I conducted this interview because I believe that before we label someone a racist, xenophobe, or bigot, we should actually get to know them.
Joe Padilla: “So I wanted to start this by asking what your background is and what family you come from?”
Steven Patchak: “Well, my mom is 100% Mexican actually, she and her 10 siblings, she’s one of 11, and my grandparents crossed the border illegally in 1980 or 1981, my Dad is a 5th or 6th generation American, with roots in Ireland or Poland.”
Joe: “That’s funny because I’m a fellow light-skinned Latino, my Dad’s 100% Latino and my Mom’s white.”
SP: “Yeah, I don’t look like it at all, I look like my Dad.”
JP: “I understand well!”
*Laughter around our paleness*
SP: “So that’s my background, my Mom was born there, I was born here in Chicago, in the suburbs. So that’s my background. I consider myself American, very average American.”
Pre-Presidential Trump and the Announcement
JP: “So how did you first hear about Trump’s campaign, did you hear about it when he first announced?”
SP: “You know, I’ve actually read his books before, Crippled America and The Art of the Deal, which is my favorite one. My Dad runs restaurants, he’s the director of operations, something along those lines, and he’s a big fan of Trump as a business man, before- the man’s done great things with his business. So he had read the books whenever, and I read the book, The Art of the Deal, and I heard he was running, I was already biased positively towards him, given that in everything he said, the strong controversy, I can’t say I agree with everything he says, I don’t think anyone can say that for every candidate, no way that everyone’s 100% on board with anyone. So, for me, it’s less about the policies itself, we have to be honest with ourselves, the President only has so much power when it comes to policy. None of these candidates can do everything they’re saying. There’s no way Congress and the legislature would approve most of these policies.
So, for me, it’s more about what the candidates stand for, in terms of their morals, principles and values, and Trump’s values, morals and principles, I think, are the perfect thing that America needs. The “cut the crap” and just do what we need to do. The thing that I think makes Trump different from other candidates, other candidates say “We’re going to make individuals more successful, prosperous, where I think Trump’s message is “We can’t help you specifically, but we’re going to create an environment where you can be whoever you want to be, depending on how bad you want it. And I think the country is too big for an each, individual person needs this, this, this and this, there’s just too many people for that. We need an environment that allows people to be successful on their own.”
JP: “Yeah, and so you see what Trump stands for is creating more of an environment to help people rather than on the individual, so you’re thinking about this more on the collective, helping the nation collectively, instead of individual policies to benefit specific groups, you see policies that benefit the nation as a whole.”
SP: “Yeah, the nation itself.”
Supports and Disagreement
JP: “So you said earlier that it’s not so much about policy but it is a factor so what policies of his do you support and which do you not support?”
SP: “Definitely the lower income tax, I think that is one of the biggest things. I think people know how to spend their money better than the government does, it’s been tried before when people put money into business, the businesses prosper and they give people jobs, and give people paychecks, and the chain goes on and on and on. So that’s one I do support. In the same vein, I think a lot of people overlook the “Death Tax”, the “Death Tax” is the 3rd time that same money is getting taxed. Your great-grandpa Joe, makes his money, gets income taxed, dies, the government takes the “Death Tax”, then someone inherits that money and the income is taxed again. So, I think that’s really overlooked, it’s not a huge factor, but at the basis of it, it’s brutal that the same money is being taxed three times, and as a more conservative person, I’m all for less taxes.
What I do not agree with, there’s no way you can deport 11 million illegal immigrants, I don’t agree with it morally or economically. Economically, it would destroy the nation, there’s so many jobs that these people have, they’re getting money and they’re spending it. When you take out 11 million people from the working economy, you simply can’t do that, plain and simple. So I’m against that, against one of his biggest standing points, so people question me when I say I don’t agree with that. There’s so much to candidates besides their main one or two points.”
JP: “And when people take it as face value, they see the buzzwords and everything, it can create some hostility, and people will immediately make conclusions. On illegal immigration, how do you feel about the border wall?”
SP: “One hundred percent, there’s a fence in place now that serves the same purpose. The fence, stop illegal immigration; the wall, stop illegal immigration. It stands for the same thing, for the same principles, it just doesn’t do as good of a job. So all of a sudden, he says ‘We’re going to build this and it’s going to do a better job’ and people are upset. I think that people are confusing building the wall with being anti-immigrant, which is a big buzz word that is thrown out. Trump has said it himself, ‘I’m not anti-immigrant’. It’s not about being anti-immigrant, it’s that you can’t be a country that positively affects it’s own people if people can come and go as they please.
I think it’s just a requirement of being a civilized, industrial country, is having solid borders and deciding who comes in. I think it’s Switzerland, for example, you go to them and say ‘I’d like to live in Switzerland’ and they say ‘Ok, what can you do for us? Do you have a college degree? We have a shortage of engineers, do you have an engineering degree?’ It’s what can you do for the country, and the country can provide you with an environment where you can thrive.”
JP: “A symbiotic relationship between government and the people.”
SP: “Yeah, where countries are taken advantage, and I think the U.S. is being taken advantage of. When illegal immigrants are sending back to Mexico via wire transfer $25 billion a year, so that money is being made here, and not being put back into here, which, simple economics, there’s no book that will argue against it. I think we’re being taken advantage of, we don’t have the statistics but there are illegal immigrants who are receiving welfare benefits. I support welfare, people equate conservatism with ending the welfare system and I don’t believe in that at all. It’s very necessary, but it’s being taken advantage of.”
JP: “I think, a lot of the time, with this movement (Trump supporters), there’s this new wave of conservatism that doesn’t fall in line with older conservative ideals, hence why it’s popular and he’s destroying Kasich in the primaries and caucuses, Kasich is the old regime and this is a new branch or new party possibly. On another note, there have been studies that say that illegal immigrants overstaying Visas may account for over half of the illegal immigration, so what do you think about those findings in relation to the focus on the wall?”
SP:” Well, I heard over half but 40% of those aren’t even Mexican, they’re Polish, Ukrainian, Eastern European people, which Trump is also against. The H-1B Visa, the unskilled labor Visa, which is ‘We need cheap manual labor, so we’re going to use H-1B Visas to bring people here and then they leave. Problem is they don’t leave. For the record, I am against the argument of ‘They’re taking our jobs’, but in that specific instance, it’s true. The construction of large buildings is overwhelmingly people on an H-1B Visa immigrants, which, when they’re here for their year, two years etc, is lawful, it’s fine. Everyone’s being positively affected by this, the company has cheaper labor, but when they overstay, they hoard all the money and then give it back home.”
UIC Students For Trump
JP: “So, as Vice President of UIC Students For Trump, tell me a little about Students For Trump, and what your role means to the organization.”
SP: “Well, we’re very, very new, I guess for now it’s about getting a social media presence. So for now, that’s the only goal, build up the presence, I run the Facebook page, Grayson is the President.
JP: “Grayson Pajkos?”
SP: “Yeah, he does the Twitter. So for now, can’t do much, we have about 25 people who emailed us being interested in the organization. Which, was surprising to me, this is a very liberal community, that I was expecting about 5 people. We get a couple of emails a day.”
JP: “So you receive a couple of emails a day, what kind of response have you been getting? Are these positive? Negative?”
SP: “The emails are positive. 1 or 2 were pretty negative, just saying “Stop” or something. Facebook messages, same deal, we get sent some pretty vulgar words honestly, heavy profanity and such, we don’t support, we don’t stand for any of that. We respond. We respond with the usual message, ‘We respect your opinion, you are free to speak your mind, this is America and we appreciate what you’re saying. We may not agree with it but we defend your right to say it without fear of being silenced, as we saw here on campus.’ I don’t know if you saw my post on the UIC Class of 2018 page or went through the comments…”
JP: “Yup, I’m a part of it, I did.”
Partisanship, Parties and the UIC Rally
SP: “If I was an outsider, I would say these anti-Trump people are crazy. The first words were ‘No’, just the word ‘No’, or ‘Take this down Nazi’. We don’t say anything like that, it was just a ‘Hey, the Trump voice was shut down here so we’re going to be present instead.’ You saw it, it was very simple, to the point, I did say that controversy was welcome, I should’ve picked a different word and said, maybe, ‘Opposing opinions are welcome’. Absolutely, we wouldn’t say we don’t want to hear you. That whole thread was all negative. I’d say my comments on it were moderate, I mean this is a college campus, it’s heavily Bernie Sanders, and what I think people don’t realize is that Trump and Bernie people, we’re on the same team. I don’t hate Bernie Sanders, he’s my 2nd pick behind Trump, honestly he is. I love what he stands for, I just disagree with the ways. But as a guy, as a politician, who he is, I think he’s a great guy. And I said that, I said ‘I am not the enemy here, Trump is not the enemy, Your enemy is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, and Ted Cruz, John Kasich and the Republican Party, they’re my enemy. We’re fighting the same uphill battle against the same powers that be, the parties themselves, that are trying to shut both of us down. And I think if one of them is to get dropped, I hope people realize that it’s the people who vote, the people who matter.
The parties can have their voice, but they should be equal to the people. And Reince Priebus (Chariman of the RNC) should have one vote. And some will say he has many more because of who he is. And just because Trump is rich and powerful, doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. Just because other people are less wealthy doesn’t mean they’re good people. So it saddens me when they are strong anti-voices here, those voices should be directed upwards, to Clinton, Cruz and Kasich, and to the parties.”
JP: “I agree with that to a certain extent, I’m a Sander supporters and I see similarities between Bernie and Trump supporters in the way that we’re fighting the national committees. On the Democratic side, we have Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who is trying to give Hillary Clinton the nomination, and we’re trying to say “That shouldn’t be possible, you shouldn’t have the power to hand somebody this, your committee should not override the people, and before this point, it hadn’t really done that to a terrible extent. We saw this a little bit with how they attempted to disenfranchise Howard Dean in 2004, but it hasn’t been as widespread as it is now. So, in a way, we do have similar fights, we’re going in different directions but there is a similar goal in mind and we, on both sides, need to realize that we’re not always each other’s enemies. There are fringe supporters on Trump’s side that are absolutely racist, xenophobic. However, there are leftists on our side who just want to silence the opposition. And we don’t want to see that in either camp, we don’t want to silence opposition, we want to hear ideas being spread and not silenced. However, to that extent, I was also at the rally for Trump and I was going to protest him when he started coming out (on stage) because I did not believe that he should be coming to UIC, and I don’t think it was a smart move by the administration because I saw the backlash that occurred and for him to be speaking here, I’ll preserve his right to free speech, however I think it was UIC administration’s fault and the Trump campaign’s fault to bring a rally to a very liberal city at a very liberal university. Whatever means it was for, I don’t think it was a smart move and that’s why we saw this clash. It was more a clash of ideology than fists, I kept seeing in the media, saying it was a “melee” and, where you there too?
SP: “Yeah, I had awesome seats, great seats.”
JP: “Yes, I wouldn’t say it was a melee.”
SP: “Not at all.”
JP: “You and I weren’t about to throw punches at each other or anything.” (Laughs)
SP: (Laughs) “It was interesting, sitting right behind me, there was a group of 4 or 5, they had Bernie shirts, stickers and hats and such. And before it was announced that it was cancelled, people just asked “Why are you here?”. Not impolitely, they were wondering. They said ‘We want to hear him talk. He’s still a Presidential candidate.’ This is a big city with a very large voter base. He’s turned many moderates so far, so maybe speaking here, he’ll turn more moderates around, so I get it, why he’d come here. And then it was cancelled, the guy came up and said it was cancelled, and they (the people behind me) were the first to say, without anyone asking them, that they didn’t want this to happen. They said ‘It’s outrageous, it’s a violation of his speech’ and they were great people. My group, we weren’t violent or anything either, we were in the stands, people don’t want to fight in a stairwell (laughter). Were you inside or outside?
JP: “I was inside, I was in the pit about 20 feet from the stage.”
SP: “And walking back by the parking garage, there were a lot of Trump supporters, Bernie supporters, that didn’t want that to happen. And then the news replayed the same three clips over and over again, for a week afterwards. And, it was not nearly as bad as the media put it, there was a lot of emotion but it wasn’t nearly as bad as they said, in terms of physical altercations. But that’s another fight we both have is the media. The same six corporations own the 9 largest media outlets, and 4 or 5 of them are heavy donors to Hillary Clinton. I watch the news, but I think people need to watch the news with a more open mind, open ear, as to who they’re listening to and who they’re catering to more.”
JP: “We (Sanders supporters) see a problem with that too. We have Hillary Clinton, who says she’s a Democrat, but she’s not an FDR, she’s a neoliberal, and a lot of us in the Sanders camp don’t support that, we think that she is too friendly to the wealthy and she pretends to champion these social causes such as gay marriage, which she didn’t support until 2013, and for at least 17 years and if not more, was saying that she was against it. And she claims she fought for rights for people of color, especially, and then the video is dug up where she refers to inner-city black youth as ‘superpredators’. So, it’s more so that we have a problem with the ‘devil we don’t know’ in Hillary Clinton, and it’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing kind of fight. So I can see that and for both of us, the media is disrupting the Sanders campaign and the Trump campaign, not giving the coverage to Sanders, and with Trump presenting on him a lot and much of it is rather negative, and whether that’s correct or not I don’t think that can be said but either way, it should not have this heavy bias to it, it should be news, it shouldn’t be ‘this happened, but we’re going to put our own spin on it’.”
SP: “Yeah, I get that.”
Experience and Family
JP: “On a random but important note, how has your experience as a light-skinned, half Latino/half white person shaped your views and your views of Trump?”
SP: “I don’t think it really has any factor. It’s the logic and economics behind it all rather than the race. So, for me, it’s not really a factor.”
JP: “I asked this because we have a similar situation of being half Latino but being very outwardly white as we can both tell. And I think that in some people, that influences their views more, and in others it doesn’t as much, and it’s seemingly a case by case standard.”
SP: “I get it, I can see why some people might feel certain ways, but for me, it’s not as big of a factor.”
JP: “Now how does your mother’s side, the Mexican side, how do they feel about your support of Trump?”
SP: “My mom’s for him, voted for him in the primary also. In that half of the family, everyone’s a naturalized citizen now and a lot of them have very good jobs. Most of them are very conservative, to be honest, they’re not as big of a fan of Trump because of the ‘he’s not a real conservative’ argument rather than anything to do with their own race, their own ethnicity versus what he says about them. And I’m glad about that, I think the first attack against Trump is always that he’s racist, always. I’m glad that my family can look past that untrue accusation, and I’m glad that we are not a race-based family, it’s strictly the ideas, the principles, the economics of everything.
And with 10 aunts and uncles, I have a lot of cousins, who I’m very close with, and I’m an only child, and all my cousins are very politically outspoken also. I’d say we’re very diverse, my closest cousin is a big Kasich guy, too bad for him (laughter). His brother, who’s only a year older than him is a big Bernie supporter so we’re very diverse, very different. But the one thing we all have in common is that we can all look past the media bias and the untruthfulness of accusations against Trump.”
JP: “So we had talked about buzz words and how ineffective they can be but they’re still a part of our society so I wanted to ask a couple of rapid fire questions and wanted you to give a short couple of words about them.”
SP: “Ok, sure.”
JP: “Ted Cruz.”
SP: “Hmm… No. (laughter). No.”
JP: “I can agree with that.” (laughs)
SP: “He’s Hillary Clinton with a Republican registration instead. Just a liar.”
JP: “John Kasich.”
SP: “Very moderate, I wouldn’t mind him. Hillary Clinton is a very conservative democrat, we would say, and I think John Kasich is a very liberal Republican. I just don’t pay him much attention because he has no chance. In terms of what he believes in, not my first choice but I don’t mind him.”
JP: “The Black Lives Matter Movement.”
SP: “I’m for what they stand for. Groups that have been oppressed, they’re correct in creating groups within themselves to promote what they believe in. The one gripe I have is with how it’s being said. Going to Bernie Sanders rallies and jumping on stage yelling is the wrong way to do it. The extremists on that side are very anti-white, honestly, the extremists, that’s why they’re extremists, there’s extremists on the other side too. I won’t be involved with it personally, I have no reason to be, but I don’t mind it, I don’t mind that they exist.”
JP: “Gay marriage.”
SP: “All for it.”
JP: “One more question: Cubs or Sox?”
SP: “Boston Red Sox actually. My dad grew up in New Jersey, he got his pick as a kid and he chose the Red Sox, then passed it on to me.”
(We ended our conversation on a light note by gushing about the 2004 World Series and how we still get goosebumps just thinking about that playoff run.)