In the last week of the 2016 presidential election, almost everyone expected a different outcome. The Clinton campaign, most of the U.S. and, hell, even Trump and his supporters had prepared themselves for a Clinton win.
And yet: around 2 a.m. on the East Coast, Republican Nominee Donald Trump made an acceptance speech. His supporters cheered. The media, large swaths of the country, asked themselves, "How? Who voted for this guy?"
Turns out, millions of people did, especially white men (63 percent of white men cast their vote for Trump) and a majority of white women voters did, too. (53 percent, according to some data.) The second statistic was particularly surprising, after a number of women reported he had sexually assaulted and harassed them, after a tape of vulgarities advocating sexual assault surfaced, after he had announced mediocre family leave plans on the tail of resurfaced quotes of him saying women who get pregnant were a pain for employers.
The (granted, white) women's vote hardly seemed like a slam-dunk. But their vote put him over the top.
I reached out over social media to talk to moms who voted for Trump to try to understand what about this divisive, bombastic, seemingly anti-woman candidate made them want to support him.
Candice Hope, 39, and a Michigan mother of two, told me she voted for Trump because of God and guns.
I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who supports abortion
“I believe he is the candidate that will best uphold the Constitution and preserve our hard-fought-for rights, including the freedom of worship and the right to bear arms," Hope said. "I want my children to grow up in a country where they are free to express their faith and not have to be silent or afraid."
Trump spent much of his campaign particularly hard on the Islamic faith, promising to ban muslims from entering the U.S. in his first days in office.
Hope said by the time her 10-year-old is old enough to enlist, which he says he wants to do, Trump may still be president. "I want a commander that is for our military and has their back.”
The two most important reasons Rachel G., (who asked that her last name be withheld) an early voter in Arizona and mother of three, supported Trump were abortion and religion.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who supports abortion," she said. "When I stand before God on my Judgment Day, I want to be able to say without waiver that I was a voice for those who could not speak."
She said the other big issue for her was a strong military, and she believes Trump will stand up for the military.
"I was raised by a navy sailor, and I am married to an army soldier," Rachel said. "This is the only way of life I know. I have to support someone standing up for the military."
Alexandra, who asked that her last name be withheld, said she wanted to return American to "common sense principles and policies that ensure the continuation of freedom."
"I didn’t vote merely as a woman, a wife, or a mother,” the 30-year-old Georgia mother of two said, “I cast my ballot for Mr. Trump as a citizen of these great United States, whose concerns regarding the condition of the economy, our national security and the sanctity of human life rose above the uncomfortable labels or unfortunate vitriol levied by his detractors.
I think Trump is an ass, but I agree with him on policy issues.
She said she is thankful for the results and "more hopeful for our children’s futures than ever before."
Steph, who also has three children and is an army wife living overseas, paints a more cynical picture of Trump. Still, she voted for him via absentee ballot.
“I voted for Rubio in the primary, but he lost," she said. Then, "I think Trump is an ass, but I agree with him on policy issues. I don’t believe he’s a racist, however. I think he said those things because he was courting the vote of scared and angry people. I think he loves America and respects the Constitution."
She said she liked the fact that he’s an outsider. "I also think the media was completely out to make him look worse than he is," she said.
RELATED: When Moms Vote Blue in a Red State
“My initial thought was, he’s the lesser of two evils,” Kathryn Ojerio, mother and grandmother living in Arizona. Digging a little deeper she said she thought he supported military families and their issues more. “As the wife of a veteran, the mother of daughter serving as an Air Force officer, and grandmother to two young girls, those things are very important to our family.”
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