* Editor’s note: This story is part of The Blade’s Bellwether Project, which polls participants who reflect the demographic makeup of Lucas County in an effort to understand the country’s shifting electorate. Participants include nine Democrats, eight Republicans, and eight others who identify as unaffiliated or members of other parties.
Donald Trump has led the nation for 19 months of what many across both sides of the aisle view as an unprecedented presidency; one that has contributed to a bitter divide across party lines and often even between families and neighbors.
With his term nearly halfway through, one thing is clear: the President is leaving his mark on the nation, and The Blade has asked participants in its Bellwether Project survey to cut through the rhetoric and weigh in on how this presidency is affecting life in Lucas County.
In particular we wanted to know: Do you approve of the job the President is doing and the direction the nation is headed?
Not all of our 25 survey members chose to answer this question, but those who did offered their candid thoughts on his policies, the political climate, and not least of all the President’s tweets.
“I am not a fan of the things I’ve seen,” said Gloria Wang, a 37-year-old data analyst from Waterville who considers herself a right-leaning independent.
'I feel like (President Donald Trump) focuses more on what people are saying about him than actually being the president.' Blade Bellwether Project participant Gloria Wang.
Ms. Wang voted third-party in the presidential election and said she disapproves of immigrant families being separated and detained and fractured U.S. relations abroad.
The President also needs to put down his phone and quit tweeting, she said.
“I feel he focuses more on what people are saying about him than actually being the President. You’re the President, you need to stop comparing yourself to Hillary [Clinton],” Ms. Wang said.
She believes this presidency is splintering the nation.
“He’s so openly divided the country against one another. People are more openly hateful toward one another for their differences. If someone has that hate it’s always present but now people are more willing to vocalize it,” Ms. Wang said.
Kevin Kendzierski understands this type of discord. Casual exchanges about current events and President Trump sometimes turned heated at his workplace, Shawn’s Irish Tavern, where he’s a cook. But employees make sure to stop before it escalates.
“There are definitely people who are pretty adamant for either side,” the 27-year-old Toledo man said. “But if there’s an argument we just walk away.”
Mr. Kendzierski is an independent and doesn’t consider himself to be very political; the last time he voted, it was for Barack Obama.
But given that, he doesn’t think President Trump is performing badly in office.
“I have to say he’s doing a good job because it hasn’t gotten worse,” he said.
Still, better public transportation, a higher minimum wage, and lower taxes are all things he’d like to see — along with fewer tweets and less mudslinging.
“Not everyone is always going to agree with the President, but as the leader of the country I believe he deserves our support,” he said.
Praise for GOP
John R. Guest of Toledo voted for President Trump in 2016 and would support him or another Republican in the next election. The 74-year-old retired truck driver has no doubt the country is prospering under his leadership.
“He’s doing an awesome job,” Mr. Guest said, citing relations with North Korea, the economy, and his nomination of conservative judges who might overturn Roe vs. Wade.
But not everything is great. He dislikes the rhetoric and attacks, especially when the President called his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman a dog.
“He defeats himself with his mouth,” he said. “People don’t understand who Trump is because he’s constantly saying things that are bold and arrogant.”
Autoworker Toriano Wright usually aligns with Democrats but praises the President for his efforts to build a wall at the border and lower taxes.
The 43-year-old believes the wall would help control illegal immigration and possibly improve American employment, while tax cuts would result in more hiring and refunds for people earning low wages.
Give a chance
'(President Donald Trump's) stuck true to his word.' Blade Bellwether Project participant Adam Freeman.
When asked if he feels confident companies would pass these tax savings to workers, Mr. Wright says it’s important to wait and see.
“How do we know unless they try? We have to give them a chance,” he said.
Adam Freeman, 38, voted for a write-in candidate over President Trump but decided to give him a chance. He believes the President has kept his promises and has put the country on the right path.
“The man’s stuck true to his word,” he said.
Mr. Freeman, an energy consultant from Waterville, cited the President’s decision to opt out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Iran nuclear deal, and Paris Accord as examples of actions he supports. He also supports the nomination of conservative judges and tax cuts with an eye toward creating American jobs.
‘I’m just baffled’
Then there are those for whom the President is irredeemable.
“He’s trying to end what we currently know as democracy. I’m just baffled a lot of the time, the fact that he’s allowed to do what he wants without checks and balances,” said 50-year-old medical billing specialist Virginia Salazar.
Even though she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, the Toledo woman said she was willing to give President Trump a fair shot. But his attacks on the media and immigrants quickly turned her off.
“I don’t agree morally with anything he’s done,” she said.
She has seen the presidency have a direct impact in her life. For the first time ever two weeks ago, Miss Salazar, a Mexican-American, was asked by a customer at her second job in retail if she was a U.S. citizen.
“To even feel that it’s OK to ask me because I’m of Mexican heritage is bothersome,” she said. “It’s like open season. You can go around and act and say whatever you want because he’s doing it.”
Even the tax cut she sees boosting her paycheck and those of other middle class people will expire in the future, she said.
Teresa Holder of Toledo, a retired 76-year-old, has seen unemployment improve under President Trump but says it has been on the decline in recent years.
The President’s policies aren’t enough to boost the circumstances of average Americans, she said.
“Some people’s wages have gone up, but I don’t think it’s the majority of people,” Mrs. Holder said.
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