Trump Supporters See Bernie As Key to President’s Re-election
As thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the North Charleston Veterans Memorial Coliseum Friday, hours before his scheduled rally there, the consensus in the crowd was nothing would help his re-election bid more than Sen. Bernie Sanders being the Democratic nominee.
“Why? Because no president of the United States is going to lose to a communist,” a supporter named Eric from New Jersey said.
While that sounds like the kind of rhetoric one would expect at a Trump gathering — along with “Hillary should be in jail,” “Comey should be in jail,” things that were actually said in the course of the morning — as one continued to talk to the anxious and excited rally attendees, a more nuanced set of opinions emerged.
Of two dozen people interviewed outside the coliseum, in the shadow of a large screen broadcasting “The Real News Network,” a polished concoction featuring members of the Trump family as anchors and reporters, almost all said Sanders would be the ideal foil for the president because America as a whole isn’t ready for a socialist president.
They also — again, almost to a person — drew a marked distinction between Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and what they called, time and again, the “real” Democratic party.
“It looks like Bernie Sanders is going to be the other side of this thing,” an attendee named Jim said. “But he’s not a Democrat. Not really. And I don’t understand why he’s allowed to run as one.”
He mentioned in passing that he’s heard there’s a movement underway in Florida to disqualify Sanders from getting Democratic votes on the ballot.
“I don’t expect something like that to be successful, but it is besides the point,” Jim continued. “Sanders proved long ago that he can’t work across the aisle. And he can’t work with Democrats anymore either.”
Sitting nearby in a wheelchair, an attendee named Bill chimed in, “That’s the challenge the Democrats face, not just in this election, but as a party. You have a few people — like that squad — that gets all the publicity and that’s really hurt the party.”
A woman named Patsy, who drove down from Virginia to attend the rally with her 87-year-old mother Martha, nodded her head knowingly.
“I want Republicans and Democrats to work together,” she said. “But my feeling is they don’t want to work with the president.”
“That’s why my feeling is we need to win across the board. We need to win the White House, the Senate and the House … it’s the only way anything will get done,” Patsy said.
The Base Is Not Shaken, But Stirred
What was clear immediately is that the crowd was a pure distillation of the Trump base, typically referred to as the firm 30% to 40% the president maintains in the polls, no matter what purported outrage has set the hair of the other 60% to 70% on fire.
Jim, Patsy, Martha and Bill, as well as their friends Arlene and Rose, all said the impeachment hearings and trial only made them more determined to support the president.
Martha, looking up from the MAGA hat that peaked out from her hoodie, explained in a soft voice that she continues to support Trump “because he does what he says he’s going to do. … and he’s a good person.”
“He wants to work for everybody,” Patsy said.
“I’m hoping and praying for him, and I will vote for him in November,” Martha added.
Asked if they liked the fact Trump has held rallies before each primary and caucus so far, the group said “they loved it.”
“And I’ve watched every one of them,” Martha said.
Several yards away, Krista from New Jersey was leaning over a security gate, talking with people in line. In her right arm she clutched her dog, a Morkie named Victoria.
“My husband and I are here on vacation from New Jersey, and we came to see all the Trumpers, all the supporters, the patriots gather here in Charleston … this is just incredible,” she said.
Asked what she was looking for in a second term for the president, Krista said “Honestly, I want to see the economy keep booming the way it’s been booming. And I want to see more people getting off public assistance and working, which has been the trend.
“I think we’re just in a good place. It’s wonderful,” she said. “I think President Trump has made people feel a lot more patriotic. A lot of people are proud to be American again — and they’re not ashamed and they’re not sorry for it.”
Asked if there’s anything she regrets about the current state of politics, Krista said it was the absence of bipartisanship on many issues.
“I’m not a staunch Republican myself, but I do love my country,” she said. “I just don’t know how Republicans and Democrats will ever come together. I really wish they would.”
Hoping for Another Conservative Justice
Ben Waters, an actual Charleston resident, said he and the party he was with were “super pumped” about the president’s first term and would very much like to see four more years of the same.
He then ticked off a list of other things he wanted to see: the appointment of another new Supreme Court justice, the overturning of Roe V. Wade, more open markets and less restrictions on business.
Waters was one of the few who also said that he believed bipartisanship is dead on Capitol Hill.
“[House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi overplayed her hand with the impeachment and she’s done,” he said.
“Frankly, in the current environment, I don’t think there’s much room for bipartisanship. Even if the Republicans took over the House, I don’t see where there’d be too many opportunities to reach across the aisle.”
But Waters’ hard line appeared to cut two ways. On the one hand, as a Trump supporter, he’s still angry about the impeachment. On the other hand, he said he wasn’t sure how long the Democrats could survive the rise of Bernie Sanders “and his allies.”
“There’s a real divide there between the traditional Democrats and the socialists, and think it’s causing the party to kind of fall apart,” he said.
“You know that guy that just switched parties? That Jeff Van Drew? I think you might see more of that if the party gets pulled too far to the left,” Waters said. “And that’s especially true if Bernie wins and the party gets dragged through an absolute slaughter. I mean, what are traditional Democrats going to do?”
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