Rocky Granata, a 59-year-old Edison man, started out supporting Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, but little did he know the political journey – literally and figuratively – that life would take him on over the next three years.
It’s not hard to see who Granata is supporting in 2020. His RV, with a trailer being towed behind it, is covered in Make America Great Again flags, a mural of President Donald Trump seated on top of a tank, and his image Photoshopped into the frame of a scene from “Rambo.” There are also some other political symbols: a rainbow flag to show support for the LGBT community and a few classic political bumper stickers from elections long passed.
“I was just like Trump – a Democrat,” said Granata, whose RV has occasionally gotten him into trouble after people complained about his presence in parking lots and beside highways. But in the Brick Plaza shopping center on Tuesday afternoon, a stream of fellow Trump fans stopped by, beeped their horns to show support, with many stopping to buy some Trump swag – hats, flags t-shirts – that Granata sells to support what has became a national tour of sorts.
“I was originally a major Bernie supporter,” he explained. “I traveled around the country and saw how he got robbed by Hillary.”
He traveled to rallies in support of Sanders, Trump and even Hillary Clinton in 2016 as he traveled across America. He said he saw gigantic turnouts for Trump and Sanders rallies, but “Hillary couldn’t fill an auditorium.” He said he was once offered money to attend one of her rallies, but declined.
After Sanders was eliminated from the Democrat primary contest, Granata began looking more closely at Trump. He said he didn’t always agree with some of the then-candidate’s rhetoric, especially on immigration, but began educating himself on the inner workings of socialist versus capitalist systems of government and the issue-by-issue views of the candidates.
It was in Billings, Montana where the idea for the decked-out Trump RV first came to life.
“I was in Billings with an SUV that wasn’t running too well when I met a Green Beret who served in Vietnam,” he said. “We became pretty good friends, and he told me, ‘you should be big and bold.’ He helped me get the RV, and ever since that day, Aug. 1 of last year, I’ve been traveling all over the country.”
That Green Beret was Robbie Robinson, who was profiled in a video interview with the Billings Gazette in 2015.
And with that, the journey began. Granata, originally from Brooklyn, said he’s driven 50,000 miles over the last year, heading from rally to rally and occasionally coming back to his home state of New Jersey to catch up with the local scene. Things don’t always go smoothly – there is the occasional person who lobs an insult or even a death threat – but he said he mostly finds support.
“We get a lot more positive than negative,” Granata said. “There’s a lot of love out there. Even when people tell me, ‘get out of my town,’ I tell them, ‘no, we love you, just come over and talk and have a conversation.’”
Pamela Grillon was one of the Brick residents who couldn’t help but stop by when she saw the ornate pro-Trump display in the shopping center parking lot Tuesday.
“I was supposed to be picking up my friend at HomeGoods, but when I saw the RV I just did a detour, and shook his hand,” said Grillon, a real estate agent by trade. “I really praise him for what he’s doing. I’m a Trump supporter one-thousand percent, with every fiber of my being, and I’ve never been a political person before.”
As for Granata, he plans on sticking around the Shore area for a little while before heading back out on the road, following Trump rallies across the country through the 2020 election cycle.
“There’s a lot more love for Trump even than there was three years ago,” he said. “Here in New Jersey, every time I come back, it seems like it’s turning red. Personally, I think New Jersey is sick and tired of what they see.”