After 100 days of the Trump administration, one of the few things on which Americans are united is that they are still divided.
Jonathan Pommerville of Detroit, a self-employed irrigation system installer, identifies with no party and didn’t even vote in the last election. But the 39-year-old knows this much: “Seems like we keep drifting apart.”
The USA TODAY Network spent time with 18 Americans around the nation and across the political spectrum to gauge their feelings on Donald Trump’s first months in office. Although they agreed on little — not on Obamacare or relations with Russia or The Wall — there’s virtual unanimity that political division has only worsened since the president took office.
Logan Keeling, 19, of Hanover, Pa., recently moved out of his parents’ house and works two jobs to make ends meet. But the economy is not his primary concern.
“My greatest hope would be just for people, as Americans, to just come as one,’’ said Keeling, whose first vote in a presidential election was for Trump. “There’s so much division right now.’’
As an Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq, Jennifer DiLuzio, 34, of Lakewood, Colo., knows a divided society when she sees one. And here’s how America looks to her: “It’s women against these women, these races against other races, this religion against another. … We’re going to tear ourselves apart at this rate.’’
Americans are even divided on the reasons for their divisions. Among the competing theories:
- Lack of information: “It’s become a soundbite population.’’ — Bill Wickham, 53, owner of a roadside pumpkin farmstand outside Rochester, N.Y.
- Social media: “I’ve seen so much hatred come out among friends that I never knew existed. Social media has been a huge factor in that. It saddens me to see what that’s done to relationships, to friendships, to families.’’ — Laura Hodges, 53, a registered nurse and small-business owner who lives in Greenville, S.C.
- Trump: The president “is trying to unify one segment of the population against the other. He is trying to unify the privileged and people who are not immigrants, people who are not people of color.’’ — Tony Choi, 28, of northern New Jersey, a social media manager for 18 Million Rising, a nonprofit organization that aims to promote civil engagement in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
After winning the election, Trump promised to be the president of all Americans. But many of his supporters and opponents feel he’s either widened the divisions or failed to narrow them.
Whatever the source and history of the gulf, even Trump voters expect him to do something to bridge it.
“I’ve never seen people so upset about a president getting elected,’’ said Ed O’Connell, a 48-year-old construction company owner who lives in Allendale, N.J., outside New York City.
His suggestion: “Trump really needs to reach out. Clinton had all those supporters, and (he should) have her next to him and have a unified speech to perhaps sway some people to give him a chance. I loved that Obama invited Trump to the White House.’’
Jerry Nieland, 41, is an Iowa Democrat who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump last year.
“He needs to step out of the Republican side,’’ Nieland said of the president. “He needs to bring in some Democrats that have some common-sense ideas — even Bernie Sanders — and just entertain some of the statistics from countries that have universal health care.’’
Here’s how Keeling put it: “’Make America Great Again,’ to me, means everyone being unified as one; one whole nation, one country, one America, and not being divided by different thoughts, views, religions.’’
Of course, what’s divisive rests in the mind of the beholder.
For example, when Keeling was asked about the direction of the country, he cited “the Black Lives Matter group, the anti-police protesters’’ as a reason the nation’s been “slipping in the wrong direction, just with people dividing.’’
Yet others interviewed praised the Black Lives Matter movement for demanding social justice and protesting policy brutality. Choi, a Korean-American, said making America great “also means respecting the dignity of black lives.’’
Some of the divisions seem to be based on where people live. Listen to Nieland, who comes from a rural area of northwestern Iowa: “People who live in smaller towns see things from a different perspective, and a lot of people don’t have the amount of money to live in the big condominiums in the large cities.’’
But some concerns bridge the urban-suburban-rural divide.
Scott Hagenson, 47, is a line supervisor for the municipal electric department in Lake Mills, Iowa, a place he calls “a great small, Midwestern community to raise my two sons in." But he worries about crime, which he says “used to be a big city thing — any crime out there, from murder to child abuse to anything like that. Now, it’s every town in America.’’
The divisions even extend to one of Trump’s proudest achievements — preserving jobs at the Carrier Air Conditioner plant in Indianapolis.
Last year, Carrier announced it was moving manufacturing operations to Mexico, a plan Trump repeatedly denounced during the presidential campaign. After he was elected, Trump announced a deal with Carrier to keep some of the manufacturing jobs in Indiana in exchange for tax credits.
Robert James, 57, a forklift driver at the plant, said he appreciates Trump’s efforts, but didn’t vote for him. One reason: “I don't think that you take a position to divide the country. I think you take a position to bridge it, bring it together.’’
As for the jobs that were saved, he said, ”I still wonder what Carrier will do at the end of Donald Trump's term.’’
Besides political division, there was another issue on which voters interviewed by the USA TODAY Network generally agreed: Trump’s use of Twitter. The majority felt he should do it more carefully and less often.
“He needs to put that thing down!’’ Pommerville said. “Not everybody needs to know what’s on his mind every second.’’
That was seconded by David Wood, pastor of the United Church of Lincoln, Vt.: “He’s saying things on Twitter that oftentimes have no basis. And all that’s doing is creating chaos.’’
Wood voted for Hillary Clinton. But his sentiments were shared by Jeremie Clifford, 45, an African-American auto parts store manager who lives in Malta, Ohio. He voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump last year.
“Seems like every time something’s being said, he’s got to get on Twitter, or he’s got to rebut,’’ Clifford said. “I’m not allowed on Facebook while I’m at work. He’s working. He needs to stay off Twitter.’’
Not everyone agreed. By using Twitter, Nieland said, Trump “gets his position across, instead of somebody spinning what he said. He can correct it right away and then people that follow him can read it and say, ‘Oh, that’s what he meant.' "
Contributing: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY; Jim Schaefer, Detroit Free Press; Olivia Lopez, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Beth Walton, The Asheville Citizen-Times; Liv Osby, The Greenville News; Hannah Sparling and Chrissie Thompson, Cincinnati Enquirer; Monsy Alvarado and Danielle Parhizkaran, The (Bergen) Record; Kelly McGowan, The Des Moines Register; Dustin Levy, The (Hanover, Pa.) Evening Sun, James Briggs, Indianapolis Star; Ryan Mercer, Burlington Free Press; and Anne Delaney, Pensacola News Journal.
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