For decades, Orange County’s Jimmy Camp has served as a prized political consultant not only for California’s conservatives, but also for the likes of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Camp’s Democrat counterparts see him as a triple threat: inexhaustible, creative and fearless. He once donned a chicken outfit to publicly tail an opponent who was dodging debates. But the unimaginable happened in July 2016, when he left his GOP home hours before Donald Trump’s presidential nomination. Not a man who sugarcoats his views, he called Trump “a narcissistic, self-centered, unprincipled, miserable example of a human being.” We recently checked in with Camp, who is also a talented folk-rock musician, on life in the “never Trump” world and to see if there’s been a change of heart.
OC WEEKLY: Compare your outlook on Trump at the time of his election with your stance today.
JIMMY CAMP: He’s proven himself to be exactly what I said two years ago.
Was there a precise moment during the 2016 campaign when he lost you, or was your frustration incremental?
He lost me at hello. From the moment he announced, he was running a carnival act. Unfortunately, he’s now turned the presidency, the White House and our standing in the world into a carnival act.
Is there substantial hidden opposition to Trump in California Republican circles?
Most Republican leaders/elected officials would admit privately Trump is a con man and that he has no integrity. But they don’t have the spines to speak out in fear of being punished or losing their next election or party position.
You often use your Twitter account (@JimmyCamp1) to mock Trump.
I like to question his intelligence. He’s so fucking stupid. He’ll never read my tweets, and I’m under no illusion he would respond. It’s mostly to taunt his supporters. It’s rare that one of my Republican friends will defend him. But I do have white supremacists who will flame me on Twitter. It’s extremely fulfilling to get criticized by a racist.
What offends you most about the president?
His blatant dishonesty and the fact that he fully expects to be believed.
Is there a line even he can’t cross without jeopardizing his base?
We thought it was a joke when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters, but apparently not. I think if the Stormy Daniels affair had come out early in the primary, he may have been shut down. Republicans have been slowly anesthetized to his bad behavior. From going after a Gold Star family to saying John McCain wasn’t a hero to the “pussy grabbing” tape, it’s been a slow burn, and it’s gotten to the point where party became more important than country and integrity. Republicans knew what they were getting and accepted it.
Have your political principles evolved since, say, 1996?
I’ve always believed in small government, been fiscally conservative, and I think that people will step up and be their best when left alone by government. That’s the conservative side of my yin and yang. But I also have always supported marriage equality, protecting our planet and natural resources, and I believe that people shouldn’t be criminalized for coming to this country to try to make a better life for themselves—my progressive side. I would say that after 30 years of yielding to my conservative side and helping elect people that were in absolute opposition to my progressive stances, in the Trump era, I’m looking through a different lens. What’s more important? People having a few more bucks in their pocket, reducing the national debt, balancing the budget? Or people’s basic human rights being trampled on, mothers separated from their children, our planet being decimated and a president with dog-whistle tactics of racial divide that sets our country back decades?
Though a successful consultant, how much business have you lost because of your outspokenness?
I’ve lost about 80 percent of my business. Four years ago, I had five or six targeted Republican campaigns. This year, I have zero.
Would you use your skills to help defeat Trump and Trump supporters in upcoming elections?
I’ll do anything to defeat Trump. Right here in OC alone, there are several congressional races, a state senate race, an assembly race and a mayor’s race in Anaheim where the Democrats are going all-in—districts I’ve worked for years and know like the back of my hand. They can’t win any of those seats without Republican votes. Would I help them do that? Hell yeah. (Call me.)
Do you have predictions about November’s elections as well as the 2020 presidential campaign?
If Democrats stop talking about impeachment, they’ll win the house and possibly the senate. And if they do, they should let everything play out for the 2020 election. Let Trump be Trump, and stop throwing gas on a body that’s already burning.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.