Finley: Country club Republicans for Trump

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News


Listen to Francis Louis Charbonneau Jr. talk about his political worldview, and the words that pop into your head are: country club Republican.

Charbonneau, of Grosse Pointe Farms, is chief executive of an aerospace consulting company. He has an MBA in international finance. His family pedigree tracks generations of success.

Toss in a picture-perfect wife and two kids and Charbonneau is about as traditional a Republican as they come. He stood with his establishment ilk with Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.

This time, he’s all in for Donald Trump. And not in the by-necessity way of so many in the GOP upper crust, now that the New York real estate developer and reality TV star has secured the nomination and their Dump Trump movement has fizzled.

Charbonneau is a true believer.

“He’s the first guy in a long time willing to call a spade a spade,” he says, quickly adding he means no racial offense by that phrase. “I like that he’s willing to say he’s thinking about America first.”

The pundits will tell you that Trump’s candidacy rests on disgruntled, low-educated white men. You know, tea party types. The ones who Republicans have counted on for votes, but don’t invite to their linen tablecloth fundraising dinners.

But while most establishment Republicans have to squint to make Donald Trump look attractive, there are some, like Charbonneau, who are just wild about The Donald.

“I love Donald Trump and I’m not apologizing for it,” says Kathy Kirk, a Clinton Township trustee and Trump delegate to the convention.

Kirk, who also has an MBA and is in the automotive business, knows she doesn’t fit the Trump voter mold, “and I don’t care. He’s a businessman who can turn this country around. I have admired Trump for a long time, all the way back to when he was married to Ivana (Trump’s second wife).”

Toby Semprevivo, a retired sales executive and mother of three from Dexter, knows, as a woman, she’s supposed to be turned off by Trump’s sexist comments and womanizing past. But she has a different take.

“He has three wives who love him” Semprevivo says. “And he has wonderful kids. That says a lot about a man. He must be doing something right.”

Semprevivo is the aunt of state Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniels, on her mother’s side, and while many in the family were part of the #NeverTrump movement, she was with him “from the very beginning.”

“He’s going to bring back the economy, and jobs, and put people back to work,” she says. “And he’ll keep us safe — I love the wall. They say nobody is going to vote for him, particularly women, but I think everybody will. He’ll make a better future for our children.”

Charbonneau is less enthusiastic about Trump’s policies than is Semprevivo. And there are things about the GOP candidate that give him pause, including his views on immigration and his lack of depth on issues.

“He has no policies, he shoots his mouth off more than I like, and he needs to develop a little thicker skin,” he says.

Still, he believes Trump will bring jobs back to this country that have been outsourced overseas, and create new ones, and unite a Republican Party he feels has been adrift since the days of Ronald Reagan.

Charbonneau knows as a Trump supporter in his demographic group, he’s an outlier in this election.

“I hear them on TV describing the typical Trump voter as an uneducated white guy,” he says. “Lots of tattoos. Angry. Maybe even racist.

“That’s not me. And I’m for Trump.”