TWIN FALLS • Mike Simpson plans to vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, although he disagrees with many of the billionaire’s central policy platforms.
“I’ll support the Republican nominee, and presumably it’s Donald Trump now,” U.S. Rep. Simpson told the Times-News editorial board Thursday.
Simpson, who represents the Magic Valley and southeastern Idaho in Congress, had not been a Trump backer before. Trump is the only Republican in the race after his main rival, Ted Cruz, and then John Kasich dropped out after Trump’s win Tuesday in Indiana.
Simpson said the choice now is between Trump, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and voting for neither of them, which Simpson views as effectively supporting Clinton.
“I happen to be in the ‘Never Hillary’ camp,” Simpson said.
U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, who represents the rest of the state, has also said he will back Trump despite reservations about the candidate.
While Simpson says he will support Trump if he’s the nominee, he said he disagrees with Trump on many issues he has made centerpieces of his campaign. Simpson doesn’t view building a very tall wall along the entire U.S.-Mexican border — one of Trump’s most often-repeated campaign promises — as the answer to illegal immigration.
“In areas that need a wall, fine,” Simpson said. “Is that the whole answer? No.”
Simpson repeated his long-held view that deporting all of the millions of undocumented immigrants who live here is unrealistic, and that the answer is to give them legal status but not citizenship. If they want to apply for citizenship, Simpson said, they should be allowed to but shouldn’t be allowed to jump ahead of people who came here legally.
Simpson also said he is against Trump’s call for banning non-citizen Muslims from entering the country. Simpson said he supports looking at the vetting process for refugees entering the U.S., especially refugees coming from hotspots of conflict and terrorism such as Syria, and making improvements where needed, but that he would oppose a religious test for entry.
“You don’t ban a religion from coming here,” Simpson said. “That’s crazy.”
Simpson interprets the results of the primaries as a sign voters are frustrated, pointing to exit polls that have said Republican voters feel betrayed by their party, which hasn’t delivered on promises to repeal Obamacare or block President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Congress tried to do those things, Simpson said, but there aren’t enough Republicans to override a presidential veto.
“They’re frustrated at us for not delivering on those things, even though our system doesn’t allow us to just impose that,” Simpson said.
Democrats are on to something when it comes to the gap between the rich and everyone else and the shrinking middle class, Simpson said, even though, in his view, Democratic policies are a big part of the reason for slow economic growth and the lack of upward mobility.
“People don’t resent rich people as long as they have the hope of one day getting there too,” he said.
Trump has called for protectionist trade policies to stop the outsourcing of jobs. Simpson said he is more in favor of free trade than Trump, and thinks a better approach would be to look at federal policies such as tax rates that encourage outsourcing.
“We’ve got to look at what’s driving them overseas,” he said.