An honest conversation with my Chinese-American dad: Why are you a hardcore Trump supporter?

My father and I disagree on many things when it comes to politics.

Mothership | November 04, 2020, 10:30 AM

PERSPECTIVE: As the U.S. presidential election quickly approaches, one of our writers had an honest conversation with her father, a Chinese immigrant to the U.S. and Trump supporter.

The author gets his views on Trump's policies, including how he has been handling the pandemic, and tries to understand why her father supports and respects president Donald Trump.

My father and I are different in many ways. One of our biggest differences — and area of disagreement — in the past few years has been his fervent support for Donald Trump.

My dad, who immigrated to the U.S. from China in 1994 for his studies and became a U.S. citizen in 2008, is among the sizeable group of Chinese-Americans and Asian-Americans in general who support the current U.S. president and Republican candidate for the 2020 presidential election.

I, however, am adamantly against Trump — both in terms of his personal behaviour, and his policies.

We've discussed our differing beliefs before, but our conversations have usually ended in frustration or anger on one or both of our parts, because we end up talking — or yelling — past one another.

So in the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential Election, I decided to have a conversation with him to try to understand why he believes what he does, instead of fighting him on every disagreement.

With his consent, here is how (snippets of) our almost two-hour-long conversation went.

To start off, why do you support Trump? What do you respect about him?

First, the values, the views. I'm more turned to the Republican.

And second, he has strong faith in God. For example, he's pro-life. And you see from the Bible, God created man and woman.

That's the reason more than 80 per cent of evangelical Christians support Trump.

And third, he keeps his promises. From what he has been doing for these three-and-a-half years, we can know that.

Also, he's strong. He's strong-minded, and we need a strong leader.

Politics right now is in a bad image, actually all over the world. Politicians are losing good impressions from the common people. People kind of lose trust in them. Politicians are hypocritical; they talk the talk, but no action.

But Trump, he is a businessman. He is more direct. At least, we feel he is honest. When he speaks out, he just speaks.

Another thing is that Republicans encourage hardworking. Democrats kind of give some excuse for people don't work hard. They just increase tax, try to take rich people's money to try to support poor people.

What degree of support is okay? Like when you were laid off in the 2008 recession, you received unemployment benefits. Do you think unemployment benefits encourage people to not be hardworking?

I don't think that falls into that. Of course, this is a big topic. People are unemployed for many reasons. It's not voluntarily. For example, right now the pandemic, in this situation, this is the right way to support temporarily.

So when you were receiving unemployment benefits, did you feel like you didn't need to find a job, or that you could just enjoy the benefits without worry?

Not that kind of feeling. I was still thinking that was just temporary, I needed to find a job or even better job. So in 2008, in a couple months, I found another job.

Do you feel like others will think like you did?

How other people think, I'm not so clear. But I feel that maybe if I knew that there was money I could get without working, I could fall into that trap. That's the kind of sin in our nature.

Then why didn't you? And why do you think others would?

I wanted to find another job. It's my responsibility to support family. I want a better life.

Don't you think other people want a better life?

Of course other people want a better life too, but we have to work. We need to work. It's very clear — no work, no food.

What did you think about America's system of democracy when you first came from China?

It's a free society. Democratic. By democratic, I mean that people are free to say what they want to say, including freedom of faith, liberty.

Besides the opportunity to learn, to find an ideal job, the freedom and the real democracy was the most important part for people like daddy, who came from China, from Eastern Europe, who came to this country.

Before we come to this country, we just have the secondhand experience from TV, from media. Only after we landed on this land, we breathed this atmosphere, we had the opportunity to go to the church.

I went to church and got to know God, know Christ, and become Christian. And in turn, know more about this country.

In the communist country, the Communist party is the faith. But in this country, the foundation is the God, the church.

Until now. It's changed over the past 20 years.

What do you think has changed?

There is political correctness. And separation of church and state — we kicked out our great God's name.

And we've lost the freedom to speak. That's the very, very sad thing. That's the main reason people chose Trump four years ago.

That's what I think Make America Great Again is about — it's not really about more jobs, more material goods. More about real freedom in faith, real freedom in liberty, real freedom in democracy, instead of the so-called political correctness.

There are also a lot of Christians who don't support Trump. Do you think they are wrong?

I don't judge them. I only judge if I (am voting) from my conscience, from my principles.

We are not voting for a politician, not voting for a person. We are voting for the person who represents the country, represents the procedure, represents the policy we want going forward.

We're voting for our next generation, we are voting for our grandkids, we are voting for our future.

As your parents, that's our responsibility, to vote for our kids, our grandkids, who are the next generation.

What kind of world do you hope to give your children — me and [my brother] — by voting for Trump?

The values, the views, the family, pro-life. Of course, the great country — the prosperity of the country, the country's security, the strength of the country.

All of this is the great benefit for you and your brother, and for your family, for your children in the future.

What if that's not what your children want? What if you're voting for something that my brother and I don't want?

That's our responsibility. How can kids who don't know what's right and wrong have the freedom to choose?

But we're both adults, and not kids anymore. We have our own opinions, and the ability to make our own decisions. Are you voting for what you think we should want or for what we actually want?

First, kids are still kids, even if you're an adult.

Secondly, as parents, we have a responsibility. We should not surrender our responsibility to just give you what you want.

But of course, we listen if your desire is right, then we agree. But if we think that's wrong, why should we surrender our responsibility to that?

How well do you feel that Trump has handled the pandemic?

I think he tried his best, given his knowledge, even though the results are not satisfactory to many people. The results are not that ideal, especially when compared to some countries, like China.

Also, he has responsibility, but it's not only his fault. If we want to pick the fault, it's not his own fault. He has the CDC director, doctors, his team.

At the beginning of this pandemic, they worked very hard. As the president of this country, he has many other work to do.

Could Trump have done better, given the knowledge that he had? For example, he has often disagreed with advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the White House's coronavirus task force.

In general, so far they have consensus. President Trump and his subordinates, they work together even though there is some disagreement, it's still very open.

That's the fundamental thing. That's the leadership, that's the great thing about this country; under the Republican president, they have a Democratic expert. [Editor's note: Trump called Fauci a "Democrat" during a campaign rally on Oct. 15, but Fauci responded that it was "just noise". Fauci told CNN that he has never directly nor indirectly endorsed a political candidate.]

Trump called Covid-19 the "China virus" and "kung flu". How did you feel when you heard that?

Although I'm American now, I'm from China. Of course, when I heard this, I didn't feel comfortable, personally.

But also, we also know that over the past 100 years, there have been many other viruses that killed millions and millions of people, like the Spanish virus (Spanish Flu). Those kind of virus are just called the name from the origin.

So even though at first I didn't feel good when Trump called that the Chinese virus, on the other side, it's just the origin. So that made me think from the other side.

The difference is that there's another name — Covid-19 — that scientists have given it, and that's used in newspapers, media, journal articles. But Trump still chose to call it the China virus.

Yes, you can imply that he has a strong opinion or strong agenda.

He has his reason. It's not for him personally. He represents a country. He has his plan. So that's beyond my understanding.

Because the point is that we need to know the origin. Either China or maybe USA, or maybe Korea. Maybe this will be a mystery forever! He just used this origin as the virus name.

And a country's representative — the president — he has his right to do this. We are not in his position. We have nothing to control.

There's this saying in Chinese — bùzài qí wèi, bù móu qí zhèng (不在其位,不谋其政): If you're not in that position, don't do something. I hope you understand this.

Is there anything you disagree with Trump about?

Some of his foreign policies, like being too strong with my home country, China. Too strong, too brutal with China.

Do you ever feel caught in the middle, or torn or confused or sad about this?

Yes, sometimes I feel very confused. But because we share the same faith, that helps me understand the situation.

So, that makes me not that confused, not like stuck in the middle or something like that.

You obviously know how I feel about Trump. What do you wish I understood about him?

It's still about the faith, that's the fundamental thing. I wish you knew him better, so you could understand his faith.

Our life is a pilgrimage, all based on our walk in our faith, not about things. It really starts from our faith. We do what we believe.

That's why he's pro-life, about family values, about the country's security, about encouraging people to work, the work values, build the wall, those kind of things.

Is there anything else I didn't ask you about that you want to share? Otherwise, I'll let you get back to washing the dishes.

I think I tried my best to answer your questions. Thank you for your talk!

Thanks Dad, I think this was better than most of our conversations about Trump.

I treasure this opportunity. I learned a lot too.

Photo courtesy of author.

I won't pretend like this conversation with my father solved all — or really, any — of our disagreements. It was frustrating, and voices were definitely raised at certain points.

My father and I still fundamentally disagree on what an ideal future looks like for his children — myself and my brother — and for the country. 

But this was one of the first times I really listened to the context of my father's beliefs, and it was the first time he engaged with and acknowledged the validity of certain criticisms and shortcomings of Trump. 

Which is a good start. 

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Top photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, courtesy of author. Some quotes have been edited for clarity.