Post-election, I had the privilege of interviewing blogger Jenni from Mama Plus One who voted for Trump. That interview garnered a lot of traffic and engagement on my site. Here’s the link if you’d like to revisit.
Now, almost half-a-year into Trump’s presidency, I invited Jenni back. I truly appreciate her thoughtful, intelligent responses and hope this continues a healthy dialogue across the political spectrum. I should note that the interview was conducted over the course of several months, as you will probably discern. Pictures are of Jenni and her son, and the surrounding Kansas City area, including their favorite place, the Sporting Kansas City soccer stadium.
I realized when I did my first interview with you, I didn’t ask about you as a person! I’m so sorry. can you tell us more about yourself? Where you’re from, what you do, any interesting fun facts?
I grew up in Kansas, near Kansas City. I was born and raised here, and still live in the town I was born in. My family spent much of my teenage years hosting foreign exchange students, so I am blessed to say that many parts of the world hold my heart and that I have family in many countries around the world. As a result, I’ve been blessed to travel, visiting Germany as a teenager to spend time in my exchange sister’s home, and building houses in Mexico in college. I think spending time with students from around the world– Pakistan, Vietnam, Germany, Bolivia, Brazil, Scotland… has helped shape my worldview so much. As an adult, I took this love for foreign exchange programs and worked as a social media manager for two exchange organizations, and have given lectures on the use of social media by non-profit organizations.
Currently, my time is spent primarily with my son. He is 5 and was diagnosed with autism last year. I homeschool, and we have a lot of fun exploring his passions and interests, which right now primarily revolve around tornadoes, Minecraft, and superheroes.
I also spend much of my time outside of work volunteering with a local non-profit group that is aiming to help teens in our community feel more connected. The group started after two teens in our town (one of them being very close to our family) committed suicide less than a year apart. Their goals include a teen center and skate park in the future, but right now they plan monthly events that are free for teens. I work with them to design flyers and help them run their social media accounts.
I love coffee, Target, and beautiful sunsets.
I think there are many positive aspects to Trump’s presidency and a few downsides. I worry that sometimes he is too quick to jump on Twitter, where I don’t feel he has enough characters to make his point clear. 140 characters isn’t enough to tackle a big topic, so sometimes he comes off very poorly on the platform; I think difficult or challenging topics should be saved for a platform that gives you room to appropriately convey the message instead of being limited to 140 characters.
I think sometimes our President is focused on the wrong things (like the inauguration attendance) rather than on things that are very important. However, I really feel that he has done a good job so far of tackling issues. I loved the fact that Trump was ready to dive in right away– his clear push to sit down and immediately begin making good on his campaign promises was encouraging. I feel like we finally have a president who is doing his best to do what he had promised to do, and I feel like we’ve really seen a lack of that drive on both sides of the political lines in my lifetime.
I am encouraged because I feel like our country was struggling in many ways, especially financially, as a result of decisions made by both parties over the last several years. I feel his fresh look at the budget has been an enlightening one, and I really am excited to see how his full 4 years as the president goes. I don’t think Trump is without fault, but I definitely think that he is doing a good job and making progress towards his campaign promises, which makes me feel like I made the right decision in voting for him.
What are your thoughts on Russia hacking the election? Do you think Trump legitimately won the election?
I don’t believe Russia hacked the election; I feel Trump legitimately won. I know it can be surprising when many were outspoken against him, but you have to look at the fact that those who supported Hillary were statistically less likely to vote. In addition, a lot of people were really hoping for a significant change in the administration. I know I personally didn’t feel like Hillary was a big change compared to Obama, so I think voters were more likely to come out in force in the states where it mattered. I don’t think Russia had any impact on the election; I think people expected more young voters to show up than actually did, and I think people underestimated the number of voters that planned to vote for Trump. Because of the hate and outrage and anger on both sides, I think many Trump voters were afraid to make their vote very public, which may have also skewed the numbers.
I can definitely see both sides of this issue, but in honesty, I’m in support of it. There’s a difference between an outright ban and a delay, and right now, a delay and a vetting process is best for safety. I have had far too many Muslim friends to think that all Muslims are outright bad or anything like that. But we have to look at this for what it is– a country travel restriction, rather than a religious-based restriction (Christians from the travel-impacted countries are just as disallowed from coming as Muslims, for example). I often see the media referring to it as a Muslim ban or something, and that’s just not what it is.
I look at the things that have happened in the world in the last few years– the Bataclan attacks in France, the German Christmas market being driven into, so many things. With family in Germany, I see the policies that their country holds of having very open borders, especially when it comes to refugees. I can’t help but wonder if those very open borders had an impact on the level of radical terrorism that is happening, and I think we need a waiting period to better vet those coming in. I disagree with an outright ban, but if it takes a 90-day delay to prevent things like that, I am definitely in support of that.
What do you think of Trump’s new health care plan?
I’m very mixed here… I have my concerns that some of the things I disliked about the Affordable Care Act are still very much in play, and I have my concerns that it really just feels like an “updated” ACA when I wasn’t a fan of that. That said, I think it’s a fair “first step” and if it takes several revisions and steps to get a program that makes sure everyone who needs health care can get it without it being required and becoming a tax issue, then I’ll be happy with this as a stepping stone. As it stands now, and as it reads now, I’m not really a fan of it at all. I think it could have been better.
One of the biggest things that I saw as a positive to Betsy Devos was the intense backlash and criticism there was. To me, some of that fear that things will change is a positive thing– if things change, it may be for the better. I’ll be honest, I very much see schools as something that should be state- and locally-based when it comes to government. I don’t think Federal oversight is helpful, and I believe it is far more of a hindrance than a help. I’d honestly be very okay with DeVos not being in, provided we get rid of national oversight of education altogether– I don’t feel it needs to be a federally based system. I see what it is, but I am a big proponent of smaller government and local or state control of many issues.
I am the mother of a child with Autism. I saw the outrage, the fear, and the frustration expressed by other parents of children with autism. My heart breaks for them, that they feel the fear that she isn’t qualified or that she plans to take away programs that help them very much. That said, I think she needs a chance.
I am a big fan of school choice, and that’s one area Betsy and I agree very strongly. As a homeschooling family, I think that the idea of school choice is very intriguing. Finally, I feel that the public education outcry at Betsy Devos as the choice for education was very telling. Betsy Devos is critical of public schools for good reason. I have seen the public system at work and I have seen it fail people many times, and the sad thing is that I come from a very good school district. I was a public school student, and my younger brother was for part of his education. I have friends and family who are teachers. But I also think there are many ways that public schools are failing our kids, and if it takes a critical eye to look at that, good.
I do feel that there is a reason for concern that Betsy Devos doesn’t have public school experience. That said, I think sometimes an outsider-looking-in perspective can be very helpful, and I’m confident that, given the proper opportunity to dialogue about issues, Betsy Devos could provide some very helpful perspective into schools and the public school system to give it the reform it truly deserves.
I think in some ways it is very strong, and I think, as always, there are some things I disagree with. I do think a big thing for me with the proposed budget is that people look at it themselves, rather than taking what the media is saying at face value. For example, the recent outrage that Trump is getting rid of Meals on Wheels was inherently false. Trump proposed getting rid of a grant that states could choose how they spend, and some states choose to use it on Meals on Wheels. Other states do not. With 97% of Meals on Wheels funding coming from private donors and corporations (from their own income report), and 3% coming from government sources (that include grants directly from state and local governments), the small sliver that may be impacted by this budget cut is tiny (and in other states, is non-existent as they don’t receive funding at all from the grant being cut). As a result of media outrage, Meals on Wheels donations increased nationwide.
I just think people need to take the time to read over the budget for themselves, think it over, and be cautious about jumping to conclusions and outrage based on media reporting. For me, there are some big positives to the budget, and there are some concerns and downsides.
I do think that the perspective of someone who is a businessman, and not a politician, is very helpful in terms of making steps that will help with our Nation’s debt, so I think it’s very encouraging to see the moves Trump is making with our overall budget. Time will tell when everything is said and done, what will actually happen with the budget.
How would you grade Trump’s Presidency (A to F)?
I would say Trump’s presidency is around a “B” for me. I think he’s done a lot of the things he promised to do, which is really encouraging. I still stand by the thoughts that I would like to see him take a breath before he responds on Twitter. We’re in a day and age where reactions and responses have the power to happen instantaneously. If I don’t like something you’re saying, I can call you out on it right away, when years ago, I may have taken some time to think it over before responding. I expect better from our president, a thought-out response versus an immediate response, and so that’s probably the main area in which I feel he could do better. I’m interested to see where things go in terms of health care and immigration, because I still don’t think we’ve seen the final word on where those issues and topics could go. I think a lot could happen over the rest of Trump’s presidency, whether he serves one term or two, so I could decide he’s doing even better and give him an A by the end, or I could get really frustrated and give him an F. Right now, I think he’s doing pretty solidly, and I’ll say it’s a good B from me.
As for his international tour, I think that it accomplished what it needed to. That said, I’m frustrated that I read a lot less about what Trump did and said on his tour, and a lot more about what Melania wore in various places. It seemed to me in most cases, the media was quick to report on her fashion and style choices and it frustrates me because it distracted from the overall purpose of the tour. I know one really significant difference between his international tour and other previous international tours was that it was so late into his term. Many other presidents went within 50 days of taking office, but Trump waited 119 days before he went abroad. I like that he took time before going abroad, because I felt like he was giving his total focus on what needed to take place here before he went overseas, and to me, that shows where his priority is… in taking care of business here first.
I did want to give one final note that isn’t related to the questions you asked me, but I felt it was important in light of recent news. I feel frustrated with how much both sides say they really want to take the higher road and be kind to each other, but we consistently see a silencing of one side or another. Take recent protests of speakers, like the Antifa protests when Milo Yiannopolous was looking at speaking there. It wasn’t a shut down of free speech, but instead a riot that destroyed property (not that I agree with Milo, because I certainly don’t, but it’s just part of the point I’m making). We see celebrities like Kathy Griffin going beyond speech against a president and instead show her holding what appears to be his severed head (even though it wasn’t actually his head, the realism was concerning). My issue there is that this wouldn’t be acceptable for people to do for any president. I may not have been a fan of Obama, but I respected that he was our President, and I would have been appalled at anyone holding his (fake) severed head. It would just be shocking, upsetting, and horrifying that anyone would think or suggest that about the leader of our country. I really wish that both sides would sit down, have a conversation, and stop trying to be right all the time. I think the sooner we open ourselves up to actually talking, and to hearing other perspectives, our nation will find the healing it so desperately needs. The thing is, this hate is coming from both sides, but regardless of where it’s coming from, it’s hurtful and frustrating. I just hope that our country can find the healing it deserves before it tears itself apart at the seams over politics.
One final request to ask if you have any update to your previous response on what is currently transpiring with the Russia investigation.
Right now, I have no doubt that Russia did absolutely try to do something. I’m not sure what their end game goal was at all, but I also think that unless Trump is officially investigated with ties to Russia, our focus should be on Russia more specifically than Trump/Russia. If we are really concerned about the fact that Russia was involved in our election, we need to take a hard look at how they were able to be so involved during election season, which fell under the previous administration. What was happening during that time that allowed Russia to get into our systems?
I also have to say that even many members of the press that lean towards the left are very much saying that the discussions on Russia are, at least in part, for ratings. I think that we’re talking up Russia to be something much bigger than it is. It isn’t that it’s a non-issue– it IS very much an issue. But I think the media has a lot of people confused as to what is real news, what’s “fake news,” and what the actual truth is, that probably lies somewhere in the middle of everything.
It will definitely be an interesting story to watch play out, and I’ll be interested in seeing where the investigations lead, but overall, I don’t think I have enough information on the topic to fully inform myself either way on how I feel about the whole thing.
Thank you so much, Jenni, for collaborating with me!
- Any thoughts or comments?
- Or more importantly, any common ground?