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Trump spoke to the public’s anger, Riverhead supporters say

Trump supporters

This Election Day, some North Fork voters felt frustrated by politicians they believed had ignored them. They were angry at those on the opposite side of the political spectrum whom they saw as unreasonable — and even antagonistic.

Others were turned off by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and were distrustful of her motives.

These voters were looking for a champion, which they found in unapologetic Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“He’s speaking to people like me,” said Pasquale Rutigliano, who is better known as P.T. and has owned Wayside Market in Southold for 18 years. “He’s for the people. He’s going to make it better for us.”

In interviews following Mr. Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election last Tuesday, supporters said they trusted him to stay true to his anti-establishment attitude and his promises to return the country to prosperity.

“Donald Trump is a winner,” said Kenneth Lorenz Jr. of Manorville. “He’s been a winner all his life. I believe that he has his heart in it. I believe that he truly says, ‘I want to make America great again.’ I truly believe he’s going to do it.”

As for Mr. Trump’s controversial campaign trail statements — including comments about women, Hispanic immigrants and others — supporters said the quotes were taken out of context by a biased media eager to attack him.

A deep resentment for the “status quo” and Washington government elites also seemed to fuel support for the New York billionaire-turned-president-elect, whose pledge to “drain the swamp” resonated with disaffected voters fed up with politics and ready to upend the established order of things.

“He’s a businessman and, in reality, the government is the biggest business on the planet,” said Greg Nerko, a 68-year-old Aquebogue resident who voted for Mr. Trump. “You’ve got lawyers who are politicians running and historically they’re thieves and they’ve been doing a hell of a job for years.”

Still, Mr. Trump’s election came as a surprise to Mr. Nerko.

“I thought it was amazing, stunning, totally unexpected,” he said. “But it shows you what happens when the people in the country are upset and angry.”

From his closet-sized office at Wayside Market, which is adorned with American flags and stickers proclaiming “The Silent Majority stands with Trump,” Mr. Rutigliano said he’s seen through politics. He never supported Democrats, but also lost faith in Republicans after George W. Bush’s first term.

“From what I see? They’re garbage,” he said. “They sold us out.”

Mr. Trump reignited his zeal by promising to bring back manufacturing jobs, restore public order and rail against “political correctness.” Mr. Rutigliano was quick to dismiss concerns over Mr. Trump’s statements on the campaign trail.

“He’s a little rough around the edges in the beginning because he’s not a politician,” he said.

Mr. Rutigliano found comfort on Twitter and Facebook, where he followed Mr. Trump’s comments directly. When it came time to turn on the television, Fox News’ Sean Hannity was his only trusted source.

Many local voters saw Mr. Trump as the better of two flawed candidates — or even a bludgeon with which to tear down the system.

Chris O’Connor, 53, of Mattituck said he didn’t like the Republican candidate, but couldn’t trust Ms. Clinton.

“I think it’s more important to trust a president than to like them,” he said. Mr. O’Connor said he values honesty, the ability to use reason when figuring out a problem and integrity when casting his vote for Mr. Trump. He hopes the candidate will follow through on his pledges to improve immigration enforcement and services for veterans.

Allison Hallock of Laurel didn’t “particularly love” either candidate, but voted for Mr. Trump because she felt he ran a “cleaner campaign” that was “more concerned with the issues than slinging mud.” She’s hopeful he can create jobs for middle-class Americans.

“He wants to be president,” Ms. Hallock said. “He’s not doing it for the money — he’s already got money, he’s already got fame. He’s doing it because he loves America and I believe that’s truly why he’s doing it.”

But for Southold Town Councilman James Dinizio, a registered Conservative, Mr. Trump’s election is less a positive step for the country than a turn down a dark path that will only get nastier.

Mr. Dinizio said he strongly believes in conservative principles, but has no misconceptions about seeing those implemented in a Trump administration.

“I expect to get none of that from Donald Trump, but I know one thing, I did not want her [Ms. Clinton],” he said. Mr. Dinizio said his vote for Mr. Trump was largely driven by a belief that politics is broken.

“I was completely against the government that we have right now, the Republicans, the Democrats, the liberals and even the conservatives at one point,” he said. He was enraged by the 2012 election, in which Republican candidate Mitt Romney was lambasted for comments he made about “having binders full of women.”

Mr. Dinizio said the attack was unfair. From then on, he said, he couldn’t trust Democrats in good faith to be reasonable. They needed to be defeated, and the only solution was to dive into the muck.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to go back,” he said. “The America that we had years ago, that we had with Reagan and even Kennedy, that’s gone.”

Mr. Dinizio isn’t concerned by Mr. Trump’s comments, saying they were misrepresented. “I didn’t hear the bigotry,” he said. “I heard common sense talking to me.”

The deeper root of Mr. Dinizio’s distrust is his belief that all media, from local newspapers to cable news networks and national publications, are biased. Even the scandals involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s look at Ms. Clinton’s private email server have left him befuddled.

As his faith in these institutions has eroded, so has his faith in American politics.

“There’s no reliable source,” Mr. Dinzio said. “There isn’t any. There’s no place where you can depend on somebody to tell the entire truth and not have to search out the actual truth. Everything has been challenged.”

He doubts discourse will improve.

“I hope someone learns their lesson,” he said, “but I doubt it.”

During the election, Mr. Dinizio took to social media to provide commentary on the campaign, admittedly stirring up passions among friends despite knowing his comments didn’t represent his true opinion.

Like those comments, his vote for Mr. Trump was also a condemnation of the other side and a way to give liberals the “gift” of the very thing they feared. Late on the night of the election, Mr. Dinizio posted a simple message online: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha …”

“To me, I’m saying to you guys, you deserve what you’re going to get,” he said.

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Photo: Donald Trump speaks with supporters at a March 19 campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Ariz. (Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)