‘We’re called redneck, ignorant, racist. That’s not true’: Trump supporters explain why they voted for him

Trump voters Ashley Wright, left, and Audrey Kaatz work at a beauty salon in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Caitlin O'Hara / For The Times)

Trump voters Ashley Wright, left, and Audrey Kaatz work at a beauty salon in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Caitlin O’Hara / For The Times)

When Audrey Kaatz and Ashley Wright finally decided whom to support for president, they kept the choice to themselves.

They admired his business sense and blunt-spoken style. But voting forDonald Trump was not something the two were comfortable discussing before the election. Not with their friends. Not with their boyfriends.

“People were scared to say they were voting for him,” Kaatz, 27, said as she stepped away from the bang of a cash register and the thrum of hair dryers at the upscale salon in Scottsdale where the two women work.

Even now when people hear she supported Trump, said the 28-year-old Wright, “They think, ‘Oh, so you must be a racist,’ and that isn’t fair or true.”

Days after the Republican businessman and reality TV star pulled off one of the most astonishing political upsets in the country’s history, Americans are still trying to sort through the implications.

Trying to understand how it happened. Trying to understand each other. Trying to fathom the yawning gap between two Americas.

To his many critics, Trump is a racist, a bigot, a misogynist and a clown. The thought of him becoming the most powerful person on the planet is enough to produce stomach-churning anxiety, to bring sleepless nights and induce tears.

But more than six dozen conversations with Trump voters across the country —Democrats, Republicans, political independents — turned up a thoroughly different perspective.

They see an outsider unbeholden to a corrupt and rotten political system and brave enough to stake bold positions. They consider him fearless enough to defy the confines of political correctness. They view him as a vastly successful businessman, but possessing a common touch: a workingman’s billionaire.

His victory brought euphoria, relief.

Edith Gatewood, 72, felt like twirling across the floor of her home in a Denver senior complex. Norman Gardner, 67, who runs a mobile home park in Shelbyville, Tenn., wanted to go outside and holler at the moon.

Joyce Riley, 65, who sells real estate in Florida’s Panhandle, hadn’t realized how bad she felt about the direction of the country until she saw the prospect of things getting better. “This is the first time I’ve been optimistic about the country in many years,” she said. “I’ve been walking around singing, ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’”

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