By Stephen J. Kotz
With a bitter election campaign behind them, East End Republicans gathered at the American Legion in Amagansett on Friday to celebrate the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president and look toward forward to the prospect of him delivering on his campaign promises.
The legion hall, more typically a scene of weddings and community fundraisers, was decked out with red, white and blue balloons, American flags, and a cardboard mockup of Mr. Trump with a “Make America Great Again” banner hanging behind it for the next-best thing to photo ops with the real president.
A huge television in the corner was tuned to Fox News, which showed scenes from the day’s festivities as well as repeated video clips of a small group of violent protesters who smashed business windows and set a car on fire in the capital following the inauguration on Friday.
The happy crowd of about 150 people danced to music, including “Happy Days Are Here Again,” the campaign song of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal policies Mr. Trump and the Republicans, with majorities in both houses of Congress, are poised to sweep away.
“Once again, as is our tradition, we have transferred the instruments of national power from one leader to another and from one group to another without gunfire — except for a few morons on the streets of Washington, D.C.,” said Reg Cornelia, the chairman of East Hampton Town’s Republican committee. “Let’s hope we can keep it going with the help of this very tough skinned, very smart guy we’ve just elected to the White House.
“Donald Trump is going to need each and everyone, calling their congressman, keeping their backs nice and straight and keeping their eyes forward,” he said, as a voice in the crowd shouted, “Build the Wall!”
As would be expected, those in attendance had high hopes for Mr. Trump’s presidency.
Greg Mansley said when he chose who to vote for, it came down to “Hillary or Trump: Who would I trust the lives of my two daughters to. Hillary didn’t win that.”
He said Mr. Trump’s promises to cut taxes, roll back regulations, and restore American jobs would makes things better for young people. “It’s time to take all the promises that are on life support and fulfill them,” he said. “America has become a can-do country again.”
“I thought we needed someone like Reagan who came out of the west to shake things up,” said Phil Berg. “And then Trump came along and I’m thrilled.”
If Hillary Clinton had won, the country would have gone downhill he said. “After eight years of this a–hole and another four years of her, forget it,” he said.
That sentiment was shared by Lucille Berrill Paulsen, who wore a tattoo of the word “Deplorable” across her bosom.
“For the last eight years we were supposed to be embarrassed to be American,” she said. “Now I feel like our country can be saved. If Hillary got in, we were going to go down the drain.”
“To be very honest with you, he wasn’t my candidate,” said Don Cirillo, who said he supported Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker before switching first to Marco Rubio and then to Ted Cruz before throwing his support behind Mr. Trump.
“I don’t expect him to do half the things he says,” Mr. Cirillo said of the new president. “I’d like to see him get a handle on the immigration situation. I really think that has been detrimental to the United States, not just with jobs but in terms of social services.
“You really can’t have an open-door policy where anyone can come across any time they feel like it. I don’t think he has to build a wall — I think that is metaphorical — I do think he will hold employers responsible for who they hire.”
“I hope he brings reality to the federal government,” said East Hampton Town Councilman Fred Overton. In President Trump, Americans have “somebody who is going to listen to the steelworker, the farmer, the fisherman, the guy on the street who is the backbone of this country, the men and women who bust their ass for their country and don’t get any recognition,” he said.
Mr. Overton said Mr. Trump is popular because he tells it like it is. “He was saying things, making statements publicly that men and women were talking about in the firehouses, police stations, and workplaces that they wouldn’t say publicly — that they couldn’t say publicly.”
“Everything he said was down to earth,” added Mr. Overton’s wife, Lynn. A lifelong Republican, she said she also had a favorable response to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders: “He talks like middle America — although he wanted to give away a lot of stuff.”
She added that Mr. Trump “needs some polish. He’s a little coarse.”
“I believe in Trump. I believe in what he wants America to be,” said Kay Dedona, a homemaker for the Town of East Hampton, who said she was counting on the new president to protect the kinds of programs that have helped her special needs son.
“I see what the opposition is doing —burning things and rioting,” said Jono Hren. “That makes me realize I voted the right way. It’s going to be even worse tomorrow with that march.”
Mr. Cornelia, who wore a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, like those Mr. Trump favored during the campaign, could hardly control his excitement.
“This is a great day,” he said, adding that Mr. Trump “hit every nail on the head” in his inaugural address.
Mr. Cornelia conceded Mr. Trump can be abrasive and even crude, but he insisted he would unleash America’s economic power.
“Want to bring the Russians under control?” he asked. “Develop all the energy sources we aren’t allowed to develop.”
He compared Mr. Trump’s relationship to Vladimir Putin with that of FDR to Stalin. “A Democratic president allied us with the worst, murdering monster of all time, Joseph Stalin, to defeat the Nazis.”
“In order to get the Russians to help us when they can, we have to play that kind of game,” he added. “We can’t expect everyone to be Eagle Scouts.”