Hollywood conservatives, ever slow to warm up to the idea of presidential candidate Donald Trump, are now facing a difficult choice: Find a way to like him or lose to the Democrats in November.
The day after the GOP frontrunner became the party’s presumptive nominee, many right-leaning industry insiders are forcing themselves to get in line behind the man they hoped would never make it to the top of their party’s ticket.
“When Ted Cruz first announced he was dropping out of the race, I thought I would vote for [John] Kasich,” Dave Berg, longtime Hollywood conservative and former co-producer of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” told TheWrap. “I knew it would be a protest vote but I just couldn’t see myself voting for Trump.”
But now that Kasich has dropped out, clearing the path for Trump to become the official party nominee, Berg is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I want to see if he can rise to the occasion,” Berg said. “I’m hoping against hope that he is a decent man.”
A member of the recently reorganized Hollywood conservative group Friends of Abe, who wished to remain nameless, told TheWrap that he believes that Trump faces an uphill battle winning over right-leaning Californians. But even naysayers will have no choice but to eventually come around.
“Hollywood is a capitalist society,” he said. “They don’t like the idea of paying more taxes.”
Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has ruffled plenty of feathers within the Thirty-Mile Zone. But he does have at least one thing going for him, according to those who run in conservative Hollywood circles: He’s not Hillary Clinton.
“I have no doubt that when the reality of ‘Trump or Hillary’ sinks in, people will vote for Trump,” Oscar-nominated screenwriter and prominent Hollywood conservative Lionel Chetwynd told TheWrap. “When push comes to shove, no true conservative will withhold their vote.”
Chetwynd, who until Tuesday was backing Cruz, said that Trump has his “100 percent” support now that he’s the likely party nominee.
To be fair, there are plenty of people in Hollywood who are excited by the prospect of a President Trump.
“Donald Trump is going to kick some ass in the general election,” Roger Neal, founder and owner of NPR, a Hollywood public relations and management company, told TheWrap. “He’s a survivor.”
His wife, Lynn Briggs Neal, also a publicist, told TheWrap that even though she’s a staunch Democrat, she too is voting for Trump this year.
“I like to root for the underdog,” she said almost apologetically. “Everyone was against Trump and look, he’s the nominee now.”
The idea of a Trump-Clinton general election face-off, has some industry conservative salivating with excitement. While they know Clinton is a formidable candidate, they believe Trump will have no problem taking her on.
“It’s like Superman vs. Cruella de Vil,” said Emmy award-winning host and actress Dee Dee Sorvino. “There are 101 reasons Trump will be our next president.”
It’s hard to say just how much opposition Trump could face in Hollywood in the coming months. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, who’ve mostly coalesced around Clinton early on, conservatives in Hollywood have spent the primary season flirting with a wide variety of presidential candidates, including Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
Last month, Friends of Abe gave up its status as a tax-exempt 501-c3 organization, creating a bit of a leadership vacuum within the right-leaning Hollywood community. The group claimed it was “reorganizing” due to lack of funds, but some members cited Donald Trump as a leading factor in the group’s eventual demise.
Trump may never be able to get Hollywood fired up the way Clinton has. But some believe he will get the conservative Hollywood vote … even if reluctantly.
“This is our last chance,” Chetwynd said. “If progressives retain control of the White House for another four years, the America we know and love will be unrecognizable.”