Even some of Donald Trump’s longest-lasting supporters have had enough.
“I can’t even understand what happened on Capitol Hill,” said Neil Shaffer, chairman of a county Republican party in northern Iowa. “I’m disappointed in Trump. Obviously, the rhetoric was nothing less than inciting a riot. “
As Trump’s presidency ends with a final outbreak of chaos and belligerence, the storming of the Capitol by supporters trying to reverse Joe Biden’s victory turned out to be a step too far for some of those living in the heart of United States and who have supported Trump for four turbulent years.
Shaffer, a farmer and river conservationist in rural Howard County in Iowa, still has many questions about the legitimacy of the presidential election. But the sight of a mob entering Congress, with what looked a lot like the president’s blessing, was too much.
“I have been to the Capitol many, many times, and it is a place to revere and have respect. It would be like walking into a cathedral and yelling or throwing things. You have respect. What they did was completely embarrassing. They’re definitely not the people I live with in Howard County, that’s for sure, ”he said.
For the past two years, The Guardian has spoken regularly with Trump supporters in the changing counties of the Midwest and returned to ask their opinions after the assault on the Capitol.
Trump took Howard County in 2016 after Barack Obama won it twice. In November, the president increased his share of the vote as support in conservative rural areas strengthened, even if it wasn’t enough to overcome a surge against Trump in key Midwestern cities that cost him the election.
But some Trump voters have recoiled from the violence in Washington and found themselves drawing uncomfortable parallels with the unrest that sometimes accompanied the Black Lives Matter protests that in some cases sustained their support for Trump.
“I thought what happened was shocking, the violence,” said Terri Burl, a substitute teacher and former GOP chair in northern Wisconsin, who was an early member of Women for Trump. “We are not violent people. Violent people are on the left ”.
But Burl has trouble when asked if Trump bears responsibility for his incendiary speech at the Save America rally immediately before the Capitol was stormed.
“This is a very difficult one because, on the one hand, he knows that the integrity of the election was in question and he wanted us to go to DC, and he wanted us to support him. He didn’t want people to be violent. However, they were violent. Do I think your rhetoric could have caused that? Well yeah, maybe for some of these people whose brains aren’t quite right.
“When he said, fight for me, he did not mean to use violence. It means, support me by going there, tell your representatives what you want them to do. I really don’t believe in my heart, that he thought there was going to be violence. “
Shaffer isn’t convinced, in part because Trump was slow to ask the insurgents to stop.
A Midwestern Republican who traveled to Washington by bus with other Trump supporters to demand the annulment of Biden’s victory, and who declined to be identified for fear of arrest, said Trump had nothing to apologize for and neither did protesters demanding that Congress “audit the vote.” Despite the fact that the president’s campaign has failed to produce credible evidence of tampering.
“Elections have been stolen, what else were people supposed to do? We went to court and the courts did not even look at the evidence. We asked Mitch [McConnell, the Senate majority leader] and Republican leaders to pause by declaring Biden the winner and looking at the evidence, and they wouldn’t. So what option did we have? said the activist who declined to say if they were among those who stormed the Capitol.
“Some of the people were idiots, dressing up like they were in the jungle. But most of them were good patriotic conservatives who defend the constitution to prevent Congress from stealing the elections. “
While Shaffer has nothing to do with the Washington protesters or Trump’s support for them, he is sympathetic to allegations that anger was fueled by what he said was a failure to take allegations of election wrongdoing seriously.
“Everything that has happened since the election is regrettable and, of course, Trump bears the responsibility. But those who say there was nothing in any of the questions about the elections are also responsible. We should have legitimate research on how our elections are conducted and how the results are collected and things like that, ”he said.
Still, Shaffer accepts that state and national authorities, including Republican administrations in states like Georgia, as well as state and federal courts, have endorsed the election as legitimate.
“If there was one thing that would have likely changed my mind or even changed the outcome, it would have been if the supreme court had seen something that would have risen to the level of judicial review,” he said.
Burl said Trump has been subject to “four years of hatred” and would have decisively won the election on his economic and immigration record had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic.
He remains suspicious of the result, saying that “too many weird things” were going on that should have been investigated. But Burl had come to accept that the result was not going to be overturned.
“A few days ago when I knew that all this was useless, I sat down and started crying. A lot of time has passed. I cried on election night and then I cried a few days ago because it is a process. I am grieving now. I don’t know if I’ll ever have acceptance, ”he said.
“There are a lot of Republicans who say, Biden is not my president and he will never be my president. Honestly, I feel that way. I really don’t accept it. “
Shaffer also believes the time has come to move on. He worries that the mob on Capitol Hill has done lasting damage to the conservative cause.
“People are going to remember this. We definitely remember what happened in Minneapolis and Portland over the summer. It is no different from a left-wing mob, ”he said.
Burl agrees. “These few violent people caused a big mess. They ruined it for us. They undermined what was supposed to have been done. We are not antifa. If you want to act as antifa, join antifa, ”he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism