In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, Yahoo News visited towns and cities across the country, speaking to voters who had supported Donald Trump in the election. As the shape of his administration emerged, we asked voters if they were happy with their choice and optimistic about the future. Here is some of what we found:
Donald Trump called them the “forgotten people” — working-class Americans all over the nation who struggled to make ends meet, only to feel overlooked by the political elite in Washington and cut off from more prosperous parts of the country.
The “forgotten men and women” became Trump’s rallying cry in his unlikely quest for the White House, as he traveled to cities, big and small, all over the country, including many that had never before been visited by a presidential candidate.
From the struggling manufacturing towns of the Rust Belt to the empty coalfields of Appalachia to the cities in the South and throughout the heartland hit hard by the shift of factory jobs to Mexico and beyond, Trump cast himself as the champion of downtrodden Americans, promising to put them back to work, revive their cities and restore the nation to something that was “great again” for everybody.
“The forgotten men and women of our country, people who work hard but no longer have a voice — I am your voice,” Trump declared as he accepted the GOP nomination in July.
It was an unlikely message from a brash New York billionaire and former reality television star who had spent little time outside his gilded tower in the heart of midtown Manhattan before setting his sights on the presidency. But Trump won the adulation and, most importantly, the votes of Americans who embraced him as a change agent in spite of his lack of political experience and unprecedented ability to do and say inflammatory things that would have derailed any other candidate.
But whether Trump can hold on to what he’s described as his “movement” now faces its biggest test. As he prepares to move into the White House, the focus shifts to what his supporters expect of him and what he can actually deliver.
After more than a year on the trail following Trump, this reporter hit the road again in the weeks after his Election Day victory, returning to “forgotten places” across the country where the candidate won to talk to those who voted for him about the election and what they now want him to do as president.
It was a two-week, nearly 5,000-mile winding odyssey deep into the heart of Trump’s America, starting in the Rust Belt town of Erie, Pa., and ending in Bakersfield, Calif., one of the last Republican areas in a state that has gone deeply blue.
Trump supporters have always been more complicated than conventional wisdom during the campaign recognized. They weren’t only angry white voters, though a large number of them were. And in the aftermath of the election, interviews with those who ultimately voted for him presented a more nuanced view than the caricature suggests. Not all his backers believe he will be able to deliver on everything he promised — nor do they agree with everything he proposed.
In fact, many who voted for Trump have realistic or even low expectations about what he will be able to deliver in Washington. Among other things, even his most ardent supporters doubt Trump will be able to deliver on the “big, beautiful wall” he promised on the stump to build along the U.S. border. And while there is hope, there is plenty of skepticism about whether Trump will be able to reverse the struggle in Rust Belt states that have been decimated by losses in steel and manufacturing.
While Trump was known for his massive, adoring crowds who stood with him even as pundits again and again declared his campaign dead, many of his supporters hope he will curb some of his more blustery behavior, including his tendency to hurl insults at opponents on Twitter.
Most are largely unconcerned about the controversies that have swirled around his incoming administration, including his relationship with Russia. Instead, they are focused on whether Trump can deliver on the most essential pocketbook issues: creating jobs and boosting the economy in places that didn’t enjoy the recovery that other regions did in the aftermath of the recession.
While many voters, especially in the Bible Belt, were driven by a dislike of Hillary Clinton, that wasn’t entirely their motivation in backing Trump. They viewed him as a means of blowing up Washington, a city that has been hobbled by political gridlock.
Trump’s ability to deliver on change and create jobs will likely be the test of whether he can keep “the movement” of supporters who will help him get his agenda passed and determine the success of his first term.