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Photos: Inside Donald Trump's Only L.A. Phone Bank
The People's Republic of Santa Monica has earned a reputation as a bastion of unabashed liberalism, and for good reason. But here, on the ground floor of a two-story stucco office building in one of the nation's most progressive cities, fifteen-odd people are drinking sodas and making calls in support of a very un-Santa Monica candidate. Welcome to Donald Trump's only Los Angeles phone bank.
This isn't your typical campaign HQ. In fact, it's not sponsored by the campaign—Trump's official L.A. County office is in Long Beach, a good forty minutes south from the heart of the city. This little office, rented for three months and closing up shop tomorrow, is being run by Santa Monica Republican Women Federated, a local branch of a national organization. Unlike the usual high-volume hustle bustle of an Election Day GOTV command center, the mood is relatively subdued. There are no over-caffeinated twentysomethings running around with their hearts on fire and their cellphones in hand, or piles of sleeping bags and suitcases stacked in corners. There aren't even any pictures of the candidate—instead the walls are decked in framed Republican nostalgia, heavy on the Reagan years. The crowd skews older, and most people are skittish about being interviewed.
Standing in the sun just outside the office, Linda Lancaster, an HQ volunteer and 60-year-old retired dietician, says that when they first set up the Santa Monica Police came by and advised them not to hang too many signs out front. Another volunteer says that they get some "interesting gestures" from passerby.
Everyone in the office is a little guarded. A man leaning through the door stage whispers something about not wanting anyone from the "lefty media" in the office. I am not particularly welcome, though the room does warm up slightly when I compliment the cool Reagan posters!
The only buzz is the sound of phone calls being made from the interconnected little warren of rooms, with certain lines echoing out from call to call. It's Main Street versus Wall Street. It's us small folks versus big folks. He needs us. We need you. I'm calling...
Marcella Sutton is in charge of the show here, but her enthusiasm is tempered. When the 70-year-old member of Santa Monica Republican Women Federated is asked what inspired her to organize for Trump, she says, "In a nutshell, he wasn't my first choice. But he's the party's choice, and since I'm running headquarters..."
"The more I learn about him, the better I feel," Sutton adds, sipping her Dr. Pepper. "Since California is kind of liberal—that's an understatement—we are not thought of as one one of the 'winnable areas,'" she explains, but they soldier on. According to Sutton, the office has made over 55,000 phone calls for Trump since opening in August. Today, they are calling North Carolina, and later tonight they will shift their rings to Nevada.
Even the volunteers at this humble HQ seem to be hedging their endorsements.
"I'm not against him, I believe in him as a candidate," Tom, a 55-year-old engineer from Ventura who would prefer not to give his last name, says when asked what drew him to the candidate. "But I don't think one person can make America great again. That's up to the people." He was initially split on whether he wanted to volunteer, but ended up coming out because he is "very apprehensive about the Supreme Court justice appointments, and the consolidation of wealth and power." Tom is wearing blue jeans and has a closely-cropped salt-and-pepper beard and is worried about protecting religious liberties and corruption in the media.
As I leave, Tom hands me two little leaflets of Christian teachings, one of them focused on the Second Coming and how, after a thousand years of earthly wreckage and destruction, God will restore the world to its original beauty and purity to become the eternal home of the redeemed.
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