Joe Hession just drove 800 km from Boston to Washington D.C. for Donald Trump’s inauguration – but he’s eager to point out that he’s not your typical Trump supporter, at least not the way he says the media portrays them.
“I feel it's important to show the country that us Trump supporters are not the bad, deplorable trash the media has painted us out to be,” the 26-year-old tells me, “not all us Trump guys are dumb ignorant hicks.”
“I know they exist, but many are just people who work hard and want to see change in a country we love,” he says.
Joe’s a strong supporter of same-sex marriage – “they should have every single right afforded to them as every other American” – and thinks the transgender bathroom debate currently raging in America is overblown – “I hate to see government trying to dictate what any adult does.”
Both stances, incidentally, are shared by President Trump.
For Joe, who describes himself as independent but Republican-leaning, the country has been headed in the wrong direction under the Obama presidency.
The Fox News follower believes that Obamacare failed to make healthcare affordable, that Washington elites aren't working to help everyday Americans, and that the left has taken political correctness too far.
He see's Hillary Clinton as a two-faced member of the establishment, saying one thing in meetings to private donors and another to her public supporters.
But above all, Joe has faith in Trump the man.
"He is a fresh breath of air to Washington," pointing out that he is the first President to assume office while openly supporting same-sex marriage, an issue both Obama and Clinton have also shifted to supporting.
"He is going to rework trade deals, and bring industry and jobs back to America from companies who have abandoned operations for cheaper countries," Joe says. he is going to reform our veterans services which are in desperate need of repair - he is going to strengthen our borders."
"He is going to reform our veterans services which are in desperate need of repair - he is going to strengthen our borders."
Joe says much of the reporting about Trump is sensational and overblown, his policies are not as extreme as the media makes out.
“As far as law abiding immigrants, there isn't anything to worry about. If you are law abiding, that means you are here legally, and this is your America just as it is ours,” he says of Trump's often criticised deportation policy.
But Joe is critical of other Trump supporters whose immigration rhetoric veers into Islamophobia.
“It disgusts me,” he says.
He doesn’t support Trump’s plan to force Muslim’s to sign up to a registry.
“People don’t realise that the family next door celebrating Ramadan is hated by ISIS even more than non-Muslim Americans are, chances are they moved here to escape that crap," he says.
“We need to stand up and show our support for our brothers of Mohammed, even if we don’t share their ideology, chances are we share their American dream."
He says he’s counting on America’s institutions, such as the courts and congress, to curb plans like the Muslim registry.
“It's unconstitutional, and I think he just said it off the fly to get a crowd going."
If Trump actually pushed it through, that would be a deal-breaker.
“I am a supporter but I am not a blind supporter,” he says.
The theory that Trump has some policies just to rev up audiences – or to provoke opponents and dominate the media cycle – is an understanding common among many of Trump’s most passionate supporters.
They see his comments as a tactic, baiting the left into over-reaction, and they just don’t care.
Joe, who works as a janitor, bristles at the media's characterisation of his voting demographic.
“This is the first time in my life and probably our nation's history that the media had someone to ‘blame’ for a person winning a presidential election – the uneducated white man.”
“I'm a blue collar worker, I graduated high school but did not go to college so our media labelled me uneducated during the election coverage – and tried to shame us for voting Trump,” he says.
The narrative of the ‘uneducated voter’, for Joe and others, has fuelled contempt for the media and only catalysed the anti-elitist sentiment among many of Trump’s supporters.
But it’s not just establishment media, it’s also social media.
Joe’s own girlfriend deleted him from Facebook after the election for his pro-Trump posts.
“He was fine to me directly, but I got incredibly irritated at a lot of his posts,” she says.
Living in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts, in which two-thirds of voters rejected Trump, has been isolating for Joe.
“I deal with it in my personal life and work life, where it's extremely taboo to express my support for Trump, having to explain myself each time, having people whisper in secret they agree but afraid to admit that they have an opinion,” he says.
A co-worker who voted for Obama twice confided in Joe that he voted Trump this election, but was reluctant to tell anyone else.
Joe’s support for Trump has also risked his closest relationship, with his girlfriend, Rachel.
When she saw him in his Make America Great Again beanie, about to head off for the inauguration, she sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Before we started dating and he told me he liked Trump I almost broke it off,” she says.
“Luckily he proved to me that a person can support Trump and not act like him.”
The pair, who met on Tinder in August, say they try to avoid talking politics.
“As a person, [Trump] disgusts me,” Rachel says.
The insults, the childish behaviour – “I don't want the leader of our country doing it.”
“The way that he treats people is horrifying, from the sexual assault allegations, treatment of immigrants, and mocking the disabled.”
For her, Trump's comments on women's bodies, and the assault allegations, are particularly concerning.
For his part, Joe treats the numerous allegations against Trump with scepticism.
“I don't want to sound like I'm down playing sexual assault victims – I understand there is strength and numbers and they get strength through others coming out – but it's sad to say in today's world money can cause people to make things up,” Joe says.
“[It] just seemed too convenient – The man has been in public eye since before I was born and none of it came out until he ran for president.”
While that’s true of some of the allegations, others date back far earlier, such as the now withdrawn allegation from Trump’s first wife claiming he raped her.
Rachel, like most Massachusettsans, voted for Clinton.
It was her first ever presidential ballot, but not one she was particularly proud to cast.
For the Sanders supporter, it was the least worst outcome – she would have voted for a third Obama term if she could.
“I figured they're all corrupt but she could talk her way out of more than [Trump] could,” she says.
“His temper worries me, I don't want a nuclear war.”
Clinton's polling told her team that Trump's temperament was the most potent weapon against him, and it seems to have worked with Rachel.
Joe, however, could never have voted for Clinton.
“She personifies everything wrong with the corrupt American politician,” he says.
While Joe says there are things that Trump could do that could cause him to drop his support, the incoming administration has his support for the time being.
“I have faith in them that they can create a better program then the Affordable Care Act,” he says of the Republican repeal of Obamacare.
“I can honestly say I wish there wasn't such haste in action to repeal it without a better replacement.”
“Some of his cabinet appointments I admit I'm not too fond of, and don't understand, but Trump and team are smarter than me – so I'm being woefully optimistic,” he says.
Trump has appointed several former Goldman Sachs executives to his team, even after railing against Hillary Clinton for a paid speech to the company and slamming CEO Lloyd Blankfein in a controversial ad which claimed a “global power structure” was robbing the middle-class.
Joe rejects the idea that Trump is responsible for a rise in Islamophobia, racism and homophobia in America today, a narrative propelled by a spate of reports immediately following Trump’s election.
“It's always been there, through Clinton, through Bush and even Obama,” he says, blaming the media and the left for over-reacting to Trump’s unvarnished comments, ignoring his economic message to blue-collar workers who feel screwed-over by establishment politics.
“Love is stronger than hate, and needs to be louder, so we need to join hands instead of throwing a fist – Trump wants to improve life for every American, black, gay, Muslim, et cetera.”
That – Joe tells me – is why he’s driving to D.C. for the inauguration.
“I feel it's important that I be there, that I make the trip to show my support for our President and everyone in our country.”
“I didn't just vote Trump for me, I voted for him to improve the life of everybody, even the ones who hate him,” he says.
Despite their stark political differences, Rachel says she still loves Joe.
“He's fantastic. I love him dearly and I've never felt anything like the feelings I have for him. He's the sweetest man I know, despite the tough and rugged exterior,” she says.
“And he makes me feel safe, which is an incredible feat.”
“Though we differ in many ways, especially with politics she has a beautiful soul,” Joe says.
“She's kind of mended a loss faith I had with being a millennial and dating, I can actually trust her which is an amazing in today's world.”