How women rally for the President of the United States
It has been 12 months since Donald Trump became President of the United States. Despite having low popularity ratings, Trump’s base still stands behind him. Toni Holt Kramer makes up part of that. She leads the ‘Trumpettes’, a well-to-do group of mainly affluent women who support the President’s agenda between their cruise ship tours and cocktail parties.
By Veronika Eschbacher, Los Angeles
The drive up to Toni Halt Kramer’s villa is narrow and steep. Those who wish to visit her must first steady their nerves in proving that they can maneuver around the width of Kramer’s Rolls-Royce with only centimeters of wiggle room.
Toni Holt Kramer lives here with her husband in the elite Beverly Hills. The first greeting comes from her bodyguard. Her husband then promptly excuses Kramer’s initial absence: “she had an emergency and needs to quickly do her hair,” he says apologetically.
In that moment, two women dressed completely in white, all the way down to their white gloves, whisk into the living room carting freshly pressed melon juice, sliced fruit and ice-cold drinks. As they make their way across the room, they pass elaborately placed, gold-framed pictures of the hostess with the United States President, Donald Trump. In one picture, Trump is reaching for Kramer’s right hand that has a massive diamond ring pointing at the camera. A sudden call is heard from the back: “Maria!” The eyes widen of one of the two women in white and she rushes out of the living room.
Roughly twenty minutes later, Toni Holt Kramer sits comfortably in a beige gold fauteuil chair in her opulently furnished living room. “In the beginning, it was just an idea that came to me during a cruise in Europe,” remembers the former Hollywood reporter and talk show moderator. That was a year and half ago. “Back then Donald, I mean President Trump, didn’t have the nomination of the Republican Party in the bag,” Kramer continues.
A few years earlier, the then reality TV star Trump did a favor for a close friend of Kramer’s per her request. Since then, Kramer was convinced that this man delivers what he promises. “So that’s how the idea came about to put together a women’s group so that our fellow country women can better understand what Trump wants for them and for our country – that he is the only one who can save the United States,” Kramer says. Some time later in September 2015, the ‘Trumpettes USA’ were born.
Kramer spends much of her time on cruises in Europe and in the Caribbean as well as at charity events in California’s Bel Air, Palm Springs and Palm Beach rallying up support for Donald Trump. Over the last 16 months, she gave over 80 interviews to both national and international media outlets defending her fellow Trump campaigners and Trump’s politics. Kramer manages a website as well as several Facebook pages and continually recruits new members. Her focus is mostly geared towards women. She encourages them to question her controversial position on Trump with the aim of winning them over. “We have been able to convince women from all walks of life,” Kramer states proudly. “Perhaps the four founders were wealthy, but we aren’t a bunch of rich snobby women. We are the people. We are more laid back,” she says. Together with her fellow campaigners, she works every day for President Trump and pushing his agenda. “We go to churches. We knock on doors. We really have a mission: we want to save the country.”
Kramer, who has supported and donated to both Republicans and Democrats in her life, sees that her mission is growing with each passing day. This could be because of Donald Trump’s low popularity ratings in the United States. Not one of Trump’s predecessor had experienced such low popularity their first year in office. According to a Gallup survey, only 35 per cent of American citizens approve of Trump’s course of action.
Toni Holt Kramer does not understand it. For his first ten months in office, she gives Trump 101 out of 100. Simply put, Kramer backs absolutely everything Trump has done to date. “He is Superman,” she says. In response to the fact that Trump has yet to implement a single comprehensive bill, she doesn’t blame the president. She sees it much more as a problem with the congressmen in Washington. No matter what the issue is, and no matter what side of the political line they fall on, there is no spur to action, she says.
Kramer claims that those who know him, know that he is not a racist. Trump is not against immigration, he’s against illegal immigration, she says. When Trump made his infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, she didn’t like it. She says it was taken out of context and blown out of proportion by the media. For almost every critique that has been thrown at Trump, Kramer has an explanation, a way to play it down, or a counterargument up her sleeve.
The first acquaintance was New Year’s Eve 2009
Friends had invited Kramer to Trump’s exclusive club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. The real estate tycoon went around from table to table: “He told us right away: I hope you become members,” remembers Kramer. She was thrilled to see how down-to-earth Trump was and how friendly he approached her. Trump wasn’t the type of club owner who would hang out on the sidelines or isolate himself: “he went so far as to shake everyone’s hand and kissed everyone who came in.” The next year, Kramer and her husband became members at Mar-a-Lago. A membership for the private club costs around 200,000 dollars, plus a yearly fee of 15,000 dollars.
Because Kramer spent her winters in Florida since then, she spent time with Trump almost every weekend there. She says the White House has changed him: “He’s lost his lightheartedness.” It seems to bother Kramer that so few Americans acknowledge what kind of life Trump gave up. “He needed this presidency like he needed two more hands,” she says. Especially, as she puts it, because he has been confronted with so many crises all at once like no other president before. She believes however, that he won’t give up until he has reached his goal.
“He goes where he wants to go”
Kramer was convinced from the beginning that Trump would make it into the White House. The former TV starlet attributes this success above all else to the power of television in the United States. For years, Americans had let Trump into their homes through his reality TV show ‘The Apprentice’. “He was in their beds, their bathrooms, in their kitchens, he was everywhere in their homes,” says Kramer. They had known him and adored him, otherwise the show wouldn’t have gone on for so many years.
“I knew they would vote for him because for so many Americans he was like a father, brother or husband,” continues Kramer. She also sees his authenticity as key to his success. He talks the same way he does in a personal discussion as he would into a microphone in front of thousands of people, explains Kramer. It’s not that he has one personality for show business and another for the people and then another for his friends – “he is what he is,” she says.
Kramer is not giving up on Trump any time soon, which is evident in her next big event. The Trumpettes are organizing a big party to celebrate his first year of presidency at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club mid-January. Not only will 800 fellow Trump supporters be present, but the party will serve as a way to bolster his business – which hasn’t been the same considering what the Washington Post reported on last summer. Nineteen of the 25 big yearly charity fundraisers canceled their events at Mar-a-Lago after Trump defended the right extremists at the Charlottesville protests.
Kramer doesn’t know the exact number of how many Trumpettes are out there. Many women prefer not to have their names posted as members on the website, but the number is growing. To the question of whether or not Trump will soon be back at Palm Beach or New York to his former circles, Kramer shakes her head. Trump will most definitely run for second term: “What would have been the point of everything he’s done so far? He’s going through hell. It needs to get better.”
Veronika Eschbacher (35) ist Korrespondentin für die USA und Afghanistan und pendelt zwischen Los Angeles und Kabul. Davor war sie Redakteurin für Außenpolitik und Außenwirtschaft bei der österreichischen Tageszeitung „Wiener Zeitung“. Sie beschäftigt sich in ihren Reportagen und Analysen vor allem mit politischen und sozialen Themen, aber auch mit Fragen der Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftspolitik.