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Vocal Critic Explains Why He Now Supports President Trump

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Erick Erickson used to be a prominent critic of Donald Trump. In 2016, the conservative blogger declared himself a Never Trumper and wrote on his blog that, quote, "more and more Americans are horrified and disgusted at the thought of voting for either Trump or Clinton." Here's some of what Erickson said on conservative media outlets before and after the 2016 election.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

ERICK ERICKSON: I don't think Trump's a conservative. I'm certainly not going to support him.

Four years ago, Donald Trump opposed the Republicans, funded the Democrats. Two years ago, he opposed conservatives funding the establishment. And now I'm supposed to believe he's a conservative? And then on stage, what sealed the deal for me - moment was he was on stage and called Planned Parenthood wonderful.

We have a president of the United States who I cannot show to my kids as a role model.

MARTIN: This month, though, Erickson wrote that he now plans to vote for President Trump in the 2020 election. We reached him this morning to talk about his decision. Erick, thanks so much for being with us.

ERICKSON: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: What was it that changed your mind?

ERICKSON: Well, he's no longer a hypothetical. You know, he's still not a role model for my kids. I've still got a lot of disappointment there. But he's not the hypothetical he was when he ran for office. He now has a record, and there's a lot of it I don't like, but there are good portions of it that I do.

And when I see him in contrast to how the Democrats are running, particularly being a pro-life conservative, seeing the abortion laws Democrats are pushing and whatnot, I feel kind of stuck. And so I'll wind up voting for the president in 2020.

MARTIN: You say you still don't agree with everything the president does or all of his policies. Which of his policies do you differ on?

ERICKSON: Tariffs are a terrible idea. The president should not do tariffs. I think, ultimately, they're going to wind up hurting the economy. I also disagree with him very much on his harassment of NATO allies. And there are other domestic policies. I mean, for example, the budget and the deficit - I'm a conservative who thinks we need smaller government, and we need less spending in Washington. And yet, Republicans who spent years saying that are also betraying that.

Honestly, one of my bigger problems with the president at this point, though, is not the president. It's still sort of his supporters who feel like they have to justify every act. And if nothing else, I think, as a conservative and a Republican who says I'll vote for him in 2020, I think I should still be willing to say I disagree with him and not apologize for some of the things that he does.

MARTIN: But you still note that you don't consider him to be a role model. You know, does that mean that you no longer see good moral character? I mean, as a devout Christian, as someone for whom a moral center has been important to you in making choices about who should lead this country, do you no longer see a strong moral character as a qualification to be president?

ERICKSON: No, I still think it's a qualification. That's a problem.

In 2016, I supported a third-party candidate. We had people show up at our house to threaten us. My kids were harassed in a store. My wife was harassed at church for not supporting the president. And a hundred million people or so disagreed with me on this issue.

And so I can either stay engaged or not be engaged. Many of my evangelical friends who actually are practicing Christians have just decided to abandon politics. And I still want to be engaged.

And so the choice at this point is, I could go third-party again, but look what it got me last time. I could go Democrat, except, you know, even though they have a smile on their face, I don't necessarily think they have great character. Or I could try to be engaged in the process and the party I've been involved in in the past.

MARTIN: But do you need to make up your mind now? I mean, we haven't seen who else is going to run. There is speculation that former Massachusetts Governor William Weld will run. He's formed an exploratory committee. Larry Hogan, Maryland governor - Republican whose name's being bandied about.

ERICKSON: You know, some of the people who want to run is either third-party or Republican challenger to the president. They've come to Georgia to actually meet with me, and I've talked to several of them. And I'm not going to get better policy-wise with them. I don't know that I'm going to get better character-wise with some of them.

And it's not just character. It's also got to be policies. You can vote for a saint character-wise who has terrible policies, and that's not going to get you anything either. I think I feel very much stuck.

MARTIN: Let me ask, though - conservatives who've taken a hard line against Trump have paid a price, especially in the conservative media. The Weekly Standard died, in part, because of its critiques...

ERICKSON: Right.

MARTIN: ...Of President Trump. Did you just no longer find it tenable to make a living as a conservative anti-Trumper?

ERICKSON: You know, as a matter of fact, my ratings on my radio show in Atlanta have done quite well. Everyone thought I was wiping out my career. So I've survived for the age of Trump being against him. And, well, at this point, I'm not sure I have a choice to go anywhere else.

MARTIN: Erick Erickson runs the conservative blog The Resurgent. Erick, thanks so much for your time.

ERICKSON: Thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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