The violent mob that stormed the national Capitol on Wednesday repulsed many voters who supported President Trump’s reelection, but the insurrection did not demoralize his supporters in America’s heartland.
That's the conclusion of interviews with residents who participated in the yearlong CNHI News Service “Pulse of the Voters” survey in states from Missouri to Michigan, Pennsylvania to Georgia.
Jason Gillman of Traverse City, Michigan, attended Trump’s Washington, D.C., rally preceding the Capitol rampage. He typified spirited supporters who believe the election was stolen from Trump. He said he did not join the mob and condemned the unrest resulting in five deaths.
“In a political battle you put it all on the table,” said Gillman, a member of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission. “We (rally crowd) wanted to show great numbers of people. We wanted to impress upon Congress that we as voters are not to be trifled with.”
Thousands of Trump supporters attended the rally in front of the White House and elsewhere in Washington. The president had implored them to show up with advance tweets — “be there, will be wild” — so they could object to Congress certifying the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Bill Conroy of Webb City, Missouri, said the president’s role in the storming of the Capitol did not change his mind on how Trump governed over the last four years.
“I’m glad I voted for Trump,” Conroy said. “He moved us in the right direction, even though I didn’t like his mannerisms. Maybe if he had the statesmanship of (former President) Reagan, things would have gone better.”
Jay McBee, of Joplin, where nearly 75% of voters supported Trump’s reelection, watched the Capitol chaos and concluded, “The Trump era is over.” Yet he urged government officials to shore up the integrity of the country’s election systems.
“If we dismiss the thoughts of 71 million American voters (for Trump), we risk the loss of this great republic," McBee said.
Steve Hughes, of Logansport, Indiana, said computers that tabulate votes need better protection against hackers. He offered no thoughts on any such irregularities on Nov. 3.
“They need to get the election process right,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re going to feel like it’s not worth voting. Obviously, they’re leaning in one direction. But they need to deal with the hacking of the computers. What’s the point in voting if they’re just going to already decide who they want in office?”
Kimberly Davis, a Trump voter from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, stood firmly for the president and his false narrative that the election was stolen from him. She disagreed with the mob attack on the Capitol but offered it would affect few pro-Trump supporters — maybe “200 years ago, but that certainly doesn’t work now.”
Davis rejected blaming the president for those who died in the riot. “Trump is not responsible for any death,” she said. “Each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. Storming (the Capitol) accomplished nothing except securing the left’s views and opinions that all Trump supporters are crazy white people.”
“It’s not the end of Trump; he ain’t going away,” said Robert Schultz, a real estate agent from Rock Creek, Ohio. “He will be out raising money, and he will be supporting candidates that are going to primary some of these spineless Republicans in Washington.”
James LaPlant, dean of humanities and social sciences at Valdosta (Georgia) State University, teaches a class on conspiracy theories, which he said are “sadly getting more relevant as time goes on. Political research is saying that some Americans said they’d be willing to resort to violence if necessary.”
LaPlant added many people think “conspiracy theories are fun, like your crazy uncle that thinks we never went to the moon.” But, he added, the Capitol riot “was not fun. It shows violence rampant from conspiracy thinking.”
Numerous Republicans and Democrats interviewed by CNHI newspapers expressed abhorrence with Trump’s conduct that incited the insurrection. Several said he should resign or that Congress remove him from office even though only a few days remain in his term. A successful impeachment would prevent him from ever again seeking the presidency.
Kevin Parsneau, a political science professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota, said there is concern about “what else can happen” in Trump’s last days as president. “The thought is he needs to be removed before he can do more (damage) or could potentially start pardoning people who broke into the Capitol.”
Penny Stevens of Alexandria, Indiana, who voted for Biden, said that removing him from office “would be more trouble than it’s worth at this point. We need to look toward the future. I would love to think we can just move forward.”
Pat Saylor, a member of the Pennsylvania Republican Committee, said she warned U.S. Rep. Fred Keller the president’s rally could get ugly and urged him to be careful. She based the caution on the belief Trump “is dangerous. He’s become unglued. He believes his own lies.”
Keller was evacuated from the House chamber when the insurrectionists occupied the Capitol and yet he was among the scores of Republican House members and a half-dozen senators who voted to support Trump's request to block the Electoral College certification making Biden the 46th president.
“I told him the Trumpers are going to try and stop it and just be careful,” said Saylor, who supports removing the president before Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Bill Ketter is the senior vice president of news for CNHI LLC. Contact him at email@example.com.