One year later, local Trump supporters, foes still bitterly divided

4:46 p.m Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 Local
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Is it the anniversary of the Apocalypse or are we a year closer to making America great again?

One year after Donald Trump was elected president, many of Palm Beach County residents’ opinions on the part-time Palm Beacher are almost exactly what they were 12 months ago.

At the same time, a Florida Atlantic University poll says Trump’s approval rating is down to 41 percent a year after he won the Sunshine State with 49 percent of the vote. A larger margin of Florida voters — 47 percent — disapprove than approve of the president.

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Longtime Palm Beach County Republican stalwart, Anita Mitchell, who reluctantly voted for Trump, says she’s “scared but hopeful” about Trump’s presidency.

“Scared of the unknown because we have a president totally different from what we’ve ever seen before,” said Mitchell, a former county GOP chairwoman who ran Jeb Bush’s local campaign, “and hopeful that his difference from other elected officials will work.”

John Studdard, a Lake Clarke Shores councilman and founder of the local chapter of the anti-Trump agenda group, The Indivisibles, says fear also best describes his state of mind.

“It’s fear of thermonuclear war, that we’ve lost our place as leaders of the world, that the social fabric of our culture is being shredded,” said Studdard, of Trump’s first year. “Mostly, it’s the realization of all those fears we had a year ago.”

Much has happened in the year since Trump’s win a year ago this week shocked the world, but if anything, the positions of Trump’s fans and foes have hardened into entrenched positions.

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The Washington Post says Trump would likely be elected again if the vote was held today, even as 59 percent of Americans disapprove of his presidency.

(Trump would probably win, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, but not because he would gain voters, but because 9 percent of Democrats would not vote for Hillary Clinton this time around. Instead, they said they would cast their ballot for a third party candidate or not at all. Trump-Clinton today would end in a 40-40 tie, but Trump’s support in swing states would give him the win.)

“I think he’s a criminal through and through, without a doubt,” said Chic Kelty of West Palm Beach, a former Republican and another founder of The Indivisibles who coined the group’s motto, “the radical center.”

Kelty’s scorn extends to both major political parties, which he says are bankrupt of ideas and unable to meet in the center, the political position he feels most Americans once occupied.

“The Democratic party is too disjointed and we have no Republican party, we haven’t had for years, once they opened the door to the ultra right wing,” said Kelty.

Boca Raton Trump supporter Lee Roggenburg isn’t happy with everything Trump has tried to do, but the financial advisor is pleased with the direction of the tax debate in Congress and believes Trump has exceeded expectations when it comes to foreign policy.

“I think he’s shown enough bluster when necessary,” said Roggenburg, a former New Yorker who says he doesn’t mind Trump’s sometimes crass personality. “He’s like an awful lot of people I grew up with.”

Joe Budd, an early and ardent Trump supporter from suburban Boca Raton and county Republican state committeeman, points to the past year’s 21 percent rise in the stock market as proof of the success of Trump’s freshman year.

Budd said he was particularly eager to see Trump’s immigration plans, including a border wall, enacted to curb what he claims are thousands of murders committed by undocumented residents.

“You can add to all these deaths from mass shootings and they still don’t add up to the deaths at the hands of illegal immigrants,” said Budd, a claim disputed by Politifact, since no national database tracks the number of those killed by undocumented immigrants or the nationality of their victims.

Budd said his information came from the Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN), a conservative group based in Pompano Beach.

Are the calcified positions on both sides enough to make you scream?

There’s a place to do that, too, as long as you’re in the anti-Trump camp.

Thousands are preparing for a cathartic protest tonight called “Scream Helplessly at the Sky on the Anniversary of the Election,” although after Tuesday’s wide-ranging Democratic wins in state and local elections, one protester said on Facebook she would be yelling “a lot less helplessly.”

The protest is scheduled to take place in New York City, Los Angeles, Lubbock, Texas and Chicago even as the anti-Trump movement struggles against disillusionment and resignation.

“It’s discouraging, I have to admit,” said Studdard. “Lots of people are resigned to the situation and are becoming apathetic.”

But not Bernadette and Mike Tieff, a retired couple who live in West Palm Beach.

They were on opposite sides of the election divide when The Palm Beach Post interviewed them a year ago, and still are.

“He’s like a high school bully,” said Mike about the president. “He’s wrong for America. I think he’s set us back 30, 50 years with foreign relations.”

To which Bernadette says about her husband with a laugh, “He’s misinformed. I still think President Trump is great and I’ll vote for him next time.”

They’re still happily married after 45 years, in part because they have their own TVs on which to watch news. They also have a pact not to talk to each other about politics. They each have their own friends for that.

“We have plenty of other things in common,” said Mike. “Children, grandchildren, we like art, we like going to the same restaurants. How bad a life could we have?”