In 2016, Arizona rancher Jim Chilton was so excited about the election of Donald Trump as president that he said his socks were “rolling up and down.” Four years later, the 81-year-old is just as enthusiastic about the upcoming US election and has no doubt which candidate is getting his vote.
“I would give Donald Trump an A plus for his work over the last four years,” Chilton told AFP in an interview on video app Zoom during which he was joined by his wife Sue. “We’ve had some wonderful things happen and we prospered immensely.”
The couple, who own a ranch on the Arizona border with Mexico and who also spoke with AFP in 2016, just ahead of the US presidential vote, said Trump still has their undying support and they were “tickled pink” at the prospect he could be reelected.
“Remember how I dreamed of having a wall, well it’s being built and it should get to our ranch by December or January,” gushed Chilton, whose support for Trump in the last election largely hinged on his promise to build a physical barrier along the southern border with Mexico to prevent people from crossing illegally.
Chilton and his 78-year-old spouse also heaped praise on Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — describing it as the “Chinese COVID crisis” — as well as his efforts at deregulation and his pledge to “drain the swamp.”
Their views reflect Trump’s continued popularity in rural America, which helped lift him to the presidency in 2016 and where he still enjoys strong support among voters like the Chiltons.
“I am better off, I think the country is better off and I look forward to another four wonderful years,” said Chilton, a fifth-generation rancher who shook hands with Trump last year when invited to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation conference in New Orleans.
Apart from Trump’s progress on building what he has described as a “big, beautiful wall” — over 300 miles of which have been built but just five miles are new — the Chiltons said they were happy with his administration’s bid to reverse federal environmental policies that affected their way of life.
One notable roll back, they said, was the repeal in September 2019 of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that imposed limits on pollution in wetlands and smaller waterways.
The reversal of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, has done away with burdens farmers and ranchers faced as relates to water bodies and wetlands on their property, the Chiltons said.
“For us, on our private land, to do anything we had to get permits ... and the Trump administration has eliminated (such) requirements,” Chilton said. “I no longer have to get a permit to do anything on my own private land.”
The Chiltons also gave kudos to the Trump administration for implementing changes to protections for endangered species.
Critics have said the move will hurt plants, animals and other species facing mounting threats but the couple said previous regulations simply went too far.
“It’s well and good to save endangered species, we’re all for it,” said Sue Chilton. “But the Endangered Species Act was twisted into a tool to destroy production.
“The bureaucrats are largely almost all urban people, not productive agricultural people, and they prioritize the talus snail over a ranching operation,” she added. “That’s why Trump was saying ‘drain the swamp’ ... which is a direct threat to the power of unelected bureaucrats.”
Commenting on the increasing polarization of America’s electorate along partisan lines, the Chiltons said while they wished the political discourse in the country was more civilized, they felt Democrats were too focused on destroying Trump. “To me, we need to debate civilly, understand each other’s issues and come to an agreement,” Jim Chilton said. “If you understand somebody else’s concerns, solutions often come. And that’s what I’m missing.”
He and his wife said while they are banking on Trump winning over Democratic hopeful Joe Biden come November 3, they will respect the outcome of the vote whichever candidate triumphs.
“If Biden is elected, I will respect him, I won’t say nasty things about him,” Jim Chilton said.
He also dismissed fears of election-related violence.
“Generally, Trump supporters are mature, non-violent, law-abiding and respectful citizens,” he said. “Trump supporters were not the ones rioting, looting, torching businesses, tossing bricks and frozen water bottles, removing statues and standing in front of police nose-to-nose screaming obscenities,” he added, referring to protests across the country in recent months over police brutality and racism.
“Peaceful protests are important and guaranteed by the Constitution.”