‘Trump Hasn't Been the Wrecking Ball I Anticipated’

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In the wake of the shocking results of November’s election, readers in Notes had a robust discussion titled, “Will Trump Voters and Clinton Voters Ever Relate?” One of the most revealing and contentious entries came from a Trump supporter who “voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball.” He began by countering some common stereotypes about Trump voters:

I have a Masters degree. My kids go to public school with kids of all races, colors, and creeds. Our neighborhood has immigrant families, mixed-race families, minorities, and same-sex couples. Our sports teams are multi-cultural, diverse, and play beautifully together, on and off the field. I have neither the time, energy, or room in my heart for hatred, bigotry, or racism.

His was a protest vote:

I am tired of the machine rolling over us—all of us. The Clinton machine, the Republican machine, the big media, investment banking, hedge fund carrying interest, corporatist, lobbying, influence peddling, getting elected and immediately begin fundraising for the next election machine—they can all kiss my ass.

Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it.

Many readers disagreed here. Another one, Susan, emailed this week asking, “Could we have an update from the guy who ‘voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball’? I’d be very interested to know what he thinks of the first two months of President Trump.”

I actually wondered the same thing in early February, when I emailed the wrecking ball reader to see if his views on Trump has shifted during the presidential transition and his first few weeks in office. Here’s the reader’s verdict on February 9 (followed by a reply to Susan’s request):

It’s too early to tell, really—kind of like calling the Falcons to win after their first touchdown, right? I think Trump is still too combative and his messaging is awful at times—a lot of the time—but so far he is the guy (ass?) he’s been through the entire run. Trump thinks of himself as an executive in the most stringent application of the word—the buck stops here, the buck begins here, the buck is always here—but he’ll that learn running a company and the country are not the same thing, not matter how much I sometimes like the idea of someone “running the government like a business.”

I wish Trump had what we call down here—the land of obesity, fireworks, and Flannery O’Connor-inspired realities—a “pull-back guy.”

See, we love our college football down in the buckle of the Bible Belt. We love to watch our Clemson Tiger defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, go crazy on the sidelines. To handle him, they have to get a designated staffer be the “pull-back guy”—grabbing Venables around his britches and pulling him back off of the field so he doesn’t draw a penalty.

Trump also needs a pull-back guy—I should be hired, by the way—to help him pause before hitting send on Twitter, to take ten deep breaths in front of any microphone, etc. (Ol’ Slick Willy from Arkansas needed a pull-back guy too, especially for that body part that always got him in trouble, you know?)

Seriously though, I think the all noise over the executive orders and the appointments and the nominees have been shrill. I have tuned out, I’ll admit it. Elizabeth Warren reading Coretta Scott King makes her a warrior princess?  The same woman who ridiculously claimed Native American heritage? Really? I’m supposed to pay attention to that? Nah, we’re still celebrating our win over ‘Bama!

Time will tell with Trump, but it hasn’t told yet. I am not ready to start a fire in Berkeley because they invited a guest speaker I don’t like, but I’m not ready to cast a ballot for Trump’s second term yet either. Damn man, I know we are all for instant gratification these days, but holy shit, let’s all get over the election hangover before we start impeaching, re-electing, calling the damn game against Tommy Brady with most of the game still to play. Let things play out, let those elected to govern try to govern—it’s harder than it looks.

The loyal opposition is important and needs to be robust and constructive and play a role, but screaming drowns out conversations—and conversations are still what we need more of in this country.

He continued the conversation yesterday—and it seems like he’s slowly turning against Trump:

My take on the president about 60 days in? Not much: He is the same blowhard, thin-skinned, egomaniacal maniac I voted for in November. Do I regret my vote? Not yet. Might I down the road? Sure.

The foreign Russian influence in our democratic process troubles me, and if it’s determined to be true, I will not stand for it. Can’t have it. Still smells eerily like Whitewater to me right now, though. The vast left-wing conspiracy maybe!

Throwing out Obamacare? I’m all for it if a workable alternative replaces it. I wouldn’t support getting rid of it just to get rid of it. Just like so much of it all, Obamacare has some things I like and some things I do not. Make it better, call it whatever you want, let’s just make the problem less of a problem for less people and move forward.

Less regulation? I’m for less regulation. I’m not John Stossel yet, but in general I do think we have a million stupid regulations we could get rid of and be better off for it.  

Sanctuary cities? We already solved the nullification crisis some 150 years ago, didn’t we? No state, not even California or New York, can stand on solid ground defying the federal government on matters of immigration. Weed, maybe, immigration and enforcement, no. I’m ok with strangling the shit out of sanctuary cities.

Expanding military spending? I’ll defer on that one; I have a brother in the Army, so I’ll follow his lead. I want them equipped, capable, and ready— but not fighting other people’s wars. Can we afford it? I don’t know.

His Supreme Court nominee?  Seems like a man of the law, serious and studied. I have no problem with his nomination. The Court should always be around 5-4.  It keeps us all in the same sane lane.

Overall, Trump has not been the wrecking ball or the middle finger I anticipated. He’s a dumpster fire in a lot of ways, but mostly harmlessly so, in my opinion.

Should he comment on an NFL player not standing during the anthem? No, it is his right and he should protect that even if he hates it. Should he tweet about Ivanka’s fashion brand? No. Should he claim wiretapping without proving it? No.

It’s all ridiculous reality TV that we should expect from Trump—and frankly expect from ourselves. Like it or not, that is who we are. We are not “all Berliners” anymore; we are all Kardashians, and our president proves it—as does our collective “we” every day. We know who is in the Sweet 16 or what happened on The Walking Dead, but we don’t know shit about Mike Pence or the governor of our own state.

I’m guilty, I promise—hell, this email proves it. My opinion on Trump so far is as worthless as anyone’s, maybe more so than most. I wake up every day, take kids to school, work my ass off for 10 hours a day, get to baseball or soccer practice, listen to the news on the radio, help with homework, pay some bills, do my taxes, change out a light bulb, do some laundry, seduce the wife and go to bed. Repeat. Repeat. Oh shit, it’s the weekend? Soccer tournament, cut the grass, wash the car, plant some flowers, go to church, check Monday’s work calendar, get back to it.

Notice that I left out bitching and complaining, committing a crime, tweeting, screwing my neighbor’s wife, expecting something for nothing, asking for a handout, stealing someone else’s pension, polluting the land, harming any animals, swearing to destroy another country, beating up someone who looks different from me, worrying about who is in the stall next to me at Target ...

So I voted for Kanye’s better half. He hasn’t jumped the shark just yet. Give him time.