Gay Republican and AIDS activist James Driscoll says he’s supporting Donald Trump for president largely because of Trump’s leadership skills and positions on a wide range of issues, including immigration, health care and the economy.
But Driscoll, 72, says he also believes Trump is far better on LGBT and AIDS-related issues than all of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination except Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who Driscoll would like to see Trump select for the vice presidential nomination.
“I’ve been for Trump from the time he first announced, although I was cautious about telling anybody about it then,” Driscoll told the Washington Blade in a telephone interview from his home in Nevada.
On the eve of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries in states throughout the country, Driscoll says he feels it’s time for him and other LGBT Trump supporters to speak out.
“I can be classified as a conservative but I’m not a religious conservative,” he said. “That’s also one reason that I like Donald Trump. He says he’s religious but he seems basically to be a secularist and he’s not an ideologue,” said Driscoll.
“He knows how to court the religious vote effectively but he’s not one of them. And they know it and they vote for him over Cruz anyway,” he said, referring to GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas who portrays himself as a fundamentalist Christian.
Driscoll holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in English literature. He has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS causes, with a focus on the development of the new generation of AIDS drugs in the early 1990s. President George W. Bush appointed him a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, where Driscoll joined other AIDS activists – Democrats and Republicans – to push for expedited U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of new life-saving AIDS drugs.
He has served in the past as an AIDS policy adviser to the national LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans.
According to Driscoll, Trump’s record as a successful businessman with a reputation of “getting things done” makes him highly qualified for the presidency at a time when the U.S. faces serious problems at home and abroad.
“And I’m convinced he can govern very well – much better than Rubio or Cruz because he knows how to run a business. He knows how to run things, how to make decisions,” Driscoll said. “And he has tremendous energy and dynamism. Any president that’s going to do something has to have some force behind him.”
Driscoll dismisses the attacks against Trump in the past few days by GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio, the U.S. senator from Florida, as a desperate last-minute attempt to gain votes in Tuesday’s primaries.
He blames news media outlets with a “liberal bias” for misinterpreting Trump’s positions and controversial statements on matters like immigration. Driscoll, who says he has worked as a volunteer and advocate for refugees in Southeast Asia during the Bush administration in the early 2000s, believes U.S. immigration policies and “far-left” immigration activists today are unfairly biased in favor of Latino immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
Accusations that Trump is a racist because he said drug dealers and rapists are entering the U.S. from Mexico are “completely false” and motivated by a desire to keep the current system in place, which Driscoll claims is “stacked” in favor of immigrants entering the U.S. from the southern border while “cruelly” ignoring the plight of refugees in need of U.S. help from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
“I see a big moral issue that troubles me there,” he said. “And I see Trump is the one most committed to changing that system.”
Although Trump has said he would “strongly consider” nominating U.S. Supreme Court justices who would overturn last year’s ruling that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, Driscoll said he doubts Trump would do that. He points to Trump’s earlier statements predicting gay marriage opponents would not succeed in efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling and suggesting he doesn’t favor such an effort.
“So I think he would be very tolerant on gay rights issues,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll also dismisses the denouncing of Trump for his hesitation during a CNN interview on Sunday to repudiate the endorsement he received from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on grounds that he didn’t immediately recall who Duke was.
“Trump did not jump to disavow this as fast as the PC police demand,” Driscoll said. “Trump will have Duke’s support, like it or not. Hillary will have the support of black, Islamic and Hispanic far-out racists, like it or not,” he said. “No one is demanding Hillary do somersaults to punctuate her repudiation of far left support. Double standard again.”