If the midterm election in November was a referendum on Donald Trump’s first 22 months as U.S. president, Hoosier voters gave the Republican a big, red thumbs-up.
Not only did they elect Republican Mike Braun to replace Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly in the U.S. Senate, they sent seven Republicans and just two Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives, retaining the current ratio in Indiana’s congressional delegation.
The red wave outcome of statewide and congressional races in Indiana reaffirmed the broad support President Trump enjoys in Indiana, where he defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 by more than 524,000 votes.
Continuing a quarterly series of voter interviews, CNHI News Indiana found in the aftermath of the midterm election that many Hoosiers continue to favor both Trump’s domestic and foreign policies, though some continue to be vexed by his controversial comments and tweeting.
Other voters interviewed offer a perspective shared by much of the 45 percent of Hoosier voters who chose Donnelly in November; they believe the president is taking the country down a dark path.
First-time voter Lucus Bendzsa, 19, is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and is already deeply involved in politics.
Bendzsa, a student at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, interned for Braun before the election.
“The state of Indiana showed that we don’t want to be like the East Coast or the West Coast,” Bendzsa said. “We sent Donald Trump to Washington. Vigo County went very big for him, and we wanted to do the same with Mike Braun. He’s a great businessman. He’s going to shake up Washington.”
Bendzsa, who earned his share of A’s as co-valedictorian of his high school class, gives Trump an A at the president’s midterm.
“He’s the most transparent president ever,” Bendzsa said. “(When) you want to know what he’s thinking, you know it the minute he says it.”
One of Trump’s biggest accomplishments, Bendzsa said, has been moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He also praises the president’s efforts to secure the southern border and passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Some Hoosiers, however, are less than thrilled with the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations.
The environment is among the most important issues to Barb Foster, 73, of Batesville.
“We are hurtling toward disaster, and no one’s paying attention,” she said.
Foster is discouraged about Washington’s ability to do anything about the environment – or any other important issue.
“I don’t think the direction Congress is going is productive,” she said. “We’re going to find out a few years from now that the choices they made may be regretted.”
She is, however, encouraged by the power balance that will be achieved with Democrats taking control of the U.S. House in 2019.
“I’m a Democrat, and I was happy to see some Democrats get elected so we have more of a balance in Congress. My hope is that the checks and balances will work,” the retired social worker said.
Ardean Friesen, 56, of Goshen sees both good and bad in power being split between Democrats and Republicans.
Divisiveness will continue to hinder the federal government, even more so now that the U.S. House is controlled by the Democrats, he predicted.
A Nebraska native and a Mennonite, Friesen has lived in Indiana for 35 years. He is a bachelor and works as a senior support analyst for hospital electronic medical records.
For the 2020 election, Friesen said, both parties will have to come up with alternatives and find candidates who are willing to work on the hard issues.
“Frankly, the Republicans are going to have to — unless they truly are supportive of President Trump — they’re going to have to stand up and say, you know, this is not the type of person we want to continue to be president,” Friesen said.
“And likewise the Democrats are going to have to come up with somebody who is not the status quo.”
Ray Lewis of Zionsville is concerned about the possibility of impasses in Congress, as well, but for different reasons. Lewis would like to see President Trump’s agenda advanced without delay.
He’s particularly frustrated that the Mueller investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election is continuing into the second half of the president’s term.
Like most Hoosier voters, he’s an unabashed supporter of the president. But Lewis wishes that Trump would choose his words more carefully and tweet less.
“He’s not very diplomatic at times, but he’s done a lot of good things,” Lewis said.