Terry Phelps says he was “reluctant” to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. This time around, however, he’s looking forward to “proudly” supporting the president in his race against Joe Biden.
The 66-year-old conservative has lived in Wyoming for over 30 years, where he has voted for both Republicans and Democrats in local elections.
But over the last ten years, he says both parties have become increasingly polarized by moving further from the middle, an issue that has become a top concern for Phelps in 2020.
He calls it “the conservatives versus the liberals,” and he’s sure not to use the terms Democrat or Republican.
Both parties, he says, have been taken over by the ideals of their constituents who represent the fringe, the most radical or the furthest to the left or right, respectively.
While he notes the Republican Party has faced the same issue, his main concern is with the Democrats.
“I think the liberals have just started going so far, I would have a hard time as a Democrat to go that far to the left,” he says.
“I think a general discussion is good, but some things I just can’t go there at all," he continues. "The number one being abortion.”
Phelps says he understands and supports abortion being a legal medical practice in some cases, but for the most part, he’s against it.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 200,000 Americans, Phelps says he’s been mostly insulated from the impact of the novel virus as a Wyoming resident.
He fully admits to not being as concerned about the pandemic as he is over the issue of women’s reproductive rights—and he’s not alone, either. A Gallup poll earlier this summer showed that nearly half of Americans surveyed considered abortion among the key issues they would consider while choosing a candidate for president.
“I’m all for abotions in certain situations, and I’m all against abortions in certain situations,” he explains.
Phelps says he’s also concerned about immigration—another key issue most Americans have at the top of their minds this election, according to surveys—and supports the president’s efforts to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Abortion and immigration are top concerns for Phelps, and it isn’t lost on this conservative voter that the Supreme Court has the power to make decisions surrounding both of these important issues.
“The Supreme Court is a big issue,” he says, adding that he fully supports the president choosing a nominee to fill the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacancy following her death last week.
“I don’t know how to explain it other than saying that Trump is obligated by law to nominate. That’s his job. In the Constitution it’s very clear—that’s his job.”
I ask about the late justice’s dying wish not to be replaced until a new president is installed, and whether he supported Trump teasing a nominee the day after her death.
“Well, on the other hand, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has only been dead for a few days. You would think that he would give it a little bit of time,” he says. “So I think that’s kind of silly. But if the roles were reversed, I’m 100% sure that Obama or Biden would do the same thing.”
He adds: “That’s just part of it. If you’re in control, you’re going to do what you think is best. If you’re not in control, you’re going to hate it. But if you’re in control, you’re going to do it the way you want it to be done.”
Nominating conservative justices was one of the main reasons Phelps says he voted for the president back in 2016, when he was far more disillusioned with Trump’s political style and brand along the campaign trail.
Phelps still isn’t always happy with how the president conducts himself on social media, and wishes he would perhaps comport himself in a more presidential tone. But he appreciates what he says is Trump’s commitment to the military and gun rights, two additional core issues the president has made central to his re-election campaign.
Moreover, he says Trump is better-suited to run the country than Biden, who he believes is “simply a politician getting manipulated by people.”
Interestingly, Phelps used to have a positive view of the former vice president.
“Joe used to be pretty good,” he says. “But his good days are behind him.”
As we speak, I remind Phelps that the Republican Party has taken on many radical positions, much like he says the left has done in recent years.
He says that while the Democratic Party wants open borders, the Republicans want to build a massive wall across the entire US-Mexico border. He says Democrats are for late-term abortion, but many Republicans have called for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, despite the fact that the majority of Americans overwhelmingly support the legislation which makes abortion legal.
He agrees that the polarization has come from both ends.
“I think that the right answer is going to be somewhere in the middle,” he says. “With all things that come up, there are going to be conflicts…we’ve got to figure out a way to come back together and agree on the middle.”