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National

York Voter, Who Backed McCain In 2008, Hesitated To Vote For Trump

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next we have a story about how much this country has changed in eight years. We are revisiting American voters this week in York, Pa. They're people we first met in 2008. We talked then about race in America. It was the year Barack Obama was elected president. Now, after a very different election, we returned and found one of the voters in a suburban neighborhood outside town.

What do we think these are, houses maybe from the '90s?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: They look recent, yeah.

INSKEEP: Playground sets out back.

We stopped at a house near the end of a cul de sac.

This is just gorgeous, the pond out back surrounded by a white fence.

And we said hello once again to Sarah Yacoviello.

SARAH YACOVIELLO: Hi.

INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness, hi.

YACOVIELLO: Hey, Steve, how are you?

INSKEEP: Good to see you.

She's 39 years old now, a mother of two. Molly curled up on the chair arm next to her mom, while Vincent played Christmas songs on the piano.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO)

INSKEEP: The last time we met in 2008, Vincent wasn't born. That was in the aftermath of Barack Obama's historic election. Sarah Yacoviello had voted for Republican John McCain. And here's what she said back then.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

YACOVIELLO: I'm sad. In another regard, I have this dichotomy that I can't reconcile in my mind. I feel like there's a social justice that has been won here with electing a black president. But I also feel the social injustice of abortion. I'm still grieved and burdened with the thought of the social injustices that are still present and may grow stronger in the next four years.

INSKEEP: Eight years later, we settled in by the Christmas tree and the fire to talk. Her husband Rob kept track of the well-behaved dog. Sarah said she's grown to like President Obama.

YACOVIELLO: I'm proud to be an American when I look at him. I'm - he's a good man. He was a good husband. He was a good father, a statesman, a good spokesman for our country. And it's hard as a conservative to say these things, but I really do have a great deal of respect for him.

INSKEEP: Sarah Yacoviello is white and she's thought a lot about race during Obama's years when race was often in the news. As a Christian, she's come to support the Black Lives Matter movement of recent years against police violence.

YACOVIELLO: I think how dare anybody contradict that by saying all lives matter because unless black lives matter, all lives don't matter. I think race and the issues with race in our country are very important. And that's part of the reason that this election was hard for me.

INSKEEP: Hard because for Sarah Yacoviello race was not the only issue. She works these days in fundraising for nonprofits. That work brings her in contact with affluent businesspeople. And those meetings influenced her final agonizing choice in 2016 to vote for Donald Trump. She's comfortable if Trump approves tax breaks and reduced regulations for business owners.

YACOVIELLO: The working class needs them and our country needs them.

INSKEEP: I've heard critics of Trump say he's just going to help the wealthy.

YACOVIELLO: Yeah.

INSKEEP: But you're actually saying, I think he is going to help wealthy people and that's OK.

YACOVIELLO: Because I think by helping the wealthy, he's also helping me, us, the middle class, the poor. I think those jobs are important and that philanthropy is important.

INSKEEP: Her late decision to vote for Trump proved to be one of the votes that made the difference in this closely divided and vital state.

YACOVIELLO: That whole week I felt so much angst. I felt like I did the right thing personally. I came to that decision. And then I told Rob I just need to do what I think is right and I'm not going to tell anybody. I'm not thrilled about it but I just need to do this for the future of our country.

INSKEEP: Do you see the president-elect as a role model?

YACOVIELLO: No, I don't.

INSKEEP: Why not?

YACOVIELLO: I don't want to have to defend him as a man. I really don't because I don't know if I can. In some ways it's refreshing that he's not a typical politician, but in other ways his reactionary personality and his inflammatory speech is something that I don't want my children to feel that they are able to do.

INSKEEP: How are you going to avoid that?

YACOVIELLO: Well I - I'm hopeful that he'll become more presidential as he obtains the office in January. I'm hoping that he's going to surround himself with people who will help him speak wisely and carefully.

INSKEEP: Her reservations about Trump explain why she hasn't told anyone outside her family how she voted - until now.

YACOVIELLO: My best friend voted for Hillary. I don't fault her for that. I mean, she believes with all her heart that Hillary would've been best. And I believe with my heart that a conservative candidate would have been best. And I feel like what's missing there and what is important and why I decided I would reveal who I voted for is the communication factor. Each different position is coming from a side of love. So let's take the pro-life, pro-choice movement. A lot of pro-choice advocates will say that pro-life people are unloving, but really they do care deeply for the unborn child. But I don't think pro-choice advocates are unloving, either. They care deeply, for you know, the woman who might be hurt, who might be making a horrible - you know, a very tough decision.

And I feel like if we saw these perspectives from walking in somebody else's shoes, it would be a lot more peaceful. That each of us is - at least my friends, I know there are some very, very hateful, extreme people in the world. I mean, we saw that right after the election. But from my personal experience, I feel that both sides are coming from a point of love.

INSKEEP: How do you feel about the fact that some of those hateful and extreme people - big Trump supporters?

YACOVIELLO: Yeah. It makes...

INSKEEP: White supremacists.

YACOVIELLO: I know. I feel like those people are going to come out and they're going to latch onto and I feel like it's despicable. And it needs to be called out. And I'm ashamed that they supported the same candidate that I do. And I think there's hate on both sides. I really do. The week of the election I couldn't say - I had to get off social media. I mean, because there was such hate being spewed towards people who might have voted for Trump. And I couldn't say a word because I felt, you know, am I a bad person? And I thought, no, I made this decision.

INSKEEP: Sarah Yacoviello, one of the York, Pa., voters we met in 2008 and are revisiting this week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.