Donald Trump drew wild cheers and considerable press attention Sunday afternoon during his appearance in Washington at the annual “Rolling Thunder” gathering of veterans and others on motorcycles at the Lincoln Memorial.
While many in the press assumed that the group cheering on Trump were natural Republican supporters of the GOP’s now-certain presidential nominee, I found that this was not necessarily universal.
Many among Rolling Thunder, in fact, were Democrats and registered independents who may be casting their vote for a Republican for the first time in years.
“I’m a Democrat and I’m voting for Trump,” U.S. Army veteran Roger Rollins of Clarksburg, West Virginia told me.
When I asked whom he voted for in ’12, Rollins shot back: “I sure didn’t vote for that black guy in the White House. I didn’t like either of the Bushes, and I don’t want Hillary Clinton. I don’t trust her at all.”
He later admitted to voting for her husband, Bill.
The West Virginian, who also said he plans to vote for Democrat Jim Justice for governor of his state, explained that he felt Obama “killed the coal business” and engaged in “too much s*** overseas.”
Trump, Rollins feels, “will straighten things like this out.”
Bill Medina, a self-employed builder and former defense plant employee from Gainesville, Virginia, agreed.
“Trump is a billionaire, and no one is going to buy him,” said Medina, who voted for Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and, as a four-year-old in 1960, saw John F. Kennedy at a rally as he sat on his father’s shoulders, “The economy needs to operate differently so we won’t lose jobs. Trump understands this. And he’ll balance the budget so there is money to protect our shores.”
Medina added that he admires the fact that “Trump is not politically correct. You know when he says something, it comes right from his heart.”
Veteran Alan Jones of Nashville described himself as an independent voter who votes for “whoever I think will do the best job.”
Asked if he plans to vote for Trump, Jones said: “Yes, in part because Hillary Clinton is a big liar. I liked her husband a lot more than I like her!”
Animosity toward Hillary Clinton was a dominant factor at the Rolling Thunder event — even among those not supporting Trump.
“I’m not for Trump,” Kim Zacharias of Hermiston, Oregon told me, “and I really resent that a rally for veterans is being exploited by the Trump campaign. My father is a Korean War veteran and his name is on that wall [at the Korean War Memorial]. This event should be about people like him, not Trump.”
But Zacharias, who described herself as an independent who voted for Barack Obama in ’12, won’t be voting for the likely Democratic nominee in ’16.
“I do not like Mrs. Clinton because she is not trustworthy,” she said. “It’s a shame [Vice President] Joe Biden isn’t running.”