President Trump’s Hamptons supporters have gone underground.
While Trump attended two big-money fundraisers for the Republican Party and his 2020 re-election campaign at mansions in Southampton and Bridgehampton on Friday, many of his East End supporters are eschewing the spotlight — especially after last week’s calls for boycotts of billionaire Stephen Ross’ gyms because he hosted the president.
“We are all in the closet,” said a boutique owner in Southampton who fears reprisals from his customers — most of them moneyed Democrats — if he speaks openly about his allegiance to Trump. “It’s like you have this disease and people want to run away from you.”
A builder based in Westhampton worried that his customers would boycott his services if he reveals his support of the president. “People have really strong opinions here and if you go around wearing a MAGA hat, you really need to fear physical violence,” he said, adding the anti-Trump aggression comes mostly from summer residents.
Trump won 51.5 percent of the vote among year-round residents of Suffolk County in the 2016 election, compared to 44.6 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton. In 2008 and 2012, most of the county voted for Barack Obama.
Despite the recent shift, many of Trump’s core supporters fear speaking out, especially during the summer months, when beachfront villages from Westhampton to Montauk are filled with left-leaning visitors from New York City.
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“They’re all Democrats, so for us it’s a matter of survival,” said an art consultant who works in Sag Harbor. “We live in the land of the First Amendment, but if you want to stay in business out here, you have to keep your opinions to yourself. We are hitting a very dark and strange place as a country.”
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One Manhattan artist who was at a recent benefit for the Watermill Center, a Southampton arts space, said she was shocked when she saw Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and wife Hilary Geary Ross mingling among the guests, most of them artists and art dealers.
“They’re Republicans!” the shocked artist said at the time. “What were they doing there?”
But Ross is a noted art collector and longtime resident of the Hamptons, where fellow Republican and real-estate developer Joe Farrell hosted a $2,800-a-person fundraiser for Trump’s 2020 presidential bid at his 17,000-square-foot mansion, Sandcastle, in Bridgehampton on Friday.
“You can’t win,” said the Southampton boutique owner. “If you want to stay in business, you have to learn to lie to people. You have to say stuff like, ‘I hate his hairdo.’ I’m just struggling to make the bottom line here. Honestly, I am not rich enough to have a political opinion.”