Seeing red in blue community: Trump supporters speak out

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Karina Munoz likes Donald J. Trump. A lot.

She thinks he’s a good president who has done great things for the country, and is a much better alternative to a Democratic Party in “shambles.” She likes Trump so much, she changed her Facebook name at one point to “Kari Trump.”

“I did it for shock value just because you show just the most miniscule amount of support and people just hound you,” Munoz said. She has been called a bigot and a racist for her support of the president. When Munoz and her mother — another Trump supporter — go out in public and talk politics, they keep their voices low to avoid conflict with other people around them.

Such is the life of a Trump supporter in Riverdale.

There are not many of them in the Bronx, one of the most consistent and “dark blue” bases of support for Democratic candidates in the state. In fact, there are only 46,500 registered Republicans in the borough, according to the state’s elections board. That’s compared to 627,600 registered Democrats. That’s one Republican for every 14 Democrats.

But Trump supporters in the Bronx do exist. In 2016, more than 7,000 of them voted for the Republican in the 81st Assembly District alone.

Some, like Munoz, are loud and proud about their support. Others, including those who have donated to Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, fear damage to their professional and personal reputations.

Last year, Munoz and her niece Pepper Munoz founded the “Karina and Pepper Mission,” a community initiative to help clean up the streets and parks of their neighborhood. Now, when she makes announcements in community Facebook groups about their efforts, she gets comments about her profile name.

“Well if people don’t want to help me because of the last name I decided to put on my post, than I don’t need their help anyway,” Munoz said.

She’s also active in community projects, including providing food for the homeless once a month. On social media, she is a ferocious supporter of the president and his agenda — getting penalized by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at various points for her attacks on U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the Bronx and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The two freshmen congresswomen are outspoken progressives who earn the frequent ire of conservatives.

Munoz was outraged after Omar utilized what she described as an anti-Semitic trope in criticizing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“My boss is Jewish, all my clients are Jewish, we kind of live in a Jewish neighborhood,” Munoz said. “Why wouldn’t I defend Israel? So I called her out on it.”

Munoz, whose mother was born in the Dominican Republic, says she gets flack from her Hispanic friends because it’s “frowned upon” for being a Trump supporter. The president launched his campaign in 2015 with a speech claiming Mexico was sending immigrants across the American border who were criminals and rapists.

Since then he has continued to use racist rhetoric, restricted immigration, and instituted policies like the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border.

In recent months, however, Trump’s approval rating among Hispanic voters has surged around 50 percent in some polls.

“My mother is an immigrant,” Munoz said. “That doesn’t mean he’s against her or anything. He just wants it to be done in a legal way.”

Stephane Lubicz is a bit quieter about his support of the president.

“It was not so much him appealing to me,” the obstetrician said, “but me being disgusted by the other side.”

A former Democrat, Lubicz switched his party affiliation to Republican in order to support Trump. He voted for Barack Obama twice and continues to donate to both parties, but he no longer sees eye-to-eye with Democrats.

Hillary Clinton was a “pure opportunist,” Lubicz said, and he dislikes what he calls Democrats’ embrace of socialists like Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in recent years.

“I know a lot about politics in Europe, and I’m afraid it’s starting to change in that same direction in this country,” Lubicz said. “There is such a deficit in public education on public issues.”

Despite voting for Obama, Lubicz became disillusioned with Obama’s policies, which he described as anti-Israel and not doing enough for the black community. A self-described “white Jew from Africa” — Lubicz was born in the Congo when it was still a Belgian colony — he believes Trump is much better on both of these issues.

“I don’t like sometimes how he talks,” Lubicz said. “There are things he can do better, but … the economy is booming. You may not like him, but you cannot reject what’s happening with the country.”

Barring a huge scandal or an international conflict, Lubicz plans on voting for Trump again in 2020. He has been following the Democratic primary race closely, but he’s not impressed. For now, he tries to not to “talk about things that are very contentious.”

Munoz is going the opposite route, planning to wear her support for the president proudly.

“I ordered a MAGA hat to wear to Central Park.”

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