Fort Worth

Local Trump supporters dismiss dark warnings of authoritarian leader

His supporters say Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is pro-democracy.
His supporters say Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is pro-democracy. AP

Warning sirens are blaring from journalists, pundits and anxious Hillary Clinton supporters that a Donald J. Trump presidency threatens to crumble democracy and usher in a dark and dangerous era of American authoritarianism.

Trump supporters dismiss such talk as nonsense.

“I don’t view him that way. What would he gain?” said Trump supporter Greg Fox, 68, director at Northwest Tarrant Chamber of Commerce, who added he sees Trump as “absolutely” pro-democracy.”

Trump voters shrug off such Orwellian statements as, “I alone can fix it,” and “I am your voice” or his omniscient proclamations like, “I know more about ISIS than the generals” and they aren’t alarmed by a man who attacks opponents and says he will bring back law and order to the country.

“I see him as whatever fits his agenda for the day, but I don’t think he’s a crazy man that’s going to take advantage of an executive order. I think a lot of it is just for show,” said Geoff Rupp, 55, a of Mansfield who plans to vote for Trump. “I think he still thinks he’s on The Apprentice sometimes. He’ll say outlandish things just to get a reaction from people.”

Trump’s abrasive anti-immigrant and anti-establishment messages mixed with nationalistic overtones has seemingly done the unthinkable and turned Texas’ major newspapers blue.

Him talking sexually about women doesn’t bother me.

Carol Lea, 68, Weatherford

According to Texas Monthly, this year is the first time the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and The Dallas Morning News, the state’s three largest newspapers, all endorsed the Democratic candidate in at least 75 years. The Morning News had not endorsed the Democratic candidate since before World War II, more than 20 elections ago.

The Star-Telegram editorial board recommended voters spurn Trump, but it did not endorse Clinton or a third-party candidate.

The Chronicle’s editorial board assessed Trump as a man with an authoritarian streak:

“Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities — his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance — is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, ‘I alone can fix it,’ should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.”

Trump supporters seem emboldened when he alleges the system is rigged against him or that voter fraud is real. They revel in his admonishment of the free press and dismiss his mysoginistic language, tax evasion and a peculiar affinity for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Him talking sexually about women doesn’t bother me,” said Carol Lea, 68, a self-employed real estate appraiser and Realtor who lives in Weatherford. “Were they mean words? Yes. Were they words spoken in private? Yes. Have you ever talked to your friends about the opposite sex in private and said things? Women have been sexualized for centuries.”

Said Trump voter Mary, 75, who asked not to use real her name because she feared receiving hate mail: “I believe he really is for democracy. Where did you get that idea that he was a good friend of Putin? I don’t think he even knows him, according to the last debate. He said he didn’t know him.”

While Trump supporters might not necessarily agree with his assessment that he has “one of the best temperaments” of anyone who has ever run for office, they aren’t overly concerned that his brashness or late-night tweeting binges that often disparage opponents or critics will land the country in an uncompromising position.

They believe the checks and balances built into the branches of government, and Trump surrounding himself with capable and sound advisers, will prevent incidents that threaten national security.

Not everyone agrees. Some Republicans cringe at Trump’s current inner circle, which includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rudy Guiliani, Newt Gingrich and alt-right crusader Stephen Bannon, who is running Trump’s campaign.

“There’s nothing in his personal life, his private life, his business life or his political life that would lead you to believe that he surrounds himself with smart people, that he listens to smart people, that he is curious about information — I can tell you that he is not curious about information — that he absorbs it,” said Republican strategist John Weaver, an Austin resident who headed Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign. “Nothing in any aspect of his life can be pointed to that says that’s the case.”

Jeff Caplan: 817-390-7705, @Jeff_Caplan