Barbershop: Checking Back In On Voters Before The Election
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for our trip to the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. And with Election Day right around the corner, we wanted to check back in with our voters in Cleveland and Philadelphia who joined us before the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, which were held in those two cities, of course. And you might remember that we checked in with half of our group last week. We're checking in with the other half this week. And just like last week, we're mixing it up and bringing people together from both cities and political parties.
So joining us for a shape-up today are Malcolm Kenyatta from WHYY in Philadelphia. He works for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. He's a community activist. He was a delegate for Hillary Clinton during the DNC. And you might remember we also spent some time with him touring his home in North Philly back in July. Malcolm, so good to talk with you again.
MALCOLM KENYATTA: Thank you so much. You know I love being with you.
MARTIN: Well, thank you. And joining us from WCPN Ideastream in Cleveland is Steve Herbik. Steve's also a campaign volunteer, but his candidate is Donald Trump. Welcome back, Steve. Thanks so much for joining us again.
STEVE HERBIK: Thanks, but I'm no longer a volunteer. I'm actually the state director...
MARTIN: I know, I'm getting...
HERBIK: Oh, I'm sorry.
MARTIN: I'm going to get to that. I'm going to get to that. Do you want to tell us - OK, go ahead. You stole my thunder, but I was going to give you your title.
HERBIK: I'm sorry.
MARTIN: Go ahead.
HERBIK: I'm the state director for the Great America superPAC for Donald Trump.
MARTIN: There you have it. Also with us from Cleveland is Christian Pancake. He's a senior at Kent State University. He's a member of the College Republicans. Welcome back to you, too, Christian.
CHRISTIAN PANCAKE: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: And I'm going to start with you because the last time we spoke, you had been supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich. He dropped out of the race, of course. And at the time, you weren't really sure what you were going to do. So where are you now?
PANCAKE: Well, you know, I think it's been a tough position for a lot of Republicans. You know, we've seen all sorts of things happen over the course of this fall with this election between endorsements and then unendorsements and then some big, prominent Republicans not endorsing at all over this entire course of this election cycle. So it's been difficult for me. You know, I'm still up in the air, I'll be completely honest with you. But I would definitely say that it's not going to be Hillary (laughter). And - but I'm still deciding on whether I can support Trump or not.
MARTIN: So what are you thinking? Are you thinking you might leave that - the top line blank? Are you thinking - some people are supporting Evan McMullin. Some people are writing people in. What - are you - you're seriously thinking about one of those alternatives.
PANCAKE: Well, you know, I just - I have my own reservations about Donald Trump's candidacy and what he represents for our party. If I had to be - you know, pick right now, it'd be tough. But like I said, I'm leaning towards the candidate that's going to protect the Second Amendment on the Supreme Court, somebody that's going to stick with, you know...
MARTIN: So who's that?
PANCAKE: ...Conservative principles...
MARTIN: So who is that?
PANCAKE: ...Within the - yeah, I mean, probably Donald Trump. But again, my mind isn't made up. You know, we have four days. And it has been a tough election cycle. I'm being completely honest with you on this answer.
PANCAKE: I really am, so...
MARTIN: OK. Malcolm, was that you laughing there?
KENYATTA: This is me laughing because it is so funny to watch Republicans all in a tizzy. And it has been the height of hypocrisy, in my view, to hear the Republicans who say, I'm voting for him, but I'm not endorsing him. And to hear that from legislators whose job it is to vote, they understand what voting means, obviously, in the election and in their daily job. We understand that a vote is the epitome of an endorsement.
MARTIN: Well, one of our Barbershoppers (ph) was last week, Gary Frazier, who has since deregistered from the Democratic Party, has now become a Green Party member, said that no matter who wins - ends up winning that the ugliness of this process is basically opening up eyes, in his view, to the idea that the system is broken and that this - the two-party system itself is broken. So, Steve, why don't I go to you on that and say, do you buy that?
HERBIK: I think this election cycle has evolved into, like, an animal unto its own. I don't think the Republican Party exists anymore. I don't think the Democratic Party exists anymore. Republicans have shifted left enough to be called the old-time Democrats from the '50s and '60s. Current Democrats are more along the socialist line. And Bernie Sanders, while he was still in the race, was borderline communist. I think one of the benefits of the ugliness of this campaign has been the exposure of corruption and deceit in both parties. And if it wasn't for a candidate like Donald Trump, this would never have been brought to light.
MARTIN: Can I ask you, Steve, though, some of the things that Christian alluded to earlier, the tapes, which he has admitted is him talking about grabbing women and, you know, kissing - is that OK with you...
PANCAKE: I didn't allude to the tapes or any of that stuff. Sorry.
MARTIN: ...Steve? No, I know. OK. All right. Fine. Then I'll - well, you alluded to ugliness. I assumed that's what you were talking about, so that was a wrong assumption on my part. About Donald Trump's personal behavior - Steve, is that OK with you?
HERBIK: Of course it's not OK with me. I don't think it's OK with any individual. However, I don't think that he gets a fair shake with the accusations that have been leveled against him and some of the things that he's said. The one with the women is not acceptable.
MARTIN: But the core question is you don't think it speaks to his fitness for office.
HERBIK: I think it's irrelevant.
MARTIN: OK. Malcolm, you were going to say something?
KENYATTA: You can't say, I don't like everything he says, oh, yet I'm supporting him. Yet I'm out there running a super PAC for a man that has shown a disregard for women, a disregard for people of color, a disregard for LGBT people that was made even more profound by his quite frankly offensive pick of Mike Pence that has been disastrous for LGBT people. And throughout this campaign, what has become clear to me and, I think, a lot more people - when Donald Trump starts talking about making America great again, it sounds like, to me, he wants to make us more Russian and get us annexed like Crimea. This is ridiculous, what I'm hearing.
MARTIN: Well, if...
KENYATTA: And everybody that is waffling and wayffling (ph), they will have a lot to answer for in the elections in 2018...
MARTIN: Well, then what - Malcolm...
KENYATTA: ...And for the rest of their life.
MARTIN: Why do you think people are supporting him, since you obviously find it incredible?
KENYATTA: I think that the big divider in this election are those that have information and those that don't, right? And those that have been able to get the information about Donald Trump, about who he is, they're not supporting him. Right here in the collar counties of Philadelphia, you see Donald Trump with a 73 percent disapproval rating in an area that, you know, traditionally breaks Republican, you know, even if it's close. These folks, you know, they vote Republican. These are folks that, you know, swept Pat Toomey into office. And you see both of them sinking like a ship because people are not, at the end of the day, going to vote for a demagogue and vote for a person that wants to align us with Russia and with Vladimir Putin. It is outrageous.
HERBIK: That's absolutely incorrect.
KENYATTA: And it's outrageous for Republicans to stand by him.
HERBIK: In - every statement that you made, Malcolm, those are absolutely incorrect.
KENYATTA: Every statement was incorrect, Steve (laughter)?
MARTIN: OK. Hold on. Malcolm, let him finish, and then I'm going to go to Christian. Go ahead, Steve.
HERBIK: Philadelphia's the Democratic stronghold of the entire state of Pennsylvania. Being on the campaign trail since June of 2015, having - my entire family living from - everywhere from right on the Ohio-PA border all the way to Philadelphia, the entire state is pro-Trump until you get to the Philly area.
HERBIK: And because of simple mathematics, because of sheer volume, Philadelphia carries the state. It always has historically.
MARTIN: Well, we'll find out.
HERBIK: Always has.
MARTIN: We'll find out. Christian, let me ask you because you are - like Malcolm, you're the next generation of your party, too. 'Cause I know you've been very active for - since you - you've been active forever. I mean, for really...
PANCAKE: Yeah. Yeah.
MARTIN: ...Since you were a kid, really. And I just wondered if you still feel you have a future in...
MARTIN: ...Party politics.
PANCAKE: Absolutely. I do think there's a future for me in this party particularly, as a Republican, and in party politics because I think, you know, this has been a tough election cycle for both sides, for everyone involved. But it is just a tough election cycle like any others. And, you know, things will get resolved. People will, you know, come back and relook at this and how the party - both parties will look into how to get better. And I definitely see a future in my party and in party politics in general.
MARTIN: So before we let you go, how do you feel about things right now? Steve, I'm going to give you the first word on this, if that's OK.
HERBIK: Sure. This is - as we all agree, it's been a very, very difficult election cycle. But I can simply go by what I see on a daily basis. And I've traveled the country and worked the campaigns in many different states. And as early as February and March of last year, when you sit in a campaign office and you see Democrat after Democrat coming into the office and saying that they've never voted Republican ever in their life and that they just can't tolerate a Hillary Clinton presidency, that speaks to the level of dissatisfaction with the candidate - excuse me. And then recently, in the light of, you know, all of the corruption that's being unraveled and was - you know, quite honestly, it's amazing it took this long for it to unravel. So to say that there's just, you know, a disillusionment isn't - it's a fact. It's literally - it's happening. And you know what? We can't all be right. Christian, Malcolm, myself will only be proven right next Tuesday.
MARTIN: All right. Malcolm, what about you?
KENYATTA: Well, I think Steve said something that I definitely agree with. The poll that matters the most is the poll on Election Day. And it is tough. But I will say this and leave it here - I fundamentally believe in the American people and fundamentally believe that we've had tough elections in our history before. And we're going to have them again. But, you know, I believe in what we did right here in Philadelphia over 200 years ago, and that our experiment in democracy is going to last and it's going to thrive.
MARTIN: Christian, final thought. I'm giving you the final word.
PANCAKE: You know, what I'll leave it with is things are very hyperpartisan right now. And that's what's a little bit off-putting, I think. But, you know, my concern at the end of the day - and I'm a loyal Republican. I believe in the values of the Republican Party. I've always voted Republican, and I believe in what we stand for. But at the end of the day, I want someone who's going to work together and compromise, you know, make - get things done, that's going to benefit the American people. And I don't care whether you have a D or an R or an L or a whatever - an I - next to your name. I want a politician. I want someone representing the American people that will do that.
MARTIN: That's Christian Pancake. We also heard from Steve Herbik and Malcolm Kenyatta. They were part of our - the second part of our Barbershop roundtables from the DNC and the RNC earlier this summer. We were really excited to have a chance to visit with them again. And I want to thank you all so much for visiting with us. Thank you all so much.
HERBIK: Thank you.
PANCAKE: Thank you so much.
KENYATTA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.