Joe Sacco, a 74-year-old retired police officer, always knew Donald Trump would take Pennsylvania: “Talking to people, you could just feel that everybody was for him.” During the campaign, even churchgoers in Sacco’s hometown in rural southern York County got behind Trump. “That shocked me in the beginning,” he admits. “They told me, ‘We have a preacher. We need a president.’” Union guys in town — another group that was supposed to be anti-Trump — liked him, too: “They were all wearing Trump hats.”
Sacco never thought about voting for Hillary Clinton: “She’s a very mean, ill-tempered woman.” Trump, on the other hand, was his man since the primary. He liked his stance on three big issues: jobs, immigration and Obamacare. “A lot of people are out of work all throughout the county,” Sacco says. The number of jobs in York County’s manufacturing industry has fallen by 34 percent in the past 20 years. Sacco says the few people he knows who still work in factories have seen their hours chopped in half; “People can’t make it off part-time hours.” He believes Trump when he says he’ll bring the jobs back. He also believes him when he says he’ll deport undocumented immigrants and repeal Obamacare — two steps Sacco thinks will help the economy. “The wife and I are paying $1,000 a month for insurance, and we’re seniors. It’s ridiculous. If you get rid of Obamacare, that’ll bring back trillions of dollars,” he asserts. (The economic impact of such a repeal has been widely contested.) He then adds, “You’re only supposed to allow so many people into the country at a time. If you don’t, you’ll be overpopulated. You’ll be a third-world country.”
Sacco brushes off questions about Trump’s Access Hollywood tape: “He made a mistake, he apologized for it.” He has a similar attitude when asked about Trump’s proposed Muslim ban and the spate of alleged hate crimes that were reported after Election Day. Sacco says Trump never meant it when he said he’d prevent Muslim immigrants from entering the country; “He just wanted them vetted,” he insists. And “Trump has come out and denounced any hate crime committed in his name.” But, he says, that doesn’t mean Trump gets a free pass — not even close. “If he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, I’m not going to vote to reelect him. I want him to live up to at least 70 percent of his promises.” If Trump doesn’t, it won’t be the first time Sacco has been let down by a politician. He was optimistic when an outsider from Illinois defied the odds and clinched the presidency in 2008: “I was happy to see the first African-American win it. I thought he was going to bring change and bring everybody together. But that didn’t happen.”
Published as “Trump: The View from York County” in the January 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.