Sunday 25 February 2018

'I think he'll do good for every class - I just wish he'd get off that darn Twitter'

The United States Marine Corps Band practices in front of the podium where US President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office. Photo: Getty
The United States Marine Corps Band practices in front of the podium where US President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office. Photo: Getty

Harriet Alexander in Pennsylvania

Mention making America great again, and Michael Tirrell chuckles: the US is already a fine country in his eyes. Ask him about the border wall and he shrugs. Also, "draining the swamp," he believes, cannot and will not be done.

Yet Donald Trump's inauguration today is thanks to people in Pennsylvania like Mr Tirrell, who turned the state Republican for the first time in almost 30 years.

Like many here, he is not a God-and-guns, Stetson-strutting stereotype: his support is not guaranteed, unlike in the diehard Republican states of Mississippi or Texas.

Much of Mr Trump's behaviour disappoints Mr Tirrell (74). He is "absolutely worried" about conflicts of interest, and says reports of closeness to Russia are "a concern".

A former union president, who sat on Ronald Reagan's presidential commission on trade for 14 years, he is sceptical that the New Yorker will be able to fulfil his promise to return America to its manufacturing heyday.

"Whether he can bring industry back remains to be seen," he said.

But Mr Tirrell had no buyer's remorse. "I don't necessarily always vote for the party," he said, inside the wood panelled Wilson Borough Republican Club, on the outskirts of Northampton County's capital, Easton. "But I felt he was the best choice."

Leaders of both sides knew the battle for Pennsylvania was vital. Mr Trump was a frequent visitor, while the Democrats sent in their finest - Katy Perry and Jon Bon Jovi; local boy Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. Even their most prized asset, Michelle Obama, was dispatched to try to land the knockout blow.

But it was in vain. The state swung to the Republicans - albeit by the narrowest of margins. Northampton was one of three state counties to switch allegiance to Mr Trump. Sitting at the counter of the Williams Family Restaurant, Ted Pronel (78) also had no regrets. "I voted Trump, and I'm not ashamed of it," the retired businessman said.

"I was a young Democrat. I voted for Kennedy. I even voted for Jimmy Carter - what a mistake that was."

What does he want President Trump to do? "Everything he said," he said. "They put the coalminers out of work because Al Gore said so. Why should we pay tariffs on German cars, when they get ours free? What is wrong with bringing back manufacturing jobs?"

His friend Bill (79) was not so sure. He also voted for Mr Trump, but sees a minefield ahead. "His business conflicts are going to be a continuing thing - whether they are a real problem or not."

Mr Pronel disagreed. "I don't care if Trump still runs his business. He's a billionaire. He's not going to steal from us."

In the centre of Easton, Sarah Gosztonyi (25) said: "The one thing that Mr Trump said which appeals to me is his talk of reforming the student loan system. I live at home with my parents, and work two jobs waitressing."

What were her biggest fears? "That they are all so pro-life," she replied. "I mean - you are all men! How can you tell me what to do with my body, force me to have this child?"

Back in the Republican Club, spirits were higher. "I voted for him because I just stick with the Republicans," Michael Harrison (52) said.

What does "make America great again" mean to him? "Jobs. Education. Social security," he said. "Doing good for every class of people." Does he think Mr Trump can achieve that? "I do," he said. "But there is one thing. I wish he'd get off that darn Twitter." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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