YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNN) – Anywhere you look in Youngstown are reminders of what’s been lost, including factories and jobs. The city’s population is down by almost two-thirds from the 1950s.
The economy wasn’t just disappearing here, so was a way of life.
“I realized that the core foundation of our country was slipping away,” said Rick Green, an ironworker:
Anna Para, a retired mother of four, said it got to the point where she didn’t like the direction that the country was headed.
The answer for many here was Donald Trump.
In 2016, according to the Mahoning County Board of Elections, approximately 7,000 registered Democrats switched parties to become Republicans.
“He is going to make America first, and he’s going to bring jobs back,” said Pastor Derrick Anderson.
“Donald Trump says you’re in lousy trade deals, we fix that, the jobs will come back,” Geno Difabio, a machine shop worker.
“Something that he said that really sticks with me is that he wants to give the power back to the American people, and that’s something that I can certainly get behind,” said Justis Harrison, a student.
The pastor, stay-at-home mother, student, machine shop worker and union member are all Democrats who were raised in Democratic families who crossed over to vote for Trump.
One year into his presidency, the group said he has been doing a good job.
“Better than I ever would have dreamt. I mean that, sincerely,” Para said.
“Yeah, he’s doing wonderful. He’s staying on task,” Anderson added.
The group said immigration is a huge issue, even in Youngstown.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re stealing jobs of rightful citizens,” Green said.
It’s also about something else Trump voters say is important — rules and respect.
“I feel like when people come here illegally, that’s just very disrespectful. You don’t respect our laws, and you shouldn’t be able to come here freewheeling like that,” Harrison said.
A year later, all still want the wall.
As for the president’s inflammatory tweets and speech., Difabio said he used to cringe, but not anymore.
“I know what he’s done, and I’m starting to get an inkling of why he uses Twitter in the way he does, because if all he had to rely on is what people say about him, my God, I might not like the guy, and I love the guy, I love the job he’s doing,” he said.
Harrison met Trump at a rally and said he is not a racist.
“He was just the nicest person, and honestly, if he was a racist as everyone paints him out to be, he could have just walked right past me and not even said a word,” she said.
Difabio said he doesn’t believe that Trump is a liar, although he admits that he has fallen short of some of his goals.
Economically, the group says things are getting better — the stock market and their home values are up.
“Industries are booming,” Green said, admitting that this area isn’t seeing that “boom.”
“In this area, no, but in this area, I feel like there are small businesses that are starting to pick up,” he said.
Anderson said Trump’s tax reform will fuel the recovery.
“If you expand your business in the inner city, so then my community will benefit from this tax cut,” he said.
Group members said they all believed that the media hasn’t given Trump a fair shake.
One year later, they couldn’t be happier. They see achievement, and most of all, they see a president like them.
“He’s tenacious sometimes and says stuff off the cuff, like we do, like real Americans do,” Para said. “You know, we’re not perfect. I’m tired of suave. I’m tired of polished. I’m tired of the teleprompter. I am. I want my country back.”