A little more than a year ago, as Donald Trump was solidifying his frontrunner status for the Republican nomination in the face of a mounting toll of gaffes and outrageous pronouncements, Yahoo News set out to answer the question that had many establishment Republicans scratching their heads: Who are his supporters, anyway? In a series of profiles, we explored the backgrounds and beliefs of voters who had fallen early and hard for Trump. Now, with the president’s approval ratings near historic lows, we have gone back to these voters for their views about his presidency as it nears the 100-day mark. Are they disappointed that Obamacare hasn’t been repealed? Excited by the administration’s stepped-up deportation efforts? Dismayed by reports of chaos in the White House? Or energized by the president’s continued outspokenness? Here is one of those reports. Links to the others and a summary of what we found are here.
When we first met Nell Frisbie a year ago, she was fending off friends who thought she had lost her mind because she was backing Donald Trump. The brash New York billionaire was the scourge of the Republican Party establishment that Frisbie had been aligned with for much of her life, written off as a vulgarian and a joke candidate who lacked serious political experience. “Have you gone and lost your mind?” one friend said to her at the time, a question that still makes Frisbie chuckle.
But Frisbie stuck with Trump, through the highs and lows of his insurgent presidential bid, through the scandals and missteps and verbal gaffes that more than once had people writing off his campaign for dead. When he defeated Hillary Clinton last November, a victory that stunned the world and even the candidate himself, Frisbie wasn’t surprised at all. She saw Trump as a blunt-talking change agent, beholden to no one, who could cut through political gridlock and tackle tough issues, such as the national debt, to get the country back on track. “People wanted change,” the 80-year-old grandmother from Kiln, Miss., said recently. “Things could not go on the way they were.”
Now, nearly 100 days into Trump’s unlikely presidency, Frisbie is still firmly behind the former reality star turned leader of the free world — though she admits that some of what has gone on in Washington on Trump’s watch has made her “spitting mad.” For one thing, she’s angry that the Republican attempt to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care plan went down in flames. “I mean, why haven’t they been working for the last eight years planning on what they’d do if they got control again?” she said. “They act like this is a whole new ballgame for them. Give me a break. They should have had a plan. It just irritates me to no end.”
But she doesn’t blame the president so much as congressional Republicans, whom she still considers part of the political gridlock paralyzing Washington that led her to break with her establishment friends to back an outsider like Trump. “They need to stay in Washington and buckle down and do their jobs like you do your job, like I do my job,” she said. “If I have to stay late at night to catch up, that’s what I have to do. And that’s what they need to do. They need to work and deliver solutions … and if they won’t do it, they need to get the hell out of there and get somebody else in there who will.”
Asked if Trump needs to do more to help cut through that gridlock, as he promised he would on the campaign trail, Frisbie is reluctant to criticize the president — though she admits she would like to see more of the legendary dealmaker in action. On health care, she says, “He left too much up to [House Speaker] Paul Ryan.” Trump, she said, needs to do more to get Republicans behind him and then press them to work harder. She also wants him to find whatever common ground he can with Democrats — just as he promised he would. “He’s a good salesman,” she said. “He needs to sell them.”
Frisbie has a long list of campaign promises that she expects Trump to deliver on — though she’s realistic in admitting he won’t get them all. Among other things, she’s anxious to see his proposals on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, tax reform and more proposals to spur job growth. She was encouraged by his executive order that seeks to roll back some of Obama’s climate change proposals to assist the coal industry. “He’s helping the miners get back to work,” she said. “That’s a good start.”
Last year, one of her biggest issues was cracking down on illegal immigration — an issue that was personal to her. A few years ago, her niece was killed in a car accident involving an illegal immigrant who was drunk at the wheel, an incident that “devastated” her family. She likes Trump’s early steps on immigration, including the administration’s solicitation of bids for the border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico (though it appears so far that the U.S., not Mexico, will pay for it, a reversal of a Trump campaign pledge). She liked Trump’s executive order declaring that U.S. officials should enforce immigration laws already on the books, and she supports the administration’s efforts to strip federal funding from cities accused of not cooperating with the immigration authorities. “When I think of sanctuary cities, I think they need to cut them off at the knees,” she said. “We need to protect our own people.”
She supported Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Syria in the aftermath of what U.S. officials say was a chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad on his own people. While some Trump supporters opposed the move because it seemed to contradict Trump’s pledge to focus on “America first” and avoid messy conflicts overseas, Frisbie said she believed it would help him be taken more seriously by foreign leaders.
But the prospect of war worries Frisbie, whose grandson is considering applying to become a Navy SEAL, a position that could send him to the front lines of any future conflict. While she supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she frets about the U.S. getting caught up in another troubled military intervention. “I don’t think we should go it alone,” she said. “That’s one lesson we need to learn from what happened before. We can’t go it alone on things like this.”
Unlike some Trump supporters, and even some White House staff, Frisbie has no problem with the president’s frequent use of Twitter, which she sees as his way of talking past a hostile news media and speaking directly to his supporters. She dismisses the idea that Trump should change his ways and become more presidential. “You can’t change a person that much,” she said of Trump’s style. But with a laugh, she added how much she likes Vice President Mike Pence. “I think Mike Pence is wonderful for him because I think Mike Pence can pull his chain … and I hope he will when he needs to.”
While Mississippi is a firmly red state, Frisbie said she still knows plenty of people who roll their eyes about Trump, including some Republicans. Though the election is over, she said she still feels as if she’s campaigning for Trump sometimes, urging people to give him a chance.
“I am still very much in favor of Trump,” she said. “He hasn’t done anything that has made me go, ‘Oh, did I make a mistake?’ I would do it all over again. But we should give him some time. And we also need to give him some support. These people who say he’s not my president. Well, yes, he is. He is your president.”
Read more from ‘The Ever-Trumpers’:
Read more from Yahoo News’ coverage of Trump’s first 100 days: