Two supporters of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump weigh in on next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where delegates that the candidate has amassed will formally cast a vote for their nominee.
Anthony Anderson, an African-American from Joliet who works for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, says he is a staunch Trump supporter. But he won’t be attending next week's convention. Anderson says he is doing it out of anger at the Illinois GOP, whom he says is fractured and trying to undermine Trump.
Unlike Anderson, Mark Fratella, a public school teacher in Evanston who lives in Elmhurst, will be in attendance next week in Cleveland.
He says he has voted Republican his entire adult life, although his father was a Democrat and ardent supporter of John F. Kennedy. Fratella says he believes the party has gone too far to the left since those days.
We asked both Republicans more about their role as delegates, their support of Trump and what they expect to happen next week.
When did you become a Trump delegate?
Anthony Anderson: Back when they were looking for delegates. I've been a Trump supporter since June of last year ... I’ve had my name on their volunteer list, so my information was on Trump’s radar ... I contacted (state campaign manager) Kent Gray to become a delegate. We had a short interview, we talked, and next thing you know he asked me to come on board.
Mark Fratella: I’ve been involved in elections since 1996. The landscape was amorphous this year, and nobody knew where things were going to go. My inclination was to think of Bush, but then Trump came out and I heard what he said about immigration; I strongly support his stance on immigration. It needs to be done properly and legally. That was something that struck a chord with me.
When he started spelling out more of his economic stances, I liked what he had to say about trade, about how China’s been fixing their currency and devaluing their currency to encourage imports from the U.S. The other candidates may have had that same stance, but they didn’t get it across in a no-nonsense way. The other candidates were typical politicians. It was refreshing to see someone who was able to express his views so bluntly.
We’re at a fork in the road in this country right now. He’s the strong leader that would get us to where the country needs to be. I contacted the campaign and said, "I want to help out in DuPage County." I stayed in touch with Kent Gray, and that led to getting on the ballot for the primary.
What attracted you to Trump?
Anderson: Trump is the guy that I voted for; he’s the guy I’m supporting in Illinois. What attracted me to Trump to begin with is, he seems sincere in the approach toward the direction of our country. I knew that the candidates that the party was putting before me were all a bunch of has-beens and insiders. It is insiders that put us where we’re at now. The party created Trump. Had the Mitch McConnells, the John Boehners of the world done their job, grassroots Republicans wouldn’t be rising up and supporting Trump.
Why aren’t you going to the convention?
Anderson: The Illinois delegation will be there, not to support Trump, but to undermine the whole process. There are still these “never-Trump”-ers out there trying to stop him. Here you have a candidate who’s just in the last day or so, released polls that he’s leading in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio. These are states that the Republican Party needs. It's obvious Trump cannot pass policy initiatives if he does not have Congress behind him. This is something I’ve been planning for a while. He has 1,500 delegates, far more than he needs, so it shouldn’t affect the overall vote.
What about the concerns many have raised – including members of the GOP – about his rhetoric, style and issues with Trump University?
Anderson: It was Trump’s style over his substance. Trump has some very substantive debate arguments ... his style is so rambunctious, and it turns some people off. When you start attacking a specific minority group, you’ve taken it to a whole other level. I’ve worked with people who can figure the game out, and he’s done that so far. Is he everything I would like a candidate to be? No. But, given the position, we have no choice but to support him.
You live long enough, you make enough mistakes. You show me a politician that doesn’t have things they did in their past. Hillary Clinton – here’s a person who was secretary of state, and then United States senator and first lady. To say that this individual doesn’t understand what it means to handle top secret information. I was in the military – Marines for four years – if you violated that code, you were subject to military code of justice – you’d get put before a judge. She shouldn’t have wiggle room as it relates to her conduct.
Fratella: I agree that some things that he says can be said with a little more tact. I think you see in him someone who’s dynamic and appears more polished as he gets more seasoned in his campaigning. As far as the "never Trump" people go, the will of the people is what we need to represent. Mr. Trump received more votes than any other GOP candidate than any primary candidate in the history of the party. For the "never Trump" people to say they know better than what the people have decided is insulting. They are the elite who say, "We know better than you.”
It didn’t work in 2012 and won’t work today.
Where has the mainstream GOP failed?
Anderson: It appears that Republicans don’t want to do anything about passing laws on immigration. They don’t want to stop sanctuary cities. When it comes to military, I don’t think Obama is exercising his right under the Constitution to protect this country. Nobody in the House and Senate are able to support things that should be no-brainers. This is a culmination of years of nothing getting done that regular Republicans have asked for.
Do you think the party will unify at the convention?
Fratella: That’s the hope. I know that – from speaking with delegates on the rules committee – there was a push to unbind the at-large delegates and allow (John) Kasich and (Ted) Cruz people to vote their conscience ... but that did not gain much traction. As far as I know, everybody is going to be bound to Mr. Trump. Four months ago, it looked like there might be a second ballot, but we’re well beyond the more than 1,200 that we need. It’s about time everyone unites behind the candidate.
I think once we leave Cleveland, we’re going to see a unified party and people standing behind Mr. Trump. With Cruz and Paul Ryan speaking, we’ll see a message of unity coming from them. That’s the only way we can defeat Clinton in November. Very few people at the convention are on board with them. It’s a futile effort doing more harm than good at this point. In the end, we’re all under the same tent and we all have one goal on Nov. 8.
It would be nice if the governor and senator were there, but I understand where Sen. Kirk is working on a tough re-election battle. He’s doing what he feels is politically expedient for him. If he feels he wants to distance himself for Mr. Trump, that’s fine. Ultimately I want to see him win.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
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