertson. “He’s got a big heart for Americans.”

Robertson (who, in the Sept. 26 issue of Maclean’s, explained why he supports Donald Trump) watched the debate in his living room in Garrettsville, Ohio, with his wife, Trina, his 11-year-old daughter Madison, and their chihuahuas, Baxter and Buster. Even though Arthur and Trina have jobs—a computer technician and property manager—they cheered for Trump’s arguments to reel in offshore manufacturing for the sake of unemployed Americans. “We’ve been weak for so long,” says Arthur.

Even though Arthur doesn’t fear Islamic State attacks where he lives, he takes it upon himself to worry for urban citizens. Thus, he nods at Trump’s declarations to battle ISIS without compromise, not even disclosing a plan. “I don’t personally feel scared,” he says. “I just feel scared for my country as a whole. [Clinton] writes in detail online how she’s going to defeat the enemy. You don’t tell the enemy, ‘I’m going to be here at seven o’clock tomorrow.’ That’s the biggest part of defeating ISIS—it’s a sneak attack.”

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In all of Trump’s sentences, Arthur hears him caring about Americans. Boosting resources for police would protect schoolchildren like Madison, and stop-and-frisks would disarm “sickos,” says Arthur. He hears Trump speaking plainly (at one point referring to “a very against-police judge” in New York City). “I look at him as a blue-collar billionaire,” says Arthur. “I’ve heard actual testimonies from guys on his construction sites that he thanks the janitors. After the rallies, he stays and shakes hands with everyone down to the security and the guys who set up the stage.” When Clinton speaks, Arthur says, “it’s rambling on. After a while you start to zone off. She just says words and words and words and none of them make sense.”

Trump-style military tactics would prioritize American soldiers over diplomacy, in Arthur’s eyes—eyes that have witnessed the struggle of veterans. He recently found a woman lying facedown in his uncle’s trailer park, helped her home and learned she was a nurse in the Vietnam War, ill with post-traumatic stress and alcoholism. Arthur’s living room is hung with flags in support of troops; the fridge boasts a 9/11 memorial magnet made by Madison at a free Home Depot class for children. “I think he’s strong and he’s going to help America get back on their feet,” says Madison, pre-debate.

Goodness must come with grit, the Robertsons believe. “He looks strong and tough,” says Arthur of Trump during the debate. Arthur’s handyman father had to work multiple jobs to support a family of seven, who ate a diet of mainly cornbread and brown pinto beans. Arthur inherited a blood disorder that destroyed his spleen, but he kept working, making computer chips so he and his wife could afford a $125,000 property on which to raise Madison. He now supports his parents despite being on unpaid leave from work, having injured his spine while planting palm trees on his property. “They had to cut my throat in the front to get to my back,” he explains of his surgery in June. “I wake up in pain and go to bed in pain everyday.”

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Caring for Americans does not mean hiking taxes for free health care or education, Arthur says, in support of Trump’s arguments to cut corporate taxes from 35 to 15 per cent. Trina’s job offers medical coverage for $80 per month, but even if they didn’t have coverage through work, or if Trina lost her job, Arthur says, “I’ll never rely on the government to take care of me. I would force myself to get out and make money. I could grow a garden or start hunting on my land.”

When the treatment of women arises, the family gets offended—by Clinton, who reminds the audience that Trump addressed beauty pageant contestants as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeper.” “We’ve all experienced what he’s said,” notes Trina. “He’s apologized. I was probably more disgusted that [Clinton] even brought it up.” Trina is currently the sole earner in the household and the couple has never played gender roles. “I’ve changed many a diaper, probably more than my wife has,” Arthur points out. Although Trina grew up as a Democrat in Colorado, she has since started voting Republican. As for Madison, who insisted on attending a rally in Cleveland, “she’s a little Trump supporter, too,” says Arthur. “It’s kind of just been a family affair for us.”

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When the debate ended, the Robertsons shut off the TV, full of politics and pierogies. Madison and the chihuahuas had long since gone to sleep, but Arthur and Trina dwelled on Trump’s words. “I believe he’s got a very big heart, 100 per cent what’s best for the country,” says Trina. “He puts America first,” echoes her husband. The debate has confirmed that Trump is their candidate—one of their kin, who would protect their lives, fight for their jobs—and surely, if he met them, do whatever it took to ensure they could mow their lawn.