The Maneater

MU senior explains his support for Donald Trump

Will Pierson: “When you listen to him talk, you get the sense that he really does want what’s best for the country.”

Trump supporters start to fill the Peabody Opera House at a Trump rally in March.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s rise has puzzled many, including senior Will Pierson. But in mid-January, the computer science major from St. Louis gave Trump a second look.

“I thought for the longest time that he was a nut (and) that he was a joke candidate,” Pierson said.

Now, the soft-spoken Pierson has two red “Make America Great Again” hats and a sticker supporting the businessman on the inside of his laptop. He gets his news about the candidate from the man himself, though he still reads CNN, Fox News and other outlets.

Sitting in the Starbucks on campus in April, Pierson explains why he changed his mind and supported Trump before he was the clear nominee.

He starting rethinking the candidate when he saw the numbers Trump drew at rallies.

“He obviously can’t be the person that I’m hearing in the news because there aren’t that many people in this country who are racist,” Pierson said.

Since jumping on the “Trump train,” Pierson has started reading “The Art of the Deal” and has listened to Trump’s speeches. He finds Trump inspirational.

“When you listen to him talk, you get the sense that he really does want what’s best for the country,” Pierson said.

Pierson is one of 383,631 people in Missouri who voted for Trump in the state primary. Trump went on to win the state by two-tenths of a percentage point. He has won nine more states since then on his way to becoming the party’s presumptive nominee. Trump is campaigning on the promise to “Make America Great Again.” He wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and to renegotiate trade deals.

During the course of Trump’s campaign, critics have accused Trump of promoting racism.

“I can see how he attracts racist people — building a wall, keeping Mexicans out and strong nationalism,” Pierson said. “Those aren’t racist policies in and of themselves. Not racist. Donald Trump can’t control who supports him.”

If you could describe Pierson in a word, practical might work. He chose computer science because of the pragmatic applications. He has a comfortable job waiting for him after graduation in May. He doesn’t really see the value in majors that don’t have a tangible payoff.

Pierson watched his father’s construction business shrink during the recession. The company once had 12 employees but dwindled down to just his father. When asked if the economic downturn impacted his political inclinations, Pierson takes a minute to think. He ultimately settles on, “No.”

But the recession was a rough time.

“It gave me more of a fundamental understanding of the way money and life works,” Pierson said.

He learned the importance of a dollar and the consequences of irresponsible spending. That’s where Trump comes in — Pierson sees the candidate as responsible.

Pierson’s a conservative for the fiscal policies. To Pierson, the social issues are “red herrings” that serve to distract people. He voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 because he “thought (Romney) would be a great guy to stop with the fairy tale that we can keep spending money and have no repercussions ever.”

Trump visited Missouri back in March, and Pierson traveled out to St. Louis for the rally, which drew more than 3,000 people. Pierson wasn’t able to get in.

“We attempted to get into the St. Louis Trump rally, but the line was nuts,” Pierson said. “I’ve never (seen) anything like it.”

It can be lonely to be a Trump supporter on a college campus. Pierson doesn’t wear his red hats around MU. He says people will make generalizations about him that aren’t true.

“They would see me walking around wearing a Trump shirt and think, ‘Oh this guy hates Mexicans. He hates black people.’ Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Pierson said.

He found community by connecting with the group Tigers for Trump. They supported Trump in Speakers Circle before the primary.

“It’s easy to feel like you don’t have a voice,” he said.

For Pierson, it’s Trump’s apparent love for his supporters that stands out.

“When you listen to him, you can tell it’s not about him,” Pierson said. “He has a great life. He’s a billionaire. He’s got a great business. I think he really wants to give back to America.”

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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