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article imageBen Hornberger: One of Trump's army of volunteers

By Ivan Couronne (AFP)     Sep 16, 2016 in World

Benjamin Hornberger is only 22 but not too young for a little grandiloquence. The 2016 presidential election, he says, is "really do or die."

The tireless volunteer who is canvassing for Republican candidate Donald Trump is one of millions hoping to sweep the New York billionaire into the White House.

White, male and lacking a university diploma, he typifies Trump backers who are often less interested in the candidate's economic ideas than his promise to "Make America Great Again."

Those voters -- many of whom will head to the polls for the first time in 2016 because until now, they were not all that politically inclined -- hope that Trump can ward off what they believe is a US decline, a downward spiral in lockstep with their own marginalization in a swiftly changing society.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Canton  Ohio  on September 1...
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Canton, Ohio, on September 14, 2016
Mandel Ngan, AFP

"It's not the same as it was back when my dad was a kid," Hornberger said. "Quite frankly, it's gone to hell, and we need somebody to step up and say, enough is enough."

In the past, his working class family would have been a typical target for Democrats -- his father works at a manufacturing plant producing glass for vehicles and his mother is self-employed. His Italian-American grandfather was a railway worker, and the other was a mason and volunteer firefighter.

Hornberger volunteered for Democratic President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, but after high school joined the Marines for three years, when his political views began to change.

When he got out in February, he found himself suddenly seduced by Trump.

Ben Hornberger believes the United States is a business  and should be run by a businessman such as ...
Ben Hornberger believes the United States is a business, and should be run by a businessman such as Donald Trump
Dominick Reuter, AFP

The candidate "went straight to the throat and said this is the way it is and it needs to stop. And I liked that, being a military veteran," Hornberger said, walking down a quiet street lined with wooden houses in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Armed with a packet of pamphlets, the young volunteer uses a Republican party app on his iPhone to determine which doors to knock on as he traipses through the town of 45,000 residents nestled in the state's center.

- 'So far behind' -

Although the majority of inhabitants here are conservative, few say they'll actually turn out to vote.

Moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in his enormous red pick-up truck decorated with both a Trump and an American flag, Hornberger has knocked on at least 6,000 doors since April.

Ben Hornberger -- former Marine and volunteer for Donald Trump -- poses for a portrait with his pick...
Ben Hornberger -- former Marine and volunteer for Donald Trump -- poses for a portrait with his pickup truck while campaigning in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on September 8, 2016
Dominick Reuter, AFP

From Monday through Wednesday, he works at a call center, an ideal job for a polite and smiling young man.

On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, he stops by the Republican office to discuss his plans with the local party official in charge of canvassing operations. Hornberger spends at least 15 hours pounding the pavement for Trump each week.

He has the same ideological flexibility as the brash real estate mogul: He's against abortion but for gay marriage. And both like free trade but believe the United States "gets the short end of the stick" in trade agreements.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton draws only contempt from Hornberger, who says she represents elites and the status quo.

"For everybody to say America is great is not true," he says. "We're so far behind in so many categories. The only category that we lead is militarily."

Hornberger has a tattoo on his chest saying "Only God can judge me," but he also believes in a secular savior.

"Everybody around the world, whether you like it or not," he says, "is whispering the name Donald Trump."

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