My interview with an Asian American for Trump
Dr. Toribio Flores is an ear, nose, and throat guy at the Cleveland Clinic. And he’s going to the Republican Convention.
“I’m not afraid,” he tells me.
But I know most of America is.
We’ve arrived at the point many of us have been dreading. The GOP is all set to be re-branded Trump’s Old Party, the TOP.
So why does it feel like American democracy has hit rock bottom?
By the time we get to this point in an election year, we all should be soaring with the hopes and aspirations of the triumphant leader of our respective parties. Remember hope and change?
This year, however, our leaders seem so flawed– instead of flying high, we’re all mired knee deep in the dung of our choice.
I’ve covered politics and been to a few conventions since the 1980s, and while the idea of “holding your nose” while voting is not a new concept, there is a sense that in this cycle, we find ourselves close to asphyxiating more than ever before.
According to a recent New York Times/CBS poll, more than a third of Republicans say they’re disappointed with Donald the Disruptor. And for the Democrats, more than a quarter say they are disappointed with Hillary Clinton, with another seven percent saying they are upset.
“In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates and large majorities say neither is honest nor trustworthy,” the Times continued. “Only half of voters say Mrs. Clinton is prepared to be president, while an astonishing two-thirds say that Mr. Trump is not ready for the job–including four in 10 Republicans.”
This is not exactly what one would call a ringing endorsement for either of our major political standard bearers.
What’s a believer in our American system supposed to do?
Maybe you need one of these this year to survive the political year:
Don’t go voting without one?
That’s when I knew I had to call Dr. Flores, my ear, nose, and throat acquaintance at the Cleveland Clinic.
He has access to industrial strength nose clamps.
Flores, 65, a leader in the Filipino American community in the Cleveland area–and a mad rhumba dancer–wishes he could be as passionate on the convention floor as he can be on the dance floor.
But his attitude reflects the polls. This is not the year for political passion unless your passion coincides with Trump’s vanity.
“I really don’t like him,” said Flores, who during the primary season backed his home state’s leader, John Kasich.
For Flores, Trump was near the bottom of the pack. That wasn’t to be the case for the rest of GOP voters, and now even the establishment is falling into line, and so is Flores, reluctantly.
“He’s not an ideal candidate,” said Flores about the man he is voting for, who then explained his hesitancy. “I don’t think he’s a conservative. He’s acting conservative because he wants the Republican nomination.”
So why not vote for Hillary Clinton?
“I can’t trust Hillary,” Flores said. “I think she’s a very dishonest person.”
As if Trump in his own myriad of misstatements is a paragon of trust.
But again, as the polls suggest, the outcome of the email scandal has hurt Hillary. And Asian American Republicans like Flores can’t seem to find a way to forgive her.
“It bothers me the FBI and the attorney general won’t prosecute,” said Flores. I think the electorate will treat her harshly for what she’s done.”
And that’s the mental calculation among many Republicans these days. Trump’s not great, but he’s no Hillary.
Funny how Democrats are saying just the opposite.
Still, it’s strange to hear someone like Flores, a standard immigrant success story, voting for Trump. The Times/CBS poll also showed Hillary as the one who overwhelmingly scored highest on doing a better job with race relations–60 percent to Trump, 29 percent.
But maybe that depends on how much money you have, or if you even care.
Flores said the Filipinos in Cleveland were upper middle class and above. They’re successful aspirants with politics to match. Flores said 65 percent of the Filipinos in the Cleveland area were Republican.
Flores calls himself a fiscal conservative and a good Catholic who is strong on religious values. His success in America defines his political profile. He’s for low taxes and a small, efficient government that is rid of waste and inefficiency.
It’s the political value system of an immigrant who came with nothing, and thinks you can make it too, if you work hard.
Flores came to America during the Marcos dictatorship as a Philippine-trained doctor. He took all the tests he needed to qualify to practice here and started out doing medicine in the little towns of Pennsylvania. America has been his land of opportunity.
And if you doubt his compassion, he’ll say he’s ready to provide care and even perform surgery for free to all who are truly in need.
When he arrived in the U.S., Flores said he was actually a die-hard fan of the American Camelot story, the Kennedys. Over time, he’s shifted his views. But he’s still managed to preserve a fairy tale. Flores honestly believes he’s seen little discrimination in America. So little, in fact, that for him, race doesn’t even come into play in the election.
But democracy this year is imperfect. And even a Trump-voting Asian American Republican ear-nose-throat doc realizes that casting a ballot will require a nose clip.