The protesters who greeted Donald Trump in Manhattan on Thursday were nowhere to be found 40 miles west in Bedminster, New Jersey on Friday.
Bedminster is home to the Trump National golf club, also known as “Camp David North”, where the president is staying this weekend, and where he and his family might spend many weekends over the summer.
“He’s popular around here,” said neighbor Amy Anderson-Matinho, who, like many residents, got their first taste of presidential-style disruption when Trump spent three days here as president-elect, interviewing potential cabinet members.
The president’s frequent trips to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago – the “Winter White House” – have drawn criticism because of the cost to taxpayers, the impression of the president serving his own business interests, and for disruption to local businesses. The relative subtlety and isolation of Trump’s Bedminster property, Anderson-Matinho said, would make protesters’ jobs more difficult.
“We only had about three protesters during the golf international,” she said. “The roads here are teeny-tiny lanes, so it’s hard to get much of an audience.”
Such semi-bucolic reverie could be curtailed on Saturday. A coalition of progressive groups plans to stage a “People’s Motorcade”: a drive-by, horns blaring, at the main gate of Trump’s estate.
Membership dues at the club, which was once the home of disgraced auto executive John DeLorean, run to $18,000 a year – on top of a $350,000 joining fee. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were married there in 2009, and Trump has said he wants to be buried there. Some protesters are likely to argue that Trump’s use of such a property for government business is another promotion of his own interests.
No protesters were in evidence on Friday. Two members of the planned People’s Motorcade, however, told the local Courier News they would disrupt the president’s weekend peace.
“We don’t want Bedminster turning into another Mar-a-Lago,” retired municipal worker Jim Girvan said, adding that he and his wife, Sharon, wanted to make it “uncomfortable to spend money on the golf course”.
The women’s advocacy group UltraViolet said it had commissioned a truck with a digital billboard to circle Bedminster, showing the message: “Abortion Access is More Popular than Trump”.
“Since Donald Trump is so obsessed with his own ratings and popularity,” co-founder Shaunna Thomas told mycentraljersey.com, “we could think of no better way of trolling him than surrounding his golf course where he’ll vacation all summer with a clear message: America rejects Trump and his agenda.”
It is unlikely that Trump’s immediate neighbors will protest. His property is surrounded by horse farms and estates belonging to Wall Street financiers and other members of the 1%. The former presidential candidate Steve Forbes lives nearby.
Several residents in the solidly Republican-voting town said the president is well liked, known for sending Christmas cards, and for his characteristic outbursts, such as one many years ago, when he tried to shop at Kings supermarket only to find out he could not pay with a credit card.
Across town, there was an elevated sense of anticipation. “I think it’s good,” offered Alfredo Cisneros at Desiderio’s Pizza. “He brings business to the area.”
Luis Alonso, a hand at a Windy Hill stables near Trump’s club, said that as an immigrant from Honduras he had heard the president’s statements on foreigners but chose to disregard them.
“I have feelings about it, sure,” he said, “but he has his own personality and I have mine. I’m not afraid because he can’t define me. He is the president and I respect that, but he does not have the power to define me so I cannot fear it.”
Peter Cagnassola, a veteran Bedminster real estate broker, said a couple of Osprey tiltrotor planes flew low over his office a couple of days ago. “I guess it’s kind of neat all the attention it’s getting,” he said.
Cagnassola explained that, unlike Palm Beach, the 9,000-strong township is not an exclusive enclave for the mega-wealthy. Most of the new development is of middle-income homes, set off the road in subdivisions on the western side of town.
Trump’s club has the district’s second largest property tax bill ($448, 648 last year), after the corporate home of AT&T, and the township has been informed it will be compensated for additional policing costs through a recent $120m congressional allocation for presidential security.
Bedminster’s mayor, Steve Parker, estimated to local TV that each visit would cost the town $42,000, or 1.5% of the annual budget, and called the new policy “very good news for Bedminster township”. The mayor had earlier estimated that if Trump chooses to spend eight weekends in the township this summer, costs could run to $300,000.
The president arrived at Bedminster at around 11pm on Thursday, after flying in Marine One from Manhattan. He later tweeted: “Rather than causing a big disruption in NYC, I will be working out of my home in Bedminster, NJ this weekend. Also saves country money!”
On Friday, non-members were being turned away at the gates. Lanes running alongside the gold course were blocked. An officer with the Somerset County prosecutor’s office, assigned to prevent access to the golf course, predicted that Trump’s visits would only become unpopular if the roads became congested.
“Then they’ll have something to say about it,” he said.
“People round here are worried about increased traffic,” agreed Brooke Murray, entering a Bedminster nail salon. “And that’s about it.”