Trump supporters: Obamacare, jobs, security top priorities

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Donald Trump shakes up his White House transition team, appointing running mate Mike Pence to head the process of filling key administration posts, and demoting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to a deputy role. Video provided by AFP Newslook

President-elect Donald Trump’s Michigan supporters are cheering his call to focus on dismantling Obamacare, securing the nation’s borders and creating jobs as his biggest priorities in office.

Health care reform is the top priority for Anthony Capozello, 44, of Detroit, who is battling stage 4 lymphoma and bone cancer. He has Medicaid, which he says doesn’t allow him to see the  doctors that he needs to see. And he says friends and family, in the wake of reforms under President Barack Obama, are paying too much for premiums.

“To be honest, it sucks. The health care system is way wacky,” Capozello said. “My parents’ health care is ridiculous. The system was supposed to work and make it affordable for everybody. But the premiums are outrageous.”

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Creating jobs is also a common refrain among Trump supporters across metro Detroit.

“He needs to address jobs,” said Anna Maria Rodriguez, 67, a retired teacher who lives in Livonia. “There are a lot of people who are getting by on part-time jobs, and they need good-paying jobs.”

Marian Sheridan, 61, of West Bloomfield volunteered in Trump’s Walled Lake campaign office. “I’d like to see him secure the border as best he can and work with Congress on an Obamacare replacement,” she said.

Sheridan worries that people who enter the U.S. illegally haven’t been vetted by authorities.

As for controversial comments Trump has made about women, immigrants, Muslims and Mexicans, his supporters discount those as political rhetoric in a heated campaign.

“My Hispanic friends were insulted,” said Rodriguez, who was born in the United States to parents who fled Mexico after the Mexican Revolution in 1910. “But that’s a rhetoric thing. What he’s saying is we need to do something about immigration. If you are in the country illegally, you need to do something about that.”

The desire for change also extends to foreign policy, said Joseph Kassab, 64, of Farmington Hills, who helped organize metro Detroit’s sizable Chaldean community behind Trump after hearing him speak of the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Trump spoke movingly about Christians being attacked and forced from places their ancestors have called home for centuries, Kassab said.

Kassab, founder of the Iraqi Christians Advocacy Empowerment Institute in West Bloomfield, said that Iraqi minorities, such as Chaldeans (Iraqi Catholics), need help urgently. He’s concerned that they are underrepresented in people admitted through the U.S. refugee program and they remain in danger.

“The only savior is the new U.S. administration — the new president-elect can help in doing the right thing, to help the oppressed and persecuted,” Kassab said. “We want to neutralize the violence and the terror factions in the Middle East. Christians are suffering in the Middle East. … Trump was the first (presidential nominee) who called for saving Christians in the Middle East. He felt they are under heavy persecution and they should be saved.”

Kassab said that Trump’s controversial comments about Syrian refugees and Muslims have to be seen in the context of being concerned about national security and preventing terrorism inside the U.S.

“He doesn’t want to see terrorism, extremists, radicals, come in,” Kassab said. “And I think every American agrees with him” on the issue of preventing terrorists from entering the U.S.

Kassab was one of several Middle Eastern-American leaders who met with Trump when he visited Novi for a rally in September.

Other Trump supporters also acknowledged that some of his controversial comments could sometimes “make you cringe.” But most supporters interviewed by the Free Press said they didn’t think those comments  reflect his true intent.

Trump’s words can sometimes offend, Sheridan said, but that proves he’s not a politician who calibrates his every word.

“When he says things like that, you think he’s the kind of guy who would get down in the mud and fight for you,” she said. “He hasn’t been running for president for 30 years.”

Opposition to Hillary Clinton clearly fueled some Trump supporters, including Jon Zurinsky, 34, of Sterling Heights, who said he voted for Trump “because he’s not Hillary. I don’t like her.”

Zurinsky said he voted for Obama once but couldn’t support Clinton because she sends “everything across seas” and “hopefully Trump will try to bring everything back. He’s not a politician. He’s a businessman.”

Cindy Maday, 69, of Sterling Heights said she voted for two Democrats running for countywide seats in Macomb but voted for Trump for president to stop Clinton from being elected.

“There was no choice; she’s a criminal,” Maday said. “They’re a crime family. That’s my opinion, but not just mine.”

Maday said that she believes Trump will work to replace Obamacare, but she is realistic about how many changes to expect.

“He can’t do everything he promises. No president can,” she said. “He doesn’t owe any favors to anyone. I think he’s gonna clean house, and I hope he does.”

Contact John Wisely: 313-222-6825 or jwisely@freepress.com. On Twitter @jwisely.

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