Supporters to Trump: break campaign promises at your peril
Kathryn Stellmack expects the world from Donald Trump.
After listening to his speeches and casting her vote for him, she expects Trump to toughen immigration laws, restore lost jobs, upend a corrupt political system, build a wall on the border, and be, as the millionaire put it, the “greatest jobs president that God has ever created.”
“We expect him to move forward on all the items he has promised to move forward on,” said Stellmack, 69, a retiree in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“And if he doesn’t, we will hold his feet to the fire.”
After a presidential race fueled by brash but constantly shifting policy proposals, Trump’s millions of followers — from social conservative activists to struggling blue-collar workers to hardline militant groups — say if he does anything less than take a wrecking ball to business-as-usual Washington, they will be disappointed.
“We’ll be watching, Mr. Trump,” said Stellmack.
Trump’s promises have been hard to pin down, with many policy details left elusive and vague. NBC News identified 141 “distinct shifts” on 23 major issues since Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.
Still, his fiery rhetoric had an unmistakable message of ending big government and the entrenched power of establishment elites in both parties.
That inspired hope that Trump can break through Washington’s gridlock to make progress on plans to invigorate the economy, eliminate terrorist threats, rip up trade agreements and repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan known as Obamacare.
“I totally trust him,” said Laura Czarniak, 56, of Manistee, Michigan, a Rust Belt state that leans Democrat in presidential elections but which flipped to Trump on Tuesday.
“I know he’ll build the wall. I know he’ll take care of the Syrian refugee problem. I know he’ll get rid of Obamacare. There is not a chance in hell he won’t do those things,” she said.
But even with Republicans retaining control of Congress, Trump will have to accept limits and compromises on some of his plans. Many Republicans, for example, are wary of his proposals to scrap trade deals and boost spending on infrastructure improvements.
Some of his plans have already been rolled back.
Trump faces his highest expectations on the issue of immigration, given his intense focus on attention-grabbing campaign proposals like forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall, and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.
But he recently indicated he would at first deport only criminal undocumented immigrants, after previously pledging to deport all undocumented aliens, while the Muslim ban has softened into “extreme vetting” of immigrants from some countries.
He told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Friday that he would consider keeping parts of Obamacare intact — easing off his calls for a total repeal — after Obama spoke to him on the issue at the White House on Thursday.
MAY NEED TIME
Mark Morris, a leader of the Colorado-based Three Percent United Patriots militia group, said he understood Trump would need time on some issues, but he expected quick movement on repealing Obamacare and appointing a conservative Supreme Court justice to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia.
He said he hoped Trump would stand with ranchers in their disputes with the federal government over fees charged for cattle grazing on public land – a call to arms for many in the patriot and militia movement.
Morris warned Trump should not count on his followers to stay with him if he did not produce results.
“People voted with a lot of faith that he will come through,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to work out very well if he doesn’t get the things done and he comes back at the end of four years and says I need four more years to accomplish what I need to accomplish.”
Trump had to take strong action on immigration given his rhetoric, said Roy Beck, head of Numbers USA, a group that favors reduced immigration levels.
He said Numbers USA and other grassroots groups would pressure Trump to keep his promises to bolster enforcement and cut back on legal immigration and foreign workers, including eliminating immigration by low-skill and non-extraordinary-skilled workers.
“There’s no way he would have been elected president if he had not so boldly made immigration his top issue,” Beck said. “You have to come through on your top issue. The question is in the details.”
He said many Trump supporters understood his talk about the border wall was “shorthand” for restoring the rule of law in immigration, although it was a promise by which he would be judged. “We’re in the best position we’ve ever been in since the 1950s to get control of this issue, but we still have big challenges,” Beck said.
For many activists in the anti-abortion movement who are suspicious Trump’s promises are fueled by politics more than conviction, he still has plenty to prove.
“I think we’re seeing a mix of emotions, from excitement and some fear to somewhere in between,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion group March for Life Education and Defense Fund said of Trump’s election.
“For us the most important thing will be to hold him to his campaign promises, particularly on the Supreme Court. We want to be sure he is true to his word,” she said of Trump’s vow to appoint justices who will vote to overturn Roe vs Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
But Trump needs to move quickly, said Thomas Pyle, a Trump supporter and president of the free-market advocacy group American Energy Alliance.
“Washington is a very, very difficult place to turn the ship. He has a limited window before the culture in Washington seeps in,” Pyle said. “But if he acts boldly, he can do a lot.”
(Additional reporting by Ned Parker; Editing by Jason Szep and Stuart Grudgings)