Trump's core backers shrug off uproar

US President Donald Trump meeting with small business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan 30, 2017.
US President Donald Trump meeting with small business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan 30, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK • Many of United States President Donald Trump's core political supporters had a simple message for the fiercest opponents of his immigration ban: Calm down.

The relaxed reaction among the kind of voters who drove Mr Trump's historic upset victory - working and middle class residents of the Midwest and the South - provided a striking contrast to the uproar that has gripped major coastal cities, where thousands of protesters flocked to airports where immigrants had been detained.

In the St Louis suburb of Manchester, Missouri, 72-year-old Jo Ann Tieken characterised the President as bringing reason into an overheated debate.

"Somebody has to stand up, be the grown-up and see what we can do better to check on people coming in," she said. "I'm all for everybody to stop and take a breath. Just give it a chance."

By executive order last Friday, Mr Trump banned immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen - and temporarily halted the entry of refugees.

In the electoral strongholds for Mr Trump, residents seemed nonplussed about the uproar flashing across their television screens. They shrugged off concerns about botched execution, damage to foreign relations and legal challenges across the country.

The allegations of operational or administrative blunders may do little to dampen enthusiasm for a president who rose to power on a populist and protectionist platform, political analysts said.

Ms Louise Ingram, a 69-year-old retiree from Troy, Alabama, said she forgave the new administration a few "glitches", such as widespread confusion over treatment of green card holders, as it moved to protect US citizens from attacks. "I'm not opposed to immigrants," she said. "I just want to make sure they are safe to come in."

A senior Trump administration official said political considerations had little to do with the executive orders. Rather, they represent a reaction to the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California; the Boston Marathon bombing; and multiple attacks by radicalised groups in Europe.

Ms Candace Wheater, a 60-year-old retired school cafeteria worker from Spring Lake, Michigan, also referenced the attacks in Brussels last year and in Paris in 2015.

"Look at what's happening in Europe," she said. "I don't dare travel there, out of fear."

Mr Trent Lott, a former Senate Republican leader from Missouri who is now a lawyer in Washington, DC, said the orders made sense to "working-class Americans in the real world".

"Out in the rest of the country, people are excited to see the President moving forward with securing the border," he said.

University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato agreed that the protests over the executive orders would not hurt Mr Trump politically.

"His base is as firm as ever," he said. "What he's lost in the very early polls is the Republicans who were never Trumpers and ended up voting for Trump."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's core backers shrug off uproar'. Print Edition | Subscribe