How These Former Obama Voters Came to See Trump as Their Champion

Allegra Kirkland, Talking Points Memo, July 29, 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has enjoyed a boost from a pretty unlikely source this election season: former supporters of President Barack Obama.

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Several such voters were in attendance at the American Renaissance conference, an annual gathering of white nationalists, in May.

An oil and gas industry employee from Houston, Texas who gave his name as Karl North told TPM that he had twice voted for Obama but was now all in for Trump. He said he realized during the Obama years that “multi-cultural societies do not work” and now thinks that white people should have their own ethno-state.

“One thing that really opened my eyes was the Ferguson debacle,” North said, describing the protests that broke out in 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. “Watching them destroy their own community, I mean whites don’t do that.”

North’s extremist views are the exception, and the number of former Obama voters who now support Trump is small. Though few polls have touched on this overlap, a March survey by the non-partisan RAND Corporation found that 7.9 percent of Trump supporters voted for Obama in 2012, while a May ABC News poll put the same group at 15 percent.

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Two friends who attended the American Renaissance conference and said they voted for Obama in 2008 recounted how they’d become increasingly concerned about racial friction and terrorism during his presidency.

“I am worried about the erosion of traditional America,” said a woman who identified as “JeannieD,” a former IT project manager at Microsoft who now works as a part-time receptionist. “I think that whites are marginalized. It’s okay to be proud to be African-American, proud to be Asian, but if you’re white and proud, you’re a white supremacist.”

“I see the hypocrisy in that too,” said Tina Nichols, a former restaurant industry worker.

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{snip} Yet Trump’s unorthodox campaign managed to appeal to those skeptical of an aggressive U.S. foreign policy and free trade deals, as well as those who felt threatened by the nation’s increasing diversity. Reporters from CNN and Business Insider encountered a number of these onetime Obama voters on the 2016 trail.

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