Valdosta, Georgia, United States – Randy Sell drove nearly 25 hours from his home in Buffalo, New York to see President Donald Trump talk in Georgia this weekend, a trip of nearly 2,000 km (1,242 miles) on behalf of a US president who lost his candidacy for re-election.
“I want him to know that I supported him,” Sell said as he stood in line with friends who also made the trip from New York. “I don’t mind driving 25 hours to come here to show him I’m with you, President Trump.
Sell joined tens of thousands of like-minded Trump supporters for a noisy ‘victory’ rally at an airport near the Florida border, an unusually high post-election turnout for a lame president who only stays a few weeks in the White House. The rally was organized in support of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, Republican candidates for the Georgia Senate whose Jan. 5 election will determine control of the US Senate, but it was Trump who served as the main attraction.
Although Trump is stepping down, the size of the rally sent a message: Trump may be leaving center stage, but his passionate base of supporters is not going anywhere. Trump’s presence and influence will remain a permanent part of the Republican Party.
The thousands of people attending the rally on Saturday, who stood close to each other for several hours shouting, dancing and singing – mostly without a mask despite an ongoing global coronavirus pandemic – were united and energized by a common belief that the Democrats stole the presidential election from Trump.
“President Trump is a winner. He knows it. I know that. We all know that. The world knows it, ”said Valla Ann Marcus of Atlanta, Georgia. “He won.”
For weeks, Trump and his allies have unsuccessfully challenged the nation’s state vote count in a bid to overturn the November election. His team has filed dozens of lawsuits, but all have failed. Last week, after the recounts confirmed that Democrat Joe Biden won in Georgia, Trump even tried to pressure the state’s governor, Republican Brian Kemp, to hold a special session of the legislature to overrule the will of state voters. The governor refused. Monday, Georgian officials recertified results showing Biden’s victory.
Even after all of Trump’s team legal efforts have been thwarted by the courts, Trump continues to baselessly claim that he was swindled from a second term. He repeated the accusation several times in his speech on Saturday while encouraging Georgia Republicans to vote in the next run-off election.
“They rigged our presidential election, but we’ll win it anyway,” Trump said on Saturday, adding later in his speech, “We will never give in and we will never back down. We will never, ever surrender.
Encouraged by the president’s confidence, his supporters continue to hope that Trump will be able to find a victory before inauguration day on January 20.
“We’re going to change this thing and we’re going to make sure Joe Biden and [Vice-President elect] Kamala Harris does not occupy the White House, ”said Shelia DeLashmutt of Canton, Georgia, who said she believed the election was“ fraudulent ”.
Denise Watson, of Midway, Ga., Also said she believed Trump would stay in the White House.
“By George, he’s coming home for four more years!” Eight if we can, ”she said. “You have to trust the good Lord to get this fixed. He can always do it. He will have the last word. It does not matter.
Loeffler and Perdue, who appeared with Trump at the rally, know they need the support of staunch Trump supporters like these to win in January. (The polls show the two flows to be statistically tied.)
While other Republican officials in Georgia repelled Trump’s attacks on the state’s voting integrity, Senate candidates backed him. Both have called for the resignation of Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
And during a candidate debate on Sunday, Loeffler refused to acknowledge that Trump lost the election. On Saturday, when Loeffler spoke on stage, she pumped her fist when people in the audience shouted, “Stop the theft!”
“It’s true,” she said. “We must have free and fair elections.”
Later that night, both Senate candidates were reminded of the consequences of not adequately supporting Trump. When they tried to speak on stage alongside the president, the crowd shouted at them, chanting “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! “
The lingering threat was not subtle: follow Trump, or else.