Meet the RNC Vendors Selling Trump Gear in Cleveland While Hoping He Loses the Election

July 20, 2016

“Make America Work Again.” That was the theme Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland. Well, on Tuesday, Democracy Now!’s Carla Wills went out on the streets of Cleveland to talk to some of the vendors who are selling everything from Make America Great Again hats to a cereal called Trump Flakes.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re in Cleveland, Ohio, covering the Republican National Convention inside and out, from the streets to the convention floor. "Make America work again." That was the theme Tuesday night here at the RNC in Cleveland. Well, on Tuesday, Democracy Now!’s Carla Wills went out to the streets of Cleveland to talk to some of the vendors who are selling everything from "Make America Great Again" hats to a cereal called Trump Flakes.

KING SOLOMON: My name is King Solomon, and I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. And I’m actually vending. I’m a barber by trade, entrepreneur, Tar Blooders Sports Barber Shop. I’m an owner and operator. And I do that full time, and I vend all around the United States part time.

CARLA WILLS: So what’s your political affiliation?

KING SOLOMON: I don’t have one.

CARLA WILLS: So, do you welcome the Republican convention here to Cleveland?

KING SOLOMON: Oh, absolutely, 100 percent, because it’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs like myself to take part in capital gain.

CARLA WILLS: And so, you don’t find any problem with selling Republican merchandise or supporting merchandise that has Donald Trump’s image on it?

KING SOLOMON: Not at all. Not at all. I think it’s a great opportunity for people, again, like myself to take part in capitalism. So, I’m all for—you know, it’s free enterprise. I’m all for the RNC 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio, just as much as I was for the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the national championship in Cleveland, Ohio. So, you know, it’s all—it’s a capitalistic society, so I’m all for it.

CARLA WILLS: So you don’t have any issues with Donald Trump?

KING SOLOMON: No comment. No comment. You don’t have anything good to say, they say don’t say anything at all. Me and him might cross paths one day, so I don’t want to be recorded on tape saying something against Donald Trump. I mean, it is what it is. You know, everybody has their own thought process. I mean, I don’t know, but, I mean, I’m a vendor. I feel great about Trump, because if he wasn’t running, I wouldn’t be selling these RNC shirts, and I wouldn’t be selling these pictures with his face on them.

DELSHAWN ALLEN JACKSON: My name is Delshawn Allen Jackson. I’m from California, Riverside. Well, my opinion on Trump is, man, tell it like it is, and tell the truth. If you’re going to bring jobs, bring jobs. If not, you’re going to lose voters. So, bring jobs. Do what you say you’re going to do.

CARLA WILLS: Who are you supporting for president this year?


PASSERBY: When you’re selling merch for somebody, and you won’t comment—

CARLA WILLS: What did you say?

PASSERBY: I said, when you’re selling merch for one person, and you’re not going to comment on who you’re supporting, I think it’s—I think we can draw our own conclusions.

ROLANDO HEATH: Rolando Heath, and I play for the Warriors in Akron. We’re selling waters, a dollar apiece, to help me get new basketball jerseys and things like that.

CARLA WILLS: How have people been responding to you so far?

ROLANDO HEATH: I mean, it’s been OK. It’s just that when it happens, it’s a lot. Like they might give 20, but only want one water. You know, so they might give a, you know, 20. But year, it’s running slow, but when it happens, it happens big. So it’s—I’m OK with that.

CARLA WILLS: What are your thoughts about Donald Trump?

ROLANDO HEATH: Well, for one, I think he’s a very, very arrogant person. And I don’t think he deserves to be in the position he’s in now. I don’t think all the money he’s making he made fairly. I don’t think so at all. And I don’t think he deserves to be in the White House.

CARLA WILLS: So, if you were old enough to vote, you wouldn’t be voting for him?

ROLANDO HEATH: No, no, no.

CARLA WILLS: What do—do you have thoughts about Hillary Clinton?

ROLANDO HEATH: She’s not OK, either, but she’s much better than Donald Trump, so therefore I would vote for her.

CARLA WILLS: Do you have any problem being out here, you know, with all these Republicans who are Trump supporters?

ROLANDO HEATH: The only time—the only problem I have is the fact of how many people are rooting for Donald Trump. They don’t see the poison he’s feeding into America. I just—I just really want to get the money that we need, and just kind of get away from this area, because with as many Donald Trump fans and things like that, it makes my stomach sick.

CORBAN DAKUKAITIS: So, my name is Corban Damukaitis. I’m from Dallas, Texas. I’m helping an old boss of mine for two hours, and then I’m never doing this again. And I have not done it before this, either. I actually consider myself a political satirist-slash-humorist. The fact that I’m here selling Donald Trump bobbleheads is probably the height of irony. You know, I don’t even know if I can take myself seriously doing this. I’m almost worried that somebody is going to see me who saw me doing satire, and they’re going to think that I am a legitimate Trump supporter.

CARLA WILLS: You’re out here selling, you know, "Trump: the real hope and change," "Obama, you’re fired." How does that align with, you know, your politics and how you feel when pro-Trump folks come and say, "Oh, this is great. I’m going to, you know, support you in your effort"?

CORBAN DAKUKAITIS: I mean, I owe my friend 20 bucks right now. You know, so that explains part of the story, you know. And I don’t want to be too much of like a "I’ll sell my soul for money, and I’ll do anything for money." But, you know, if it’s like—it’s two hours. You know what I’m saying? You know, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s funny. And I’m sitting here. I’m telling people, "Love him or hate him, this is an interesting novelty item." It almost cartoonifies him and trivializes him. Because I don’t think that even Republicans can take this nominee seriously. Like I think even the ones that really do support him, there’s part of themselves where they kind of know, like, oh, this is so silly. Like, oh, yeah, we’re finally getting white with it. Like, look how silly it is, and we finally did it. Like, there’s just something so goofy about all of it. And so, the fact that it’s a Donald—it’s a bobblehead, and it’s not, you know, some pamphlet, it’s not—I don’t feel like I’m like trying to encourage people to drink the Kool-Aid too much.

DANIEL LIONEL: My name’s Daniel Lionel. I’m out here just selling these shirts. You know, it’s been doing good. I like it.

CARLA WILLS: So what about your thoughts about being here at the Republican National Convention?

DANIEL LIONEL: It’s a lot of people that I didn’t know was going to be so nice, you know?

CARLA WILLS: Really? And you’re wearing Donald Trump’s "Make America Great Again" hat. Do you support Donald Trump?

DANIEL LIONEL: It’s more of a, like, you know, advertisement. But I just like the—you know, I’m just trying to get a better understanding of where he’s coming from, because I see a lot of nice people around here, you know? I probably won’t vote for him, but, you know, it’s just—you know, it’s really business.

CARLA WILLS: With the recent police killings of African-American men, I mean, what do you think a Donald Trump presidency would mean for people like yourself?

DANIEL LIONEL: I’m not going to lie. My homie got smoked, Kendrick McCade. He got smoked by the police. He didn’t do nothing. But I still feel the same way, like maybe he had a second thought—maybe if he made another thought and didn’t do what he did, then maybe that wouldn’t have happened. But, you know, I wasn’t there to tell what happened, you know, but it’s—I got a lot of homies that lost their life by the police. I don’t like them personally, you know? But, you know, you’ve just got to live and you learn. Life goes on.

STEVE PRESSER: My name’s Steve Presser, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I have a store called Big Fun.

CARLA WILLS: Talk about some of the things you have here.

STEVE PRESSER: So what I’ve done is I’ve offered a mix. It’s the RNC, so I’m going to have a lot of Republican memorabilia, but I’m also going to have some Democratic. One of our best items of all time is the Hillary Clinton nutcracker, which, back in the day—and I’m talking about eight years ago—one of the best-selling items, still a good-selling item. But you could sell this to a person who is very pro-Democratic and someone who is not a friend of Hillary’s, and both parties would buy it. So we like this kind of dual-purpose items—bipartisanship at its best.

CARLA WILLS: And your thoughts about Donald Trump? You have some Donald Trump memorabilia here. Your thoughts about him and his possibility at the presidency?

STEVE PRESSER: Is this going to go live after the convention, so I can run out? I have some serious issues about what he espouses. And I’m from the generation of peace, love and understanding, and I just have much difficulty understanding how a politician is going to be running for the presidency of the United States and could spew such vitriol and such hate and could be so antagonistic and cause people to really come out of their shells.

CARLA WILLS: We’ve met a lot of vendors who—you know, whose politics may not necessarily align with Donald Trump, but they’re selling Donald Trump memorabilia, "vote Trump" T-shirts, pro-Trump memorabilia. What are your thoughts about, you know, vendors who feel like I have to make a living, I’m here, this is a business venture, and it not aligning with their own politics?

STEVE PRESSER: That’s a very, very interesting question. And I understand that, because when push comes to shove, you know, humans, like animals, like everybody else, they’ve got to be protective of their family and their existence. So, if someone needs to make a living and needs to pay the bill and make sure that the gas and electric stay on, I understand that. Political stuff, I’ve always found to be fun. I’ve always been a big fan of Nixon—not Nixon per se, but collecting Nixon. And for me, and hopefully he won’t be elected, but I find Trump is like the new Nixon. I really see it, because it’s just—there’s just so many things, the physical features and, you know, the orange and the hair and the loudness and all the crazy stuff that comes out of this individual. Trump could be my new Nixon.

CARLA WILLS: Can you tell us what you’re holding right now?

STEVE PRESSER: So this is the Donald Trump talking pen. So, here’s one of those products that you’ve got to hate, but you’ve got to love.

TALKING DONALD TRUMP PEN: I will be the greatest president that God ever created. Look, I’m really rich. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. I don’t wear a toupée. It’s my hair. I swear. I love China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China.

STEVE PRESSER: There you go. And as my friend said, anytime you can make money off a Republican is a good time.

AMY GOODMAN: That report by Democracy Now!'s Carla Wills and Hany Massoud. This is Democracy Now!,, "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We'll be back in a minute.

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