HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country: It’s been quite a week for political news, with allegations of racism from both presidential candidates, and calls to disband the philanthropic behemoth that is the Clinton Foundation.
As the country watches all of this unfold, we take the temperature of the race.
Our Judy Woodruff sat down this week with a group of six voters in Northern Virginia, one of the few competitive states this election year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about the candidates.
We have been through this pretty long, some would say tortured process of figuring out who the nominees were going to be, especially on the Republican side. We started out with a big field of candidates. It’s now winnowed down to Donald Trump.
Alison, what do you think about Donald Trump?
ALISON KATZMAN, Tax Preparer: Early on, like, I would say last August, I felt Trump was going to be the nominee.
There was just something. He was drawing these crowds of ordinary citizens in. When he did his first Virginia rally in Richmond in October, I drove all the way down there to the Richmond International Raceway, and it was like a huge pep rally or a rah-rah revival. It got me involved in an emotional level in a way that none of the other candidacies, just listened to somebody on television, did.
And I also very much liked the fact that he was a businessman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Bill Lupinacci, have you said you voted Republican for a long time. So, what do you make of the argument that Donald Trump is somebody with business experience?
BILL LUPINACCI, Small Business Owner: I have disavowed my association with the Republican Party for this election, because I find him morally repugnant.
I have done business with his companies. They have bought our software. The word on the street is, get the money up front. Other people, other vendors of his say, get the money up front. So he pays us in credit cards when he has bought our software, his companies, not him personally.
The things that he says in his rallies to try to incite violence, to inflame people is sickening to me. I won’t have anything to do with it anymore. So I’m having nothing to do with the Republican Party this year, as are many other Republicans, like George Will and President Bush and others, saying they’re not going to for him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Marissa, what do you think? What is your take on Donald Trump?
MARISSA BAPTISTA, Federal Contractor: So, I have three young children. I’m actually the PTA president of a school, an elementary school of about 800 kids.
We have a sizable portion of English-language learners — we call them ELL — and then free and reduced lunch children, children who are from a lower socioeconomic status or group.
And it angers me when people say, well, we’re wasting all these money on these children that are illegal. They’re children. They want to be educated. They come here for a better life. Like, how do we say, because you were not born here or because you were some type of anchor baby or just something that is derogatory along those lines, that you don’t also deserve the same opportunities as every child that’s born here?
ALISON KATZMAN: If those children who are coming here illegally had been born in the home countries that they belong in, they wouldn’t be here anyway.
Where do we draw the line? At some point, we’re getting inundated. And it’s costing such as where I grew up. I grew up in Appalachia. There’s poor children there that were part of the poor lunch, the free lunch program and needed Head Start. And they’re being ignored.
It’s like, oh, bless the illegal immigrant children, illegal alien children. And we’re not taking it out on the children, but their parents are coming here, are plotting to bring them here with the idea that, oh, no, we’re not going to want to send them back.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me bring in Farah here.
You have been hearing this conversation about immigrants, illegal immigrants and other immigrants, are hurting this country. What do you think, and as it connects to Donald Trump?
FARAH IMAM, School Principal: There were things like — there were drugs, there were immigration problems, there was unemployment long before this perception of an immigrant wave.
It’s been a long — it’s been around long time. It’s the history of our nation, the history of our great nation. And it’s kind of what has built us and brought us to where we are.
And so I think, when we look at Trump or any other candidate, we need to think of how we can address those problems and not just say, we have to fight this and not do anything about it, essentially.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Corey, what about that? You have looked at him closely. You say you’re going to vote for him. What about that?
COREY SOLIVAN, IT Contractor: Donald Trump is very well-educated.
And a lot of his language that’s being spun into being divisive, I don’t think you will see these extreme policies come out of him. But what you will see is him using effective communication tactics that any effective leader does and utilizes to actually bring forward the issues, so that we can bring policy into legislation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Marissa, could that be an explanation, that he’s doing this to shock people and to get the conversation going, and that he’s not going to do this if he’s elected?
MARISSA BAPTISTA: So, that he’s relying on theatrics and abusing people on Twitter.
I mean, I work for a large corporation. The leaders in my corporation would never act the way in which he’s acting on such a large stage, with him potentially being the leader of our country. I mean, it just would never happen. So, I mean, I think…
COREY SOLVAN: If you study, though, any effective communicator, leadership, self-development professional, they all use these tactics in interventions. They use these tactics in…
JUDY WOODRUFF: What kind of tactics are you referring to?
COREY SOLIVAN: Powerful rhetoric, offensive rhetoric, things that get people’s attention and allow you to say, wait a minute, I have to think about this. What are my values? How do they affect the larger masses of people outside myself and inside my circle?
JUDY WOODRUFF: But let me — Tom, what about that tactic? Could this just be a tactic to get people talking?
TOM SMITH, Retired Teacher: Yes, I mean, the tactic, I would call bullying.
He’s really picking on people who are vulnerable. And the word repugnant was used to describe him. And I just — I don’t find any positive values in the guy. We talk about his business knowledge, $650 million in debt. He’s had how many bankruptcies? That’s not the way you run a successful business.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the end, but I certainly don’t want that leadership in the White House.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Alison.
ALISON KATZMAN: OK.
If you want the talk about divisiveness, I would point to the Obama administration, and hence Hillary as a subsequent administration. I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, but I thought maybe it’s a good thing we have got an African-American president, and it will bring racial harmony, and, well, it’s time, and even though I didn’t care for him.
But all he’s done is pretty much sneer and look down and feel like Americans who have been here for a long time, like myself and my family, are the enemy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I can see this is clearly an election that’s bringing up strong emotions and reactions.
You’re now confronted with two choices, two main party choices, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
And you have decided to vote for Clinton.
MARISSA BAPTISTA: Absolutely, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why?
MARISSA BAPTISTA: It was probably because I didn’t like Trump. I think if there were other Republican candidates that were maybe a little more moderate, then I could be swayed to vote the other side.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To vote against Clinton.
MARISSA BAPTISTA: To vote Republican, which I have never done in the past.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What is it about Clinton? You sound hesitant?
MARISSA BAPTISTA: It’s not necessarily that I’m hesitant. I think I just don’t know enough.
I think we were talking about, you know, how much time have you spent just listening to sort of the rhetoric or just the information that is coming out on TV? I work. I have three young children.
So, a lot of my information doesn’t come from the news. It comes from what I see on the Internet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom, what about you, as you look at the choices?
TOM SMITH: I feel like the economic mess that we’re a part of now goes way back, and both parties bear equal responsibility.
The losers have been the lower half or the lower — at this point, maybe, 90 percent of Americans, but certainly the lower half. And I don’t think either of the choices right now are going to serve that lower half.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton or Trump?
TOM SMITH: Clinton or Trump.
But, for me, the power of appointments is really critical for the future of the country, the Supreme Court, the attorney general, EPA, just down the line. Clinton, I have more confidence in who her appointees would be than I — than if Trump were president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Farah, what about you?
FARAH IMAM: I do tend to agree with Democratic Party when it comes to social policy.
When I comes down to if I had to choose between Trump or Clinton, I’m conflicted. If I had to choose between only those two, then maybe I wouldn’t vote. But knowing that I had…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Could you imagine yourself voting for Clinton?
FARAH IMAM: Yes. Yes. It’s just difficult.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why?
FARAH IMAM: There is a lack of sincerity that I feel with her.
And I know some people that I speak with are, like, oh, you’re just saying that because she’s a woman. But I’m a woman, too, so it’s not that. It’s, I don’t find her relatable. I don’t feel like she can, even though she’s a mother, she’s a working mother, she just — she has a hard time relating to a broader population.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to come back to you, Bill.
You’re a traditional Republican. We wouldn’t expect you to support the Democrat. But did you even give her any thought in this election?
BILL LUPINACCI: It’s a possibility. I doubt I’m going to vote for her. I seriously doubt.
But vilifying her and making her into — as the right has done, into this caricature is just wrong. I’m more likely to vote for neither a Democrat or a Republican. I’m looking at both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m struck that, in a state where Hillary Clinton is supposedly polling, I don’t know, 10 points ahead, that there is no one here who is enthusiastic for Hillary Clinton.
Am I hearing you correctly?
MARISSA BAPTISTA: Actually, now that I think about it, I think, because of her position within the Democratic Party, so she falls in lines with things that typical Democrats support, pro-choice, pro-immigration, stronger restriction on like gun laws, or tightening up those gun laws.
So, I think she falls in line with the Democratic Party, the platform, so, in that, I would say that I would vigorously support her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Would plan to vote for her?
MARISSA BAPTISTA: Oh, absolutely, yes.
TOM SMITH: And I will vote for her, for sure. I can’t imagine a country run by Trump.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to try to sum this all up by asking you all whether you think it’s possible for the country to come together, or are we just destined, at least for the next number of years, to be divided?
COREY SOLVAN: I think, unfortunately, I think we’re looking at four more years of division.
You would like to…
JUDY WOODRUFF: No matter who is elected, you’re saying?
COREY SOLIVAN: Yes. Yes.
You would like to hope and wish for it to be different, but we have come so far apart, it’s going to take time to start healing and coming back to a middle ground on everyday issues that affect all of us.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Bill, what do you think? Can the country come together under these circumstances?
BILL LUPINACCI: What I’m hoping for, what I think could be possibly the best for the country, is if these independents get enough vote, because people are so disgusted with both the Republicans and the Democrats, that these two independents, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, get enough votes that it puts the fear of God into them and saying, oh, maybe four years from now, a third party can win.
It’s going to be almost impossible for them to win this year. But maybe it will scare them enough to say, one of these parties just might take it in four years because the country is fed up.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does anybody see coming together, or do we just live with this division?
FARAH IMAM: This nation was built on hope and perseverance and renewed chances.
And I feel like, no matter what, we will find ways to come together again. We will find topics to come together again. I think we’re all kind of aching for it, no matter Republican, Democrat, independent. I think we all kind of need that, that moment of unity again, because we’re all kind of like, oh, my gosh, the ship is sinking. But — so that’s — so, I do have hope.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re going to leave it there. We thank you all very much.
There is a lot more we could talk about tonight. But this has really been a wonderful conversation and I thank you all very much.
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