a liberal's journey through conservative america


My friends are going to #resist this book; I’m certain of it. Many hold a moral conviction that supporters of Donald Trump’s presidency are, by virtue of that endorsement, unequivocally erring. Many hold a moral conviction that a vote for Trump equates with ignorance, racism, or selfishness.    

Moral convictions, by definition, are “perceived as universally and objectively true, and are comparatively immune to authority or peer influence.” That immunity to peer influence is a mighty big wall for me to find a way over, but I’ll try. My premise is the title, but my conclusions will be slow to unfurl.    

For four years, I’ve worked on this documentary project. It is epic in scope and far, far too long; forgive me. I’m strengthened by debate and take joy in being a contrarian, and this work has offered space for both. I hope the American panorama contained herein may offer you the same. I cannot hope to convince either side of our divided country to alter their political orientation, but I’ve come to believe there is tremendous value in leftists giving good ear to those on the other side; there are reasoned arguments there. I’ve also come to wish that conservatives would confront more of the incongruities in their devotion to Trump; there are unconscionable choices there. This is my contribution to those parallel goals.    

Like Obama before him, Donald Trump was the change candidate, and remains a force for change to this day. Conservatives made a deliberate choice to elect a fresh face that they view as a devoted outsider. It’s difficult to understand that choice when bound by moral conviction, difficult for a liberal to look for explanations beyond ignorance, racism, or selfishness. But I have come to understand that such explanations are out there.

I’m a so-called liberal elite. I’m quite privileged, and I’m pretty left-wing. I live in a fancy New York City apartment, have gay family members, and tend to believe entitlements are requirements. In the days following Donald Trump’s 2016 election, I joined protests, chanted “not my president” through Times Square, and – yeah, I’ll admit it – shed some tears. Are you like me? Or are you one of those conservatives who could feel the pulse and knew there was a different movement afoot?

As a country, our algorithms have split. Our curated newsfeeds reflect only half the landscape, and perhaps it’s time for some of us to start listening more closely and with more nuance to the other side. Beginning Inauguration Day 2017, this cynical New Yorker journeyed through more than thirty cities across America in a struggle to understand the motivations of devoted Trump supporters by capturing their words and stories. I sat with them where they live and work, and I listened deeply so that I may learn. Who is it that could vote for such a man?

The most persuasive conservatives I met are represented here, as are a few bold characters further right. The most humble and promising members of the young Republican generation speak here of their inspiration, but so too do their grandparents who vote red out of tradition rather than philosophy.    

Yes, many characters in this journey will repeat conservative media talking points that are categorically untrue. But they will do so because the talking points support their pre-existing feelings, and those feelings must be understood if our opposing parties are ever to achieve domestic Tranquility. If a liberal reader is open enough to hear the other side, I challenge that reader not to dismiss a conservative’s entire story if a supposed fact is deemed false. The conservative media has power to indoctrinate, and we liberals have been unduly influenced by our own media, too. The underlying feelings are what interest me here, and empathy is a tool for understanding.

After nine months travelling the country and speaking at length to conservatives on their home turf, my curiosity only increased. As Donald Trump rocketed through policy and economic changes, as he destroyed all established norms of communication, I wondered if he was fulfilling the hopes his supporters had for his term. Following up with these supporters four years later, my tone changed. I’m not going to tell you how just yet, because I’d rather first make a promise: after giving voice and attention to the steadfast Americans who fill the pages of this book, you will be changed, too.

Political commentary in the latest election cycle has never been more robust, but the trend is toward analysis rather than representation. Rather than talk about a group of voters, There’s No Substitute for Empathy talks with them. With mostly-gentle prodding and ample space for stories, this book introduces the real people behind the trends. Rather than over-analyze, I’ve let the citizens of conservative areas speak for themselves.

In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill writes, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.” What’s that mean to me? It means that if I want to continue thinking I’m an intelligent liberal, I have to speak with intelligent conservatives and attempt to truly, deeply understand their point of view. That’s what I’m doing here. And I’m doing it in thirty cities across America.

Interpretation is called for. Analytics are called for. We must understand the driving force of cataclysmic change underlying the 2016 election cycle... but all of this is not for me to do. I’m a documentarian. I’m a collector of stories. I would like to understand the deepest motivation of my conservative opposites by listening to them, representing them, and – yes, of course – pushing back at them. That’s what this book is all about: discovering the real words and motivations of real people.

My four year quest is to listen fully to those with whom I disagree, and give them abundant space to provide justification. There’s No Substitute for Empathy documents the results of that quest. Attempting to scale the wall of my own moral conviction, I try to empathize in an effort to learn – and reveal – what I’ve missed. Conservatives can use this book as confirmation: there are people from every type of background who feel Trump is the refreshment America needed. Liberals can use this book as a weapon: there are themes in these narratives that explain the enthusiasm for Trump and should be used when your politics are on the offense, for the Trump base isn’t going away anytime soon.

I was naïve in 2016. My dinner conversations were about whether Hillary Clinton’s win would be marginal or enormous, not whether a win would occur. My election night plan was to open the special-occasion champagne or walk down the street to see Hillary’s fireworks over the East River, not to drain my cell battery streaming results in past-my-bedtime disbelief. It took me some time to remember that there are real people behind the rallies, and real stories behind the votes.

Conservatives are part of my family. Conservatives are some of my friends. They are not my enemy, and yet conservatives have voted for a man that has actively assailed other family and other friends (the gay ones, the social welfare ones, the liberal ones). So we are at war, these conservatives and I. But it is a war of empathy, and I’m giving the first volley to the opposition.

Please grab copy of the book here.

Beginning Inauguration Day 2017, a cynical New Yorker tours thirty cities across America in a struggle to understand the motivations of devoted Trump supporters by capturing their words and stories.

Four years later, will their perspectives change?

Or will his?


North Hollywood. February, 2017

“I’m an immigrant from El Salvador. I came here in the late 80s escaping from violence and terrorism. But we did everything the right way, the legal way, and we became citizens and we own a house. We tried to see what we could do for this country instead of what this country could do for us.

We, as immigrants, try not to take advantage of the system. My grandmother, my brother, my mom; we all came. It was shocking to see how much violence was happening with the rebels in El Salvador. I remember the guerillas coming to the city, kidnapping women, going into homes. Houses were being destroyed, bazookas were flying everywhere. I remember the military would come to protect us. My family was scared, we wanted to escape, and so we came to America.

I work in home health care. I love what I do. I got to the point in my life where I really don’t care about the money; I just want to do something good with my life. Good deeds are the only things you can bring with you when you die.

When I was in my early 20s, I was not conservative. Now that I’m older and wiser, I have to think about the future and what I’m leaving behind for my son.

I had to educate myself, and I don’t believe the media. The media is ruled by the left and we are being lied to. They are brainwashing us into hating, dividing, and disagreeing with each other. I’m at the rallies! I’m present! I see what is going on with my own eyes and it’s not divisive! No matter what, we will have differences, but we have a President and we have to give him a chance.

With the Muslim ban, he just picked up where our last President left off. With those seven countries – a lot of people don’t realize this – but those seven countries, those are the ones President Obama suggested were giving us trouble with the terrorists. It comes down to the knowledge. We have to educate ourselves and not let the media brainwash us. (By the way, I get my information a lot from Jay Sekulow on the radio in the mornings. He is not biased. He is for the American people and he just presents the facts.)

Going to the inauguration was the send best day of my life, next to my son’s birth. And there were so many Muslims there supporting Trump! The media is not telling you this.”

Read much more of Elsa’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Tulsa. March, 2017

“As a liberal feminist who voted for Trump, I need to hold other liberals accountable to getting their facts straight. Hillary Clinton represented the line of thought that the ‘ends justified the means,’ while Donald Trump represented the opposing line that the ‘means justified the ends.’ To make things difficult, of course, I completely agreed with most of Hillary's ends, but not her means, and I wasn't sure if I supported Donald's ends or means. But in the end, when Hillary asked, ‘what kind of country do we want to be known as?’ I had to lean toward the means-justifying-ends side.

Hillary is, by a lifetime of training, a politician. And a damn good one. Donald is a businessman and, as we all know, a TV celebrity. Hillary could probably accomplish whatever she set out to accomplish, but at what cost? If Hillary ever tried to do anything that the public might not be so keen on, we also might never know about it until far too late. If ever. On the other hand, if Donald tried to do anything the public might not like, he probably wouldn't even try to hide it, and the media wouldn't let him if he did. So we would all be able to hold him accountable.

I didn't vote based on social issues because I figured the media is liberal enough at this point to make sure no social wrongs go unnoticed. For better or worse, as Trump wades hip-deep in social faux-pas, he will be held accountable by the public and eventually the ship will right itself again. I believe too few people understand any political issues besides the social ones, though, and I honestly haven't heard very many political arguments in favor of Hillary when it comes to anything other than social issues.”

Read much more of Diana’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Los Angeles. January, 2017

“I was a bank robber. I just got finished with my last 20 in the feds. (That was 19 years behind the fence and one at the halfway house.) I’ve always been a Democrat supporter, but this is actually the first election I ever voted in. I’ve done a total of about 34 years in state and federal prison. So the reason I always pulled for the Democrats is because I thought they were gonna bring back good times. They were always promising, but they never deliver on none of the promises.

So when I get out, I know I’m gonna vote. But look at the selections I had. Starts with Killary; that what I call her, ‘cause she is an evil person. She’s taken 25 million from the Saudis. The Saudis sponsor terrorism and they’re against women’s rights. What are they doing giving money to a woman’s charity? Trump is the opposite of Killary on the borders. Why just throw open the borders?! Everybody comes up here thinking there’s gonna be great opportunities. And it ain’t like that. They’re gonna wind up in the street. Living in the street, because where else are they gonna stay?

And you just gotta look to Europe to see what’s happening with the Syrians. They’re saying it’s just women and children, but it ain’t! ISIS is putting people in there. We have to close the borders, even though Mexicans are generally good people. (I’ve only known the gang members, but I’ve gotten along great with them.) So let them come up, but only when they have a place to stay, when they have a sponsor.”

Read much more of Robert’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Indianapolis. March, 2017

“We set up the first meeting between Trump and Pence. They hit it off right away. And when Trump swept the five state primaries right before us in Indiana, we knew we were right about the momentum totally shifting. We won big that night, Cruz dropped out, and Mike Pence did the smartest thing he’s ever done (and he’s a smart guy): he turned around and endorsed Trump right away. All these other Republicans across the country, they mostly tried to stay out of it. Pence was the one person who said great things, and Trump noticed it. I’m not trying to take credit, it’s the people here in this state that did it, but winning the primary like we did... When we so soundly beat Cruz, he had no choice and he dropped out that night.

With Trump, I always was a fan, from all the way back. I remember visiting the Trump store and buying a hat that said, ‘You’re fired.’ He was always well-known, well-regarded. Obviously a great business leader, builder, entrepreneur, and all that. He was always very impressive. And I also kinda got a kick out of stuff he did. I took my family to one of his hotels, they had games and popcorn set up for the kids. There was such attention to detail! I was always impressed, but I never thought ‘oh I want him to be president someday.’ People here believed in him as someone who meant what he said.”

Read much more of Tony’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Las Vegas. January, 2017

“I was an engineer on the Apollo missions. I actually worked on the toilet, the little one they sat on. It looked like one of those three-pound coffee cans, and they had to sit on it. The laws of physics apply, of course. They’re weightless. They’d sit on this toilet and their poop would go down and then float back up and rest against their ass. So we invented a toilet paper that was actually like a glove. It had a handle you could flip to get an extra layer, so you could use both sides.

So, my perspective on Russia is attached to their space program. And I’ll tell you this: I don’t think they did hack anything. But if they did, what did they do to sway the election? Nobody can answer that question. That’s been asked several times. And nobody can specifically say, ‘Well, they did this.’ They just say the Russians were against Hillary. Well, Hillary was against Hillary.”

Read much more of Tom’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Kalamazoo. May, 2017

“I am a Latina woman and I love Trump’s immigration policies. Here's why:

I was born in Puerto Rico, but I married a Mexican and lived in Mexico for two years. We lived in the Sonoran desert and it was very hard to see the way people lived. We were not well off. I had not completed my education. We were struggling. I had one child at the time, and I was pregnant. I found jobs there, but they were not the profession that I wanted to do.

But I was legally in Mexico! I got my papers, my Visa, my passport. I even brought them with me today to show to you! This is my Mexican permit to work. And I have my letter from the Mexican consulate stating my status. And this is my American passport from Puerto Rico.

When I say I want Mexicans to be here legally, I don’t mean it in bad way. I went to Mexico and I was legally there! I chose to do things the right way. Why do others get a free pass? They say they’re working and paying taxes, but then when they file they get quite a good a lump sum. So they’re not really paying taxes, they’re getting a refund. And they’re claiming on their tax returns that they’re supporting children in Mexico; that’s how they do it! That’s how they get the refunds!

People here are fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants, but I wish they would just come here the right way. Some immigrants have been here years; they have time to fix their status.

My son was born in Mexico, and when I went to the consulate to register him, there were lines of people waiting outside to get an interview to get a visa to come to the United States. They have the ability to apply. And the United States allows a certain amount of immigrants to come. But they go there and lie about their intentions. They claim they have never been to the United States when they have a record of being here and being deported. They’re not gonna get in if they lie!

I told my ex-husband to apply for a worker’s visa to come here, but no, he didn’t want to do the hard work. He wanted an easier job, like a receptionist or something. And I said, ‘You have to start from somewhere!’

So I went back to Puerto Rico, then moved to the United States twelve years ago. I consider myself a young conservative; I’ve always voted republican. I had my mind set on Ben Carson, but when he decided to leave, I had no choice but to back Trump.

I’m a working, single mother, and I have four children. I’m a registered nurse. 36 years old. I came to America because of the financial crisis in Puerto Rico in 2006. I could not find a job there, and I knew that the nursing profession was valued and compensated here; not in Puerto Rico. The wages there are really low. You can have a bachelor’s degree there and make only twelve dollars an hour. Not here. Here it’s 20, 30, 40, if you have the certifications. That was very tempting.

When I took the boards here, it was easy to find work. My mom took care of my kids back home in Puerto Rico while I got settled in an apartment and a job, then I brought the kids over. It’s an American success story. I grew up singing the national anthems for Puerto Rico and America back-to-back.

But I give the honor to God. He aligned my life because I made a choice to follow him. He’s helped me stay out of trouble. And you know it’s easy to get into trouble when you’re a single mom. You need money to support your children and you could probably make choices that could get you in trouble. But I made the better choices because I have my foundation in God.

Puerto Ricans are really blessed, but right now the status of the colony-type government we have in our country is sad and I would like that to be resolved, whether through independence or statehood.

I’m also pro-life. I don’t think federal money should be used to support any kind of agency that supports abortion. That’s my money, I’m paying into that pot. People have a choice; you can have an abortion if you want to. That’s their choice and I’m not going to be judging people. But I don’t want my money going to it. I’m glad President Trump is on top of this issue.”

Read much more of Jacqueline’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Oklahoma City. March, 2017

“My daughter said, ‘Do you really think he can run?’ And I said, ‘Yeah! I think he can!’ See, she’s a corporate attorney. And I always say she’s had too much education, you know? She’s a little liberal. But when I go see her in Michigan, she’s not touched by – and she is without a doubt one of the most giving, loving generous people you’ll ever meet, so please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – but she has no idea what is going on in the real world. Because she isn’t touched by it daily.

Of course, Trump’s not a real conservative either. He’s always been a bit in the middle. But I like that about him. He needs to build that damn wall! Right here in Oklahoma, I see it. People come to me to buy insurance. They’re LEGAL Mexicans. And even they can’t find jobs! They’re being underbid by the illegal Mexicans on the bricklaying or whatever it is. I was managing a restaurant, and I couldn’t get my grandson a job as a busboy because he couldn’t compete with the 32 year old illegal alien! And they are abused; there’s no question. They’re underpaid to bring down the market.

And the real culprits with illegal immigration is the Chamber of Commerce and the insurance companies. They want the illegals for the roofing jobs. Roofing jobs are good jobs, especially here in Oklahoma. Because you never pay for a roof here, you always have those hail storms or a tornado. Those are great jobs, but the insurance companies would have to pay five or ten grand more per roof if they were paying people what they should be paid. I go to my 7-11 in the morning to get coffee and there’s ten people in line ahead of me paying with a food stamp card and then getting in an $80,000 vehicle. Do I have a problem with that, as they talk on their free phone? Yes, I do.”

Read much more of Karin’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Kalamazoo. May, 2017

“I love what Trump’s trying to do with health insurance. Let me tell you why:

I never paid any attention to politics until this year. I never had a political party. Now all I do is watch the news: CNN, Fox, MSNBC. I switch back and forth to see both sides of the story.

I’m 65 years old. Spent most of life working, but had to quit for my health. I’d love to work again. I had ten automotive stores. Brought in about 13 million per year. I have no energy now; walking here from my car just about killed me. My medical condition isn’t what I want since I had a heart attack. When I quit working, I had no insurance. Then the state of Michigan put me on Medicaid. Covered me for three months, which was nice. But then I was without insurance again until Medicare kicked in. I never use it, though.

That’s one of the things I don’t like about Obamacare or anything else like it. Why is the government involved in medical anyway? Why is government in the insurance business? They don’t cover my car! My Medicare is $138 per month. I have no idea about the deductible because I haven’t used it. It’s a reasonable price.

When I had my heart attack, I paid cash. It was about twelve grand. I just took it out of my savings. I didn’t call somebody, you know? People should be allowed major medical, so if something big goes wrong you can take care of it. But for going to the doctor every day? If you can’t pay for that, why are you going? Everybody’s always in the emergency room with a sniffle. That’s a waste of time for everybody. It’s kind of sad. I had private health insurance when I had my business, but I never used it.

These kids here; they’re healthy. My own kids are healthy. Why do they want to spend all this money on insurance? They’d be better off putting that money in the bank; they can pay for it if they need something. I was smart; I saved money. I don’t want to be on Medicare. I’d rather have a choice.

But my number one issue is national defense. Trump is calling North Korea’s bluff. And the missiles in Syria? They didn’t do anything, but they sent a message. We needed leadership again. When Obama was President, every time I saw him go overseas he was always apologizing. Well, for what?

We’re America. We’re not supposed to have to apologize for anything. He was making our country weaker and weaker, and its time we stood back up.”

Read much more of Gary’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Syracuse. May, 2017

“My fiancé came here from Bosnia, legally. My mom came here from Italy, legally. They did things the way you’re supposed to do things.

I voted for Trump and I believe he’s going to handle our immigration problem the right way. If you are an illegal immigrant and you’ve committed a crime, then you’ve got to go! But if you’re an illegal immigrant and you’ve been here working for ten, eleven years... well, I think Trump is going to find a way to let those people stay. I really believe that’s his intent.

I raised my two brothers by myself when mom died. I found us an apartment. I got one brother into college and the other one into the Army. I’m proud of that. I’m also the first one in my entire family to graduate high school, the first one to graduate college. And now I’m a production manager for a large uniform supply company.

I know how to be in charge, and be kind while I’m in charge. I haven’t had one union grievance in my company. Not one, ever. I think Trump leads the same way. He’s surrounded himself with a great cabinet.

Thomas Jefferson predicted what’s happening right now. Look it up. Jefferson said that someday the country might start moving in a bad, bad direction... but that we shouldn’t worry about it. He said that when the country gets that bad, the people will take it back. We the people have just taken back our country! Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. And getting a conservative onto the Supreme Court? This is us taking back our country from the devastation of the past eight, ten, even twenty years.

The 1980s was the last time this country was great. But we’ve taken it back.”

Read much more of Anthony’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Detroit. April, 2017

“I was 35 when I joined the military. The economy here in Detroit fell apart in the 2000s and I have four kids. So it was a good move to support my family, but also my country. I did IT (Information Technology) for the Army. I was in an aviation unit, setting up communication in Blackhawks and Apaches. I had no IT experience whatsoever before I joined; the Army provided a career path. My husband joined the reserves at the same time because the economy was so bad. You have to do what you have to do to help your family.

I voted for Trump because I wanted an overhaul. I was sick of big government. I thought he could bring a new perspective, get rid of some of the deficit, and take that burden off the taxpayer. I want a better future for our kids, and I see way too much bureaucracy in our government every day in my current work as an Army contractor. But I disagree with Trump on some big things now, like the hiring freeze. I mean, I see people making 150,000 dollars and not being able to work a printer. These are older people sitting in big desks, working for the government for 30+ years. The hiring freeze makes no sense because we should be bringing in younger people who can do those jobs better. I mean, I know a guy who makes his staff write his emails because he doesn’t understand computers. That’s where the change needs to be made. A businessman should see this, but Trump doesn’t. Instead, he has this hiring freeze. I hope he will lift it.

I wanted him to drain the swamp. He’s not doing that. In my opinion, draining the swamp is getting people out of there who have been doing these jobs for too many years. He’s just not doing that.

Could I have voted for Hillary? No way. I think the whole Clinton family is shady. I could not in good conscience vote for her. I have a hard time trusting her.

A lot of the campaign promises Trump made are unfulfilled; he keeps saying he can’t do them yet and he’ll have to come back to them later. I know it’s only been 100 days, but he needs to give us something more than that! Regardless of his success or failure, I do believe we should all come together to support the office of the Presidency. We may not agree with the President himself, but we should all come together to support the office. I could not agree with a lot of the things Obama was doing, but I always supported him.

Oh, and here’s one specific thing I’m hoping for: that Trump stops making trips to Florida.”

Read much more of Gloria’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Bixby, OK. March, 2017

“What Trump stands for and speaks to is bigger than any little bomb shell they could bring out against him. He speaks to the heart of people.

We went into the post office, my son and I. He’s three, but he knows who Trump is. We were buying some stamps and the lady behind the counter pointed to the flag picture on the stamps. She asked my son, ‘what is that?’ He said, ‘stickers.’ Then she asked him what was printed ON the stickers. His response: ‘That’s Donald Trump’s flag!’ There was about six people behind me in line and they all started cracking up. I’ll have to set him straight on that, but it is funny.

The movement is bigger than the person. Trump just captured the heart of the movement. He spoke the language of the movement. He didn’t create the movement, but he awakened it. And that movement is America First. Not that we don’t care about other countries, but we need to take care of us first. And we have to take care of our veterans; those that have put themselves in danger to save American citizens should not be homeless on the streets. Ever. We can care about refugees, but to bring in refugees and give them housing while veterans are sleeping on the streets? That’s like a father who puts other children before his own.

Even though Trump came from the world of business, he wasn’t bought and sold. That’s huge to me, because most politicians are. They will believe whatever the biggest lobbyist tells them to believe. Most of them will come out of their time in politics with a cushy lifestyle because of people whose backs they scratched. I didn’t see Trump doing that. He is so against it. He is not owned by the banks because he knows their game. I think he is a master negotiator, and he was right when he said no one is negotiating for America.”

Read much more of Heather’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Grand Rapids. May, 2017

“I worked on the Keystone Pipeline project. Now, I’ve worked on the biggest oil and gas pipelines in the United States for 35 years. But Keystone? That made me mad. We all know it never finished, but when I found out what happened... well that was just corrupt.

I was in Calgary when notice came across that the Keystone project had been shut down. So, instead, they got a deal with Warren Buffet to ship the oil down from Canada on trains. Warren Buffet makes two billion dollars per year on it. What kind of a deal is that for the American taxpayer?! Or the environment?! They’ve had more train accidents these past eight years than they have ever had with the pipeline.

I’m so frustrated with the people protesting all these pipelines. They have to know that old pipes are still being used. And old pipes are like old roads; they need to be replaced with newer technology and newer equipment. That’s what these new pipelines are doing. When Trump ok’d the Keystone project... well I’m just 100% behind it. It’s about time somebody had the set of balls to do that.

I used to vote Democrat back when they were, more or less, for the working person. Now it seems like they’re all about themselves. All I’ve seen is corruption, and we don’t need any more of that.

Republicans are better for the oil industry. And this country still needs the oil industry. Bill Clinton started any corruption in that industry by firing thousands of Department of Transportation workers who served as the oversight for Big Oil. He left the oil companies to police themselves with no accountability, so of course that led to some bad decisions. Some guys had to become whistleblowers because of that, but I blame Bill Clinton because there was oversight until he came along.

Janet Reno launched some big investigation on the pipeline to Long Island. That pipe was built during the Gulf War to make sure they could supply NYC with gas. But – and look this up – she had FBI agents digging up pipe and they found nothing! Taxpayers paid for that. You know what they did, though? They scratched the pipe when they were filling it all back in. That pipe carries natural gas and conducts electricity. If there is a scratch, all the rust goes right to that spot. It may take years, but that rust will make the pipe blow up, eventually. That’s just a fact.

My health care went up 1000% last year. If I wanted to keep the insurance, it would be $1800 per month. You want to know why people are pissed off? It’s because we’ve been lied to. People were lied to about keeping our doctor. Lied to about what’s going on with money across the program. That’s why people are mad.”

Read much more of Roger’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Oklahoma City. March, 2017

“Trump is pro-military, and people in this post 9-11 age are waking up to the fact that the United States is no longer safe. It’s a whole new ball game. We have to be very careful about who we allow into the country. We have to take more precautions. That’s why I favored his immigration policies. Our country is flooded with people who we have no idea their true backgrounds and motives.

There’s an old adage: strong fences make good neighbors. However, we don’t want to cut off the flow of water to our neighbor because he has to feed his livestock, too. To that end, I’ve proposed to Mr. Trump, in a letter, the construction of a water pipe from Canada to Mexico. Each country would create its own section of the pipeline, manufacturing its own pipe, creating jobs in all three countries and providing more water for Mexico. Mexico would be able to produce more of its own goods, particularly in agriculture, for export and consumption.

I draw a Biblical parallel here: the story of Joseph going to Egypt to buy wheat when there was a drought in the Holy Land. Mexico has a similar problem, but Canada has just about more water than any country on Earth. If Mr. Trump acts on my proposal, Mexico can buy bulk water from Canada at decent rates, the United States can charge a toll, and Mexico will flourish. I’ve sent this proposal to Mexico, the US, and Canada, but only Canada has responded. They referred it to their Interior Minister. I have no real background in this type of work; I got the idea from reading the Bible.

Egypt experienced a rapid growth of the Hebrew population, which they eventually enslaved. We are now, in a sense, Egypt. We are experiencing a rapid influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico, and it’s primarily because of their lack of water.

I’m a veteran from a long line of veterans. I did security in the Air Force. My job was to guard nuclear weapons. After the Air Force, I took advantage of the GI Bill to pursue a law degree, but I abandoned that when I became interested in electricity and the processes involved in generating electricity. So, I’m an entrepreneur. I like Mr. Trump because he is a capitalist and understands the capitalist system. And he understands that socialism and communism, as a rule, do not allow people to flourish and become the creative and innovative human beings that they are. The history of socialism and communism is oppressive in its nature and only those in control of those systems seem to flourish. Trump understands the sacrifices made by our military people in a capitalist system. They don’t have the opportunities to pursue economic benefits to the extent civilians do; they make financial sacrifices for the rest of us.”

Read much more of Scott’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Norfolk. April, 2017

“If a person has a true need for entitlements, then amen. But the $64,000 question is, ‘what is a true need?’ We have to balance between fulfilling the needs of the truly needy and helping too much. If you don’t have to keep your family together, if you don’t have to raise your children properly, if you don’t have to avoid abusing drugs and alcohol, and you STILL get everything you need from the government... I’m just not sure that’s good for society.

I’m a southerner who was accidentally born in Long Island. I’m Catholic, and I think our country has lost a little bit of our moral compass. Some of that is due to a decline in people being interested in religion. The percentage of people that go to church every Sunday is minuscule. Jesus helped the worst of the worst, the lepers and the blind... but I guess I would just say there has to be some kind of limit or the system will come crashing down. No one will go to work if you have to give all your money back to the government to take care of all the people who are challenged or hurting or unwilling. We’ve evolved as a society to where we are now, but maybe we’ve gone a little too far and we need to dial it back just a bit. That’s the attitude and hope that I see for a Trump Presidency.”

Read much more of Dave’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Tucson. February, 2017

“If we can get just two new lawn maintenance clients on each of these blocks, next summer we hit the 1600 mark. See, there’s business-building and then there’s when it’s built. When we make it to that point, we’re making enough money for us. And we’re making enough money to pay our maintenance crews. But a third of all that money goes back into the business, because our purpose is not to make money... our purpose to create jobs.

I mean, we’re poor. You can see that. We rent this house.

So I hear that Donald Trump is running for office. My wife knew a lot about him; she reads the tabloids and watches TV. So I hear he’s running and the only thing I’m thinking politically is, ‘The butcher of Benghazi cannot be allowed to win.’ I was fully committed to making sure she didn’t get elected. Now I’m not usually a political fan of anybody; power corrupts absolutely and all that stuff. The swamp has been building, therefore I am apolitical. I’m ticked off at politics.

As a Christian, we have this litmus test: abortion. If you’re pro-choice, my vote is off the table. And Trump, we knew he used to be a Democrat. But like my father says, ‘Young liberals become conservatives when they grow up.’ So my wife found out Trump claims to be pro-life. And the way he said it, we believe him. And there are tells, you can tell when somebody is BS-ing you. I mean, how many people in college even think about their views? So Trump’s older now and he’s actually thinking abut his positions. So I believe him, and I believe in his quadrant business sense. I’m a fan of Robert Kiyosaki; Trump works like that. Trump understands business, and I understand that business and government are the same.”

Read much more of Bill’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Beverly Hills. January, 2017

“I’m opening up a spa in Agoura Hills; it’s the new up-and-coming spot in the Valley. I started with just $30,000 in my savings account. I emptied that out, took a risk, and used it to open a spa in Beverly Hills that I ran for 12 years. I believe in risk taking and seizing the opportunity, so of course I fell in love with Donald Trump.

I fell in love with him in the 80s when he was promoting The Art of The Deal. It inspired me. I was a fan of his since way back then. I always had my eye on him. I have a strong intuition about people, just from being around many demographics because of my work. (I also did outside sales, pounding the pavement in Texas. I dealt with male chauvinists, cowboys, older men in a corporate setting. And this was when women couldn’t even wear pants! We had to wear dangly earrings.) I always believed that you work for it. Everything is earned.

I found myself getting irritated at how how lazy people are, and irritated with people who call themselves victims of everything. Victims of their surroundings, victims of this or that... and everybody’s got a story. My family didn’t come from money. Everybody in my family worked.

I was a Democrat growing up, but it changed. I actually worked for Gary Johnson’s campaign. But coming out to Los Angeles, I noticed a change in attitude. Everybody was expecting entitlements! So I changed to an independent, and then eventually to a conservative because I just didn’t agree with all the reasons liberals were giving anymore.

When Donald Trump was hinting about running – in the 90s, he was hinting about it – and I always knew he was gonna go! He’s like that thoroughbred horse waiting for the bell to ring. Because he’s strategic, he’s waiting for the right time. He’s very patient. So it was no surprise to me when he actually ran.

I met Donald Trump when I got invited to an underground Hollywood group called Friends of Abe. When I had my spa, I was outspoken. That let me meet people, and you’d be surprised at how many people are conservatives in Hollywood. But this group was secret; hush-hush. You had to be invited, and I was invited to this event where I could actually meet Trump. And the imagery! The pageantry! He walks in and he’s like a tower! Donald was surrounded by tall men, even taller than he is. And it’s just so intimidating! And I said, ‘Oh my god, this guy has got it going on.’”

Read much more of Liza’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Albuquerque. March, 2017

“We’re walking through this campus, and it’s a sanctuary campus. And this is where we’ve had people beaten and spit on for having voted for a different candidate. That is a first in my 57 years. It’s not safe for Trump supporters here. The looting, the rioting... that’s not a sanctuary for anybody.

When you block the roads with these protests and my father is dying, do you think you’re gonna keep me from getting on a plane and seeing him for the last time? You kidding me? I’m running your ass over. You’re not gonna sit down and have a discussion? That’s not what protesting is. You shouldn’t shut down streets.

I went from Democrat to Independent to Trump. I can’t stand politicians. I can’t stand it when they won’t answer a question. I’m done with them taking money and getting rich from not having a product. They’re just selling power. So, if you have someone who comes in and says, ‘I’m going to keep you safe, I’m going to bring jobs back...’ I’m getting behind that.

I have two children I gave birth to and five others that I took off the street. Kids need help here; it wasn’t like that when I was growing up. If we didn’t have something, well no one else had it either! But now, one of the boys I took in didn’t even have a toothbrush.

My nephew has a 4.0 average and he’s trying to get into a surgical school. But they only take X amount of white guys, and then they get C students. Is that the guy you want doing surgery on your loved ones? The guy who got a C? We should be judged on what’s in our head and our heart. We shouldn’t be judged by color. So I don’t think anyone should have a ‘whites not allowed’ or ‘blacks not allowed.’”

Read much more of Amber’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Denver. February, 2017

“My biological mother has been homeless for 30 years. She won’t go get a job because she’s afraid they’re gonna take away her welfare. That’s how they train people to think. That’s how they want people on that low end to think, and it’s not ok. We want America to thrive.

I was raised in the foster care system from as early as I can remember. I was in 27 foster homes before I was seven years old. I was always together with my older brother, and I was the one that protected him. They tried splitting us up once, and that lasted about twenty minutes before they realized I was gonna kill them. They can take my mom, but they weren’t gonna take my brother away from me.

I started my own business, and I’ve seen the most crooked things happen, the cutthroat things people do for money. I can only imagine what it’s like in the million, hundred million dollar range. I can only imagine what people at that level would do to line their pockets. Like, Haiti. All America was donating, and Haiti still didn’t get rebuilt. And the Clinton Foundation was the head of that. Hillary is crooked.

I don’t agree with Trump on abortion, but then again he comes from money. That’s a different point of view. Some women look at babies as a meal ticket. I get scared of those women. You see the look in their eyes and you gotta stay away! She may be hot, but she could be the devil! When you hear truth, you know it. I trust Trump’s heart. For me, it comes down to character. People are upset about things like his choice to head up Education. Well, let me tell you, I spent nine years at Santa Barbara City College and I can tell you it doesn’t take a genius to run that school system or figure it out. If I had two trillion from taxes, I could fix a lot of things. But I certainly wouldn’t be putting it on some black card, getting us ten trillion in debt. Who has a limit that big? I made my business do really well and its not that hard.”

Read much more of Josh’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Sierra Vista, AZ. February, 2017

“I used to be a Democrat, and I was behind Hillary when she ran against Obama. I was starting to get behind Hillary again this time, but when Trump signed on I automatically dropped her and went to Trump.

I admire him because he’s not a politician; he’s a regular working man. He’ll turn the country around because a lot of the politicians are just filling their pockets doing what they want and not what the people want.

I’m retired. I was born in a little hick town in Oklahoma. For twenty years I worked for the same company, but then they let me go. I didn’t receive any good benefits from them. I volunteer for a food bank now. Most of the people coming in there, they’re disabled seniors, low-income seniors, seniors living paycheck to paycheck and barely getting by. And this really helps them out. We get young people coming in there, too, people with multiple kids and stuff. They need help, too.

I got a Christmas card from Trump thanking me for supporting him; that made me feel pretty good. I’ve got a room in my house that’s kind of my USA room: a letter President Carter sent to my dad, a letter from Reagan after my dad passed away, and now Trump’s Christmas card. Carter actually called my dad on the phone after dad told him about the efforts he had to go through to vote for him; my dad was disabled and it was difficult. He had to climb so many steps.

I went to a Trump rally; it was a lot of fun. The speeches got everybody worked up. I thought Hillary would have been a good President, but as she went along this last campaign, I think she changed. She was so different than when she ran against Obama. Trump went right in and started doing things he promised he was going to do, like controlling immigrants from coming in. It’s getting really bad now with people sneaking in; I’m afraid somebody’s gonna sneak in with a dirty bomb and blow it up in a big city. And Trump doesn’t want that, so he put this temporary ban in place to weed out the bad from the good.

And there’s sections of Arizona where there are no fences of anything. A lot of drugs come across through there.

I like that Trump’s going to build up the blue-collar workers. Blue-collar workers are the backbone of America. You’re not gonna get some suit coming out of their office to fix your washing machine.”

Read much more of Charles’ story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

Dayton. April, 2017

“Obama’s vision puts a limitation, a ceiling, on your success. Obama’s America – his vision – brought people on the very top down, and people on the bottom up to the middle. He didn’t want people to become too rich, too wealthy, too powerful. But he also didn’t want people to become too poor. That’s not the American dream; that’s not the American philosophy. It didn’t foster an atmosphere of hard work. It didn’t foster an atmosphere of self-empowerment, independence, or making something of yourself. It didn’t do that.

The forgotten Americans are the people like me who were talking and wanted their voices to be heard. They were forgotten by our economy, forgotten by the manufacturing jobs. They were told, ‘Everything is fine, we’re creating jobs and everything’s fine.’ With Obama, all these jobs created were part-time jobs. The jobs weren’t like working for GM or other manufacturers, but working at Dollar General. None of these were full-time, well-paying jobs. None of these were middle class jobs that people could actually make a living off of. The elite were making decisions and saying, ‘we’re looking out for you and everything is fine.’ To a certain extent it benefited those on the very, very bottom. But it didn’t benefit people in the middle class or on the top.

I used to watch Fox News in the basement with my dad. He called it brainwashing, but I told him I actually I wanted to watch it with him. I wanted to learn. Often, I’d have him to pause the news so I could ask him to explain what Bill O’Reilly was talking about. Seeing these lives lost abroad... I wanted to hear what was happening and make sense of it.

The military is the best next step for me when I graduate high school a few weeks from now; I’m looking forward to serving my country. Missiles in Syria – I totally support that. We’ve been the laughing stock of the free world because we haven’t stood for anything. We haven’t taken any actions. The red line set up by Obama, I agreed with that. It was drawn, but then he went back on it! It’s no secret they didn’t take Obama seriously. It’s no secret that they scoff at weak leadership, because they rule with an iron fist in that part of the word. So we need a strong America to keep them in check, to show them who’s boss.”

Read much more of Collin’s story, and why it matters, by grabbing a copy of There's No Substitute for Empathy.

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