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By Aidan Mattis
This past week at CPAC, hundreds of conservatives gathered to meet, discuss, and speak at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland. The attendees of the conference ranged all across the conservative spectrum, including Libertarians, Republicans, and newer, Donald Trump model conservatives. Support for Trump at the conference was not universal, yet those who stood behind him were very passionate.
When asked about what pushed them to vote for Trump, CPAC attendees followed common themes of economic concerns and illegal immigration. Paloma Zuniga, a Mexican born American citizen and business owner, said she has witnessed first hand the effects of unfettered immigration from her homes in California and Mexico.
“The United States is becoming a third world country,” she remarked, “and the reason why is because nobody is doing anything about immigration,”. Referencing her experience as a California resident, she mentioned that criminals were not the only problem at hand. This seemed to be a nod to President Trump’s suggestion that Mexico is “not sending their best people.” Zuniga also saw an issue with lack of integration. She explained that America is not Mexico, and that the problem comes with immigrants crossing the border and refusing to take on American customs. She expressed that, in her opinion, “It’s not just the criminals, it’s also the people that don’t adjust, that don’t integrate into the culture”. Zuniga traveled to the USA often as a child, learning English at the age of 10. She is now fluent.
Asked about the possible effects of Trump’s protectionist policies on her homeland, she remarked that “They will hurt Mexico at first…but the United States is not responsible for the Mexican economy. [Mexicans] feel that the US owes them something, the US doesn’t owe them anything.” Zuniga was not complimentary of Mexico’s current President, Enrique Peña Nieto, expressing that she has been waiting for a candidate like Trump for decades. Of the American President, she believes that “Donald Trump will give the Mexican people an example for what to do…[Trump] has motivated the people to do what they have to do.”
Voicing economic concerns was Kira Innis, a 30 year old African American woman, proudly wearing Trump’s trademark “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. Innis voiced concerns over the American economy, firmly of the belief that Trump’s experience as a businessman would benefit the country. Innis suggested that “We are a country built on its economy, we are a business. We have to be run like a business.” Once the economy recovers from the 2008 recession, as GDP growth still hovers around the 2% mark, Innis suggests Americans can begin to work on “Academia, economic reform, you know our social issues, making sure our borders are secure.”
Innis was passionate about her concern that America could be “at the mercy of any foreign invaders”, and that recovery needs to happen as swiftly as possible. Taking note of the general surprise at the outcome of the election, she remarked that “The forgotten man, and the forgotten women, are no longer forgotten. That sleeping giant that woke up on November 8th is wide awake with a shot of caffeine going through his veins.”
A third voice from the conference was that of College Republican Taylor Chaffetz, whose support for Trump was unwavering, despite his disparaging comments about women. “I would say that he thinks the utmost about women!” Ms. Chaffetz exclaims. Referencing Betsy DeVos and Kellyanne Conway as examples of women whom Trump has elevated to high offices, she believes Trump is focusing on selecting the best candidates, regardless of their identities.
Chaffetz was also very supportive of Melania Trump’s decision to take her responsibilities as a mother over the responsibilities of First Lady. Melania has been attacked in the past, not only for her nude photo shoots many years ago, but also for her supposed lack of command of the English language. Discussing her Netflix show, Chelsea Handler was asked if she’d host Mr. And Mrs. Trump, replying “No. Melania? To talk about what? She can barely speak English.” Of Handler’s comment, Ms. Chaffetz said “I don’t understand the criticism, maybe they’re jealous that she’s so pretty? She’s so intelligent, she speaks five languages and english is her last language. Of course she’s going to have trouble.”
The level of enthusiasm for the new president varied widely among CPAC attendees, but there was no shortage of people willing to express how they came to support him in the election. Though the outcome of Trump’s strict illegal immigration policy, protectionist economic policies, and often less than nuanced approach to communicating is yet to be seen, his supporters remain optimistic about the future of the United States of America.
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