HALIFAX –A Nova Scotia university student who has been collecting tweets of disillusioned Donald Trump voters has attracted quite a celebrity following, including billionaires, Hollywood personalities and sworn Trump-nemesis Rosie O’Donnell.
Reality show investors Mark Cuban and Chris Sacca, actress Oliva Wilde and Chaz Bono are also amongst 186,000 Twitter users following ?Trump—Regrets.
Erica Baguma, a 23-year-old social anthropology student at University of King’s College in Halifax, curates the account in between classes. The Twitter feed features posts from Americans who say they cast their ballots for Trump but now feel “ashamed,” “embarrassed” and “disappointed” with the new president, some calling their vote “the biggest regret” of their life.
The idea came to Baguma while scrolling through social media to see how Trump supporters were reacting to the president-elect’s reversal on his campaign promise to appoint a special prosecuter to look into Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“I was shocked to see there were so many people feeling betrayed by him,” Baguma said in an interview. “I decided to keep track of all of it … It’s always increasing.”
Baguma said early on, Trump voters expressed misgivings about his dismissal of U.S. intelligence reports that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election and wealthy cabinet picks that some felt contradicted his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
The chorus of Trump defectors grew around inauguration day, Baguma said, as it became clear that Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail was not just bluster and he intended to follow through on plans to repeal government-subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare.”
Many people have taken issue with Trump’s twitchy Twitter habit, according to Baguma, imploring the American leader to be more “presidential.”
“I think everybody sort of wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “(They thought) it would get better … Definitely after the inauguration, you couldn’t deny it. He wasn’t going to stop tweeting.”
Baguma said interest in the account surged as several celebrity followers latched on. T.V. producer Dan Harmon endorsed the account as both “nerve-wracking” and “soothing exposure therapy.”
Democratic member of North Carolina’s Senate Jeff Jackson tweeted that the account was proof that “people can change.”
Baguma said Trump diehards have lashed out at the account as a “smear campaign” and have accused her of fabricating the thousands of retweets for political purposes, even though some of the original accounts date back years.
While Trump detractors have relished the tweets as affirmation of their pre-existing beliefs, Baguma said contrite Trump voters have also found solace in knowing they’re not alone.
Baguma, who was born in Uganda, said that as a woman of colour, she felt personally targeted by Trump’s characterization of black Americans as “nothing more than perpetrators and victims of inner-city violence.”
She said the account has given her a new perspective on Trump supporters as a diverse coalition of voters who may have overlooked his more inflammatory statements because they believed he was looking out for the country’s best interest.
“I had this idea that they were … maybe not bigots, but sort of not totally informed,” said Baguma. “A lot of them are just extremely naive and thought he’s a good person, everything he’s been saying is just rhetoric. There’s no real one description.”