Nick Caimano grew up in Albany in a Democratic family. His father was a lawyer who worked for Erastus Corning, mayor of Albany from 1942 to 1983.
The first president he voted for was John F. Kennedy in 1960. At that time, Caimano was in the midst of a four-year stint as a radio operator in the Coast Guard, stationed in Bermuda and various spots along the East Coast.
He liked the Coast Guard, but he left for the business world, working in the Midwest for the pulp and paper industry, a job that eventually brought him and his wife to Glens Falls.
About 1980, he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party.
“I was a conservative guy. I believed you work hard and you will get to where you want to go,” he said.
Also, he wanted to run for political office, and at that time, if he wanted to win he had to be a Republican.
He was on the Queensbury school board, then the Town Board, then the County Board.
He voted for Trump in 2016 and has defended him to various editors here at the paper. We know Nick, because years ago he was the paper’s advertising director, and we’ve covered his political career.
“I never liked Trump. He was an arrogant jerk to me. But he ran against a cross-section of Republicans, and he made them look like idiots. He acted like Donald Trump. The other people, they acted like TV anchormen.”
This goes to the essence of Trump’s appeal. Even if you think he’s a jerk — even if you know that he deals in misdirection, exaggeration and outright lies — you cannot deny there is an emotional honesty to the performance. Trump reveals himself through his rants, his brags, the way he basks in the applause of his supporters and bridles at criticism and questions. People connect to his passion, much more than they connect with politicians who consider each word and rarely show how they really feel.
“There is a cartel in Washington. It has been building for a long time. ... They don’t fight the way you expect. Mostly, they are just maneuvering for re-election. They get rich,” Caimano said.
I agree with Nick on that, too, and he agreed with me on a couple of things.
He agreed that separating children from their parents at the southern border is terrible. (A proud descendant of Italian immigrants, as a kid he spoke fluent Italian, he said.)
When I brought up one of the most egregious personal things Trump has done — mocking a disabled reporter by imitating his disability — Nick admitted it was terrible.
The news cycle moves so fast now, with one story crowding out another, that stories like that one get lost after a few days, he said.
He still doesn’t like Trump’s personality, he said.
“I wish he’d have a little more decorum as president.”
But he believes that, when reporters point out Trump’s faults, and those stories get repeated and repeated in the constant news cycle, instead of questioning Trump, his supporters get defensive.
There is a gut level at which he respects Trump.
“He is a leader. He is leading us back to … “ then he switched directions and mentioned the tax cut, which is too bad because I wanted to know what he is leading us back to.
I think a clue came in something Nick had said earlier: “I wanted the country to be the country I put on the uniform for. It’s going in the wrong direction.”
I disagree with Nick. The country is a much better place than it was 50 years ago in most ways, and Trump is among the most incompetent and corrupt presidents we have ever had.
But I do appreciate that he came in and respect him for it. He did give me some insight into what is happening, although I am still puzzled and curious.
When I said to Nick Caimano that if any local candidate did any of a myriad things Trump has done, he or she would be crucified by everyone, regardless of party, and would never get elected, he agreed.
So how does he get chosen to lead the country and why do his supporters stay with him?
I still don’t know.