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Krish Mohan, a comic who performs “socially conscious comedy” nationwide, says the 2016 election inspired him to start talking openly with Donald Trump's supporters about what convinced them to vote for the reality TV star. 

But that doesn’t mean he agrees with the president or his agenda. 

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“I think the 2016 presidential election really didn’t have good candidates, so I can’t blame anyone for the choices that they made,” he says. “But I will listen to why they made those choices so I can get an understanding of what’s going on, and a more accurate picture of where we are as a country.”

In the age of Trumpism, the mere act of listening to folks with different views is seen by many as a feat. But Mohan seems to enjoy it — and it even helps him make a living. He says Trump supporters have come to his politically-infused shows and shared that “they can’t trust candidates like Hillary Clinton” because they seem out-of-touch and unable to understand the plight of the working class.

“That’s why she lost,” he adds. “I don’t really think she knows what average people are going through on a daily basis, and instead of taking a step back and trying to connect with people to understand what’s going on … she just kind of blamed it on Russia.” 

Mohan, who moved to Pennsylvania from India more than 20 years ago and went through the entire immigration process, from renewing visas to his naturalization as a US citizen, says he enjoys talking to people from all walks of life about politics. He says he spends most of his days coming up with political bits for his standup sets, and if a show is successful, he will often hang out afterwards with some of the event organizers and attendees to continue discussing their views on important issues.

In an interview with The Independent this week, Mohan says there are just two Democratic presidential hopefuls who have expressed that same willingness to listen to Trump supporters with an open mind: Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard

(Courtesy of Krish Mohan)

Interestingly, it seems that at least some of the voters who cast ballots for Trump are listening to them as well. 

“With Tulsi, I think it’s because she’s a veteran and she is anti-war,” Mohan suggests when asked why there seems to be an overlap of voters who would consider supporting Trump, Gabbard and Sanders. “I think a lot of diehard Trump supporters jumped on his side because he criticized the interventionist wars that were in in the Middle East.” 

“With Bernie, I think it’s the fact that he’s just willing to sit down and listen to them,” he continues, recalling a meeting the Vermont senator had with voters who didn’t necessarily support him in West Virginia — a state he won in the 2016 Democratic primaries. “These people didn’t vote for him, they were kind of nervous about the socialist title, and he just listened to them then said ‘I’ll do what I can. I’m not your senator, but I know your senator, and I’ll see what I can do.’ I think that’s massive.” 

Mohan says many voters across the country feel “invisible” and in this election, they’re simply looking for someone to hear their concerns without paying lip service. And that's exactly why he likes both Gabbard and Sanders, along with their plans to lift up the working class, from universal healthcare to lowering the cost for an education. 

However, he acknowledges that even Gabbard is playing into the political theater involved with running for office. We spoke just days after the Hawaii congresswoman filed a defamation lawsuit against Clinton for $50 million, seeking damages after the former secretary of state insinuated she was a Russian asset on a podcast last year. 

“I think Hillary did defame Tulsi,” he says. “But I have very mixed feelings about it.”

Mohan says that Gabbard is “right on” to hold Clinton’s feet to the fire for making “wild accusations without any proof,” but he’s not sure anything substantial is going to come out of it. 

“At the end of the day, I would much rather see her push forward with her campaign and try to get more of her voice — which I think is a very needed voice — out into the public to get more people on board with her message,” he continues. “And maybe this defamation lawsuit will help do that, but I’m not sure.”

He adds: “They’ve tried to use these defamatory actions to pull away from her campaign, and I think she’s basically using their own tools against them … It’s an interesting tactic.”

Mohan also says he was “conflicted” with Gabbard’s initial threats to boycott one of the Democratic debates, since he believes her voice is so necessary to the ongoing primary process.

“Joe Biden isn’t going to come out and talk about the military industrial complex,” he says. 

Tulsi Gabbard explains why she abstained from Trump impeachment vote

He was less conflicted about Gabbard’s stance on the articles of impeachment drafted against Trump, and supported her calls to censure the president after voting “present” during the historic vote. In doing so, Gabbard said she was “taking a stand for the center” and added: “This decision of whether to remove Donald Trump or not must be in the hands of voters … I believe they will make that decision.”

The 31-year-old comic is still waiting on his voting information after recently becoming a citizen, but plans to support either Sanders or Gabbard in the Pennsylvania primaries. Mohan is a registered Democrat so he can participate in the state’s closed primary system, though he notes that he doesn’t particularly identify as a member of the party. 

The state is seen as a battleground in 2020, after Trump managed to win Pennsylvania in part by taking back several counties Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012. For now, Mohan says he’s somewhat more likely to vote for Sanders over Gabbard, though he seems pretty torn over the two. By the time he casts a ballot in the primary elections, his vote may switch back to Gabbard. 

I ask him if he’s willing to “vote blue no matter who” in order to take out the incumbent president, or if he would abstain from voting if one of his two candidates aren’t the eventual Democratic nominee. Mohan replies that he certainly isn’t a “blue no matter who Democrat,” but stops short of saying he would abstain from voting.

“I’m looking at what these people stand for and if they’re authentic,” he says. “But I wouldn’t go so far as saying I’m one of those Bernie supporters that would vote for Trump as a protest vote. I would make my vote count in a different way.”

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