YesYoung alligators swam in the water or bask on man-made rocks as a waterfall cascaded nearby. “Alligators are mostly found in freshwater, swamps and steps,” a nearby sign noted. “… Alligators are opportunistic eaters.”
The “Gator Springs” exhibit welcomed religious conservatives this week as they walked through the expansive atrium of the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., To regroup after the Republicans lost power in 2020 and test the first presidential candidates nomination in 2024.
After ascending an escalator, attendees of the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to Majority conference encountered a registration sign with two additional labels: “Trump: Take America Back, 2024” and “Trump Store, Vendor Exhibits” .
Next to it was a T-shirt that read, “Jesus is my savior. Trump is my president.
This, along with a plethora of “Make America great again” (Maga) hats, made it clear that the improbable Christian right-wing faith in Trump has not been shaken. For many he is a martyr who can still be resurrected.
The vendor’s display turned out to be quite modest at what, despite the release of face masks and physical distancing, was a relatively low-energy event. Interviews with a dozen attendees revealed widespread belief that the 2020 election was stolen, support for tighter voting restrictions and a reluctance to condemn Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on the 6th. January.
And the choice of Florida as the venue was no coincidence: its governor, Ron DeSantis, is considered Trump’s heir apparent. Jonathan Riches, 42, of Tampa, wearing a red “Maga” hat and an “I Ron DeSantis” t-shirt, said, “I fell in love with DeSantis as much as I love Trump. I would be okay with Trump passing the torch to DeSantis.
Riches – a right-wing activist known for his legal action and spreading lies – booed Mike Pence during his speech on Friday over the former vice president’s refusal to overrule the election result; others in the room shouted “Traitor! And were escorted.
“We feel like he abandoned Trump,” Riches explained. “We needed him to contest the elections. He does not represent our party. He is now trying to redeem himself but we don’t want him.
Attorney General William Barr and state election officials reported no significant voting irregularities, and judges launched dozens of challenges. Yet Trump and his allies continued to feed the “big lie” about a stolen election, denying the legitimacy of Joe Biden.
Speech in the airy, carpeted halls of the Road to Majority conference suggests he has taken firm root. Several participants cited the increased use of postal ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic as being ripe for voter fraud, even though some states have used postal voting for years. They also approved the so-called “audits” that take place in Arizona and elsewhere.
Shelley Villarreal, 56, a retired schoolteacher from Houston, Texas, cited the work of Sidney Powell, a discredited lawyer who has been ridiculed for threatening to “free the Kraken.” She said: “Sidney Powell has some very good stats, data and facts. I’m counting on her to know.
As for the insurgency, Villarreal, wearing a red “Trump 2020” hat and a red “President Trump 2024” sweater, said: “Violence has no place in politics. However, I thought it was an emotional crowd and it got out of hand. I don’t think that was the plan; it happened in the heat of the moment. This reflected public frustration with the outcome of the election. “
TV cameras captured Trump supporters violently attacking police, smashing windows, stealing property, carrying the Confederate flag and calling for Pence’s hanging. Five people lost their lives and Trump was impeached for the second time.
But Republicans and the right-wing media recently pushed a false flag conspiracy theory that the FBI orchestrated the attack. Glenn Romano, 50, an electrical engineer from Greensboro, NC, said without any factual basis: “I think that was a staging. There have been reports of BLM [Black Lives Matter] leaders. Our media are completely anti-conservative. They push the agenda of the left.
A Tampa stock trader, who gave his name only as Greg A, openly endorsed the insurgency and compared it to the American Revolution. “1776 was the same because your government says we’re going to install a dictatorship,” the 27-year-old said. “The people have no choice but to rise up.
He also made an unproven claim about the Democrats: “They cheated to take office. The election was rigged. Their mission is to turn America into a communist shit hole.
Others shared dismay at what they saw as Biden’s willingness to adopt a progressive agenda, including a big government expansion. Michael Altman, 63, of Cape Coral, Florida, said, “I think the Biden administration is a disaster. He went too far to the left. He wants to detail our economy by raising taxes. I thought Biden was going to be more moderate.
Altman, who retired from financial services, added, “There were some issues with the election. Whether this is enough to tip the result, I don’t know. But they need to look at voter fraud. It was worse than in the past. It could backfire on Democrats one day.
Trump, who turned 75 this week and resumes election rallies next Saturday in Ohio, has hinted he could run for president again in 2024. Many who attended the Road to Majority conference vowed to back him up if he does, though few wanted Pence to be his running mate again.
Altman said, “If Trump runs, he will handily be the candidate. I would like him to do it; he gets a bad reputation from the press. He is used to saying things, but his politics were excellent. He got the vaccines out pretty quickly. He’s pretty sharp, but he gets into trouble.
But Kat Kerr, 70, a business owner wearing a Stars and Stripes stole and an “I don’t do demons” badge, insists the 45th president has never lost.
“Trump is our president right now,” she said. “Eighty million Americans know this. You cannot steal a free country.
Republicans in Washington were unwilling to speak out against Trump’s stolen election claim and voted against a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack. They seem eager to change the subject and focus their fire on what’s known as Biden’s seizures.
Members of Congress who addressed the conference on Friday duly gave prominence to the 2020 election. One exception was Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, who said Trump lost by only 44,000 votes in the electoral college: “There is a lack of 44,000 votes and we can discuss being cheated and there has been a lot of shenanigans, isn’t it?
Speakers, including several potential candidates for 2024, stressed the urgency of reclaiming the House of Representatives next year but avoided saying Trump is expected to run two years later. Graham chose his words carefully when he said, “If we can do it, take back the House and the Senate, then 2024 will be ours to lose.” Imagine four more years of Donald Trump politics.
Many preferred to focus on the “culture war” issues that currently animate the Republican Party and Fox News. Abortion, “culture cancellation”, critical race theory, gun rights and Marxism were frequent targets, as were Vice President Kamala Harris for not visiting the US border. -mexican.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz urged church pastors to become more politically engaged. He said: “If we are to defeat the Awakened Assault, we must all wake up. The sleeping church must wake up.
Cruz suggested that politics are subject to a natural pendulum swing that should go back in the leadership of Republicans. “It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan. Joe Biden is Jimmy Carter 2.0 and I’m here to tell you: the renewal is coming.