Tonight’s State Of The Union Address is be an opportunity for the nation to reflect on President Trump’s first year in office. And it’s been an eventful year in politics, to say the least. With immigration debate, budget negotiations, and the Russia investigation all currently underway, the speech will be watched closely by supporters and haters alike (and yes, Youth Radio will be live tweeting).
We checked in with a young Trump supporter to see how he thinks the President is doing a year into the job. Youth Radio’s Sierra Fang-Horvath talked with TJ Collins, 17, her high school’s student body president, leader of the school’s libertarian club, and a self-avowed Trump supporter.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Sierra Fang-Horvath: What is it about the Republican Party that speaks to you?
TJ Collins: The first thing that comes to mind is the Affordable Care Act. I aligned with President Trump’s plan to ultimately take away Obamacare and rework it into something else. I feel that government shouldn’t necessarily be involved with health services in America. I’d rather have a free market because that creates competition and therefore the prices of everything will come down.
SFH: What would you say to those who have a negative perception of Trump supporters?
TC: I want people to realize that just because someone identifies as a Trump supporter, it doesn’t mean they’re a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist or that they dislike Muslims. I disagree on many things that Mr. Trump has said. But when it’s all said and done, I align with his stances on different policies. I feel that people should know it is possible to dislike Trump for the hurtful things he has said, but to also support him for the things he has done and plans to do.
SFH: What is it like being a teenage Trump supporter in the San Francisco Bay Area?
TC: It’s rough. During my junior year, as I was campaigning to be the student body president, I came up with an idea and slogan. My slogan was to “Clean Up” our school, and in order to campaign, I wore an all-white jumpsuit. I added a name tag that said “El Don Tomás,” paying homage to my Mexican heritage, my great-grandfather Don Hurrera Figueroa, and our school mascot, the Dons. But a teacher accused me of being a racist, saying that my name tag and jumpsuit insinuated that all janitors are Latino.
In my opinion, he misinterpreted the situation and despite me trying to explain my own initial intentions, he rejected that. It’s also hard for me to wear Trump memorabilia around campus. I do it, but I certainly get looks from students and comments from teachers. I don’t let that stop me. Especially here in the Bay Area, where it is so liberal, I feel it’s my job to be the other opinion and show others how I think.
SFH: Do you ever feel that your support for Trump might isolate some students that you were elected to represent as student body president?
TC: I don’t think it isolates students. I have a Trump/Pence shirt that says #BuildTheWall. I wear that not to offend students but because I support Trump’s plan to ultimately strengthen the southern border. I love immigration but not illegal immigration. I feel that, as an American, it’s your duty to pay taxes. When you come into this country undocumented, you are not only limiting your possibilities to rise up in our society, make a name for yourself, and live a great life, but you’re also not paying taxes. It offends me as a taxpayer. I work, I pay my taxes, and I don’t feel that they should be using the facilities and opportunities that are in America without fully following the rules. So I don’t wear that shirt to offend people or to have them think I’m a racist, which I find ironic because I am Mexican myself. If students are offended, I’m more than happy to let them know why I’m wearing it. But, especially at a public school, I can wear what I want. It’s perfectly within my rights and I’m not in people’s faces about it.
SFH: Now that we’re a year into the Trump Presidency, has anything changed in your opinion about how the Trump administration is doing?
TC: Obviously there are ups and downs. There are some things that I wouldn’t necessarily support, but overall I think he’s doing a pretty good job. Personally, I always take an economic perspective with all of it. In the economy right now, unemployment is at a 17-year low. He also brought about tax reform. In my opinion I think Trump has definitely had a role in the state of the market. Some say it’s not the time for tax reform, but I’m just happy that he got something on the table, and hopefully it will start to encourage more corporations to bring their money back from overseas to the U.S. So I think his administration has been positive in that sense.
SFH: This issue of racism has come up after Trump’s remarks about immigrants from Haiti and African Countries. Has your thinking changed at all with this latest accusation of the president’s racism?
TC: I feel, especially from a President, you shouldn’t deem a country to be a s***hole country. I can’t support him on that. To an extent, I understand what he was saying, but he should’ve watched his tongue more. He’s certainly said racist comments–whether or not that makes him a racist is up to each different person. You’ve got to take everything with a grain of salt when it comes to Trump. I can see both sides. There are certainly things he shouldn’t have said, and there are also things that were blown out of the water.