Openly supporting the Republicans in Berlin feels to some like an act of provocation. In 2016, on the eve of the election that brought him to power, Exberliner searched far and wide to find his Berlin-based supporters, only to discover that few were prepared to go on record.
Four years later, they are still out there. One of them, Republicans Overseas Germany member Tina Chittom, recently caused outrage for claiming in a TV interview the coronavirus is “exaggerated” and BLM is “racist” against white people. Do Berlin’s Trump supporters feel the same way? Ahead of election day on Tuesday, Leander Jones travelled across the city to find out.
The moustache-twirling tycoon
Mr. X is the cigar-smoking, moustache-twirling CEO of a large firm that exports a certain herbal substance commonly used in plant-based alternative medicines. He wants to keep his identity a secret, because most of his clientele are New Age types who overwhelmingly favour the Democrats.
Within five minutes of meeting, he told me that he only pays 4 percent in corporate tax. “I pulled some crazy shit that I could do some tutorial shit on,” he cackles. “To keep my corporate tax rate I hire like 40 accountants.”
Mr. X praises Trump for only paying $750 dollars in federal taxes: “If he didn’t pay taxes, good for him. You’re a dumbass if you pay tax in the States.” One of the main reasons Mr. X likes Trump is because he thinks like a businessman. Indeed, Mr. X places the interests of business, or at least his business, above all other concerns.
He also complained about European employees demanding paid holidays. “In San Francisco and Wall Street, you bust your ass,” he says. “It’s all a part of the game. In Europe they’re like ‘I need vacation time, I need this, I need that.’ I’m like, ‘what the fuck else do you need bro? And I’m paying for this?’…. And that’s where the Republican Party kicks in: we’re protecting capitalism, because there’s no fucking rules, and nobody gives you fucking vacation unless you earn it.”
In his mind the world is made up of “bullies and punks” – if you don’t want to “get punk’d”, you gotta be a bully, which is another reason why he likes Trump so much. “Trump is a bully,” he explains. “But you need a bully for Putin, you need a bully for Kim Jong-un, a bully for Iran.”
He went to an elite school, and his sympathies have always been with the Republicans, but Mr. X has never been more excited about a president than he is about Trump. “That dude’s special,” he says. “He’s still got chicks coming out about sexual assault – that shit bounces off of him. You gotta just respect people for their superpowers.” He is certain that Trump will win the election as a result of these superpowers, and because his opponents “don’t vote – they destroy cities. They just want to protest.”
Mr. X, who is Black, says it’s mostly white people protesting at BLM demos. “Antifa’s making the black people look bad,” he says. “They spray ‘Black Lives Matter’ and burn stuff down, but Black people are just there trying to get some shoes at the store.”
He dismissed police violence as the real motive for the protests. “They don’t even know who George Floyd is,” he says. “This guy was a drug addict. He couldn’t breathe before they touched this fool.”
He also believes Corona was released deliberately by the Clintons and Soros in an attempt to bring down Trump.
The Donald Trump-eter:
The next Republican I met was George Weinberg, a 72-year-old real-estate tycoon. As we sat in his large fifth-story conference room overlooking Wittenbergplatz, he proudly explained how he’d met Trump several times in a business capacity before he became president, and has since been a guest at White House Christmas parties.
Weinberg is also a friend of the former US ambassador Richard Grenell, and has used his connections to make regular appearances on German TV and radio. He sees it as his “duty” to act as a “spokesperson for the official policy of the American administration”. But the large Fox News badge attached to his briefcase and the MAGA hat on his desk suggest this duty comes easily. Weinberg voices many of Trump’s infamous sound-bites, including calling Covid-19 “the Chinese virus.” But his age may have made him too cautious to claim its dangers are exaggerated and, sure enough, he’s very diligent about social distancing.
The pandemic isn’t the only thing he blamed on China. BLM, he says, is a Marxist organisation funded by the Chinese Communist Government.
Weinberg is also no fan of the media, who he says “are horrible.” He believes the media are unfair to Trump, and if there’s any way to get on Weinberg’s wrong side, it’s to criticise his hero. “He is one of the best presidents the US has ever had,” he claims. He’s also positive that the Republicans will win the election, despite Biden’s ever-widening lead in the polls.
Wishful thinking? Weinberg doesn’t think so. Like Mr. X, he claims many people are pro-Trump, but are afraid to admit it publicly. “I have many Republican friends here. Executives, business leaders and owners, all with high positions. In our internal circle, they admit they are pro-Trump, but they cannot be public with their opinions because they would lose half of their customer base. If you are a CEO of a big American bank, and you publicly say you are Republican, then you lose all the Democratic customers.”
The stay-at-home dad
Are all Berlin Republicans wealthy businessmen? And do they all hold such uber-partisan views? Brett Morrison bucks this trend. This 38 year-old stay-at-home dad lives with his daughter and wife, who is the breadwinner of the family. He says it was from his military dad that he inherited his conservative political views. He isn’t a tub-thumping partisan, but describes himself as a “Republican by default.”
His beliefs align more closely with traditional Republican values. “I would never own a gun, but I respect the right,” he says. “I’m not religious, but from a moral perspective I think abortion is wrong.”
There’s also a degree of separation between his ideas and his identity. “It’s my belief, it’s not who I am,” he explains. Morrison has a rare tolerance for those with different opinions.
“I enjoy hearing the other side of the argument,” he says. “It makes what you believe stronger if you can try to understand the opposition. The best times I have at a bar are when I disagree with somebody – but when it is done in a way that everybody has fun, not in a way that disrespects anybody.”
“People don’t know how to disagree with each other anymore,” he continues. “People get stuck in their own orbit, it’s a bit sad, really. The media make it worse… There’s no example of how to butt heads and then go drink a beer after it.”
Morrison supports Trump, but he admits he “does play off the extreme sometimes to get the attention.”
Four years ago, he thought he never would have voted for him, but was won over by Trump’s stance on a number of key issues, including immigration. “I’ve been against illegal immigration for a long time,” he says. “Not because I’m anti-immigrant, but because I want to support legal immigration.”
He argues that “liberal causes at face value seem right. ‘I want to protect the immigrant, I want to deal with human rights.’ But I want to go a little deeper. Black lives do matter, yes, but what’s the best thing to do about it?”
Morrison doesn’t have any wild theories about Corona, although he isn’t sure if the level of risk warrants the current policy response: “It’s hard to tell, I’m no scientist.” That’s certainly refreshing to hear in the current climate. He even admitted that Trump might lose.