Even though it literally rained on their parade, several dozen Donald Trump supporters arrived with gusto Sunday afternoon to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse to rally for the Republican presidential candidate. The demonstrators implored people to vote for the controversial GOP candidate for 30 minutes, then scurried out of the way for a scheduled 4 p.m. wedding.
The impromptu event — co-sponsored by “Moms for Trump” and the Santa Barbara Tea Party & Culpepper Society — saw several speakers encourage the crowd to get out the red vote the last week before the November 8 election. One admitted she was ambivalent toward both presidential candidates just weeks ago, but said she came around to Trump after she realized the media conspired to make him look ridiculous. Several stressed Trump has pledged to uphold the Constitution. Many statements carried religious undertones.
“I am not voting for him to be my pastor but to be my president,” one speaker said, adding her key conservative issues were prohibiting abortion, vetting refugees, and upholding the Constitution. Another added: “I realized Trump is our man. I urge you to turn to Trump — he still stands for the true Biblical values of our country.”
In between speakers, the crowd sang “God Bless America” and “Make America Great Again,” a song written by Santa Barbara Republican Rolland Jacks. Many attendees donned red, white, and blue. Several held Trump-Pence 2016 banners. One woman brought a poster that depicted Hillary Clinton with a Hitler mustache. The opposite side of the sign praised Trump with clippings that read “100% Clear Vision,” “Beating ISIS,” and “The Donald Has Landed.”
Most of the group was made up of older people. In Santa Barbara County, there are 1,500 less registered Republicans this year than there were in 2012. Registered Democrats now have a 15 percent advantage over Republicans. This drop-off is mirrored throughout California, and is a cause for concern for Republicans looking at down-ticket races.
Vera Bondarenko noted she did not see many young faces at Sunday’s rally. An immigrant from Ukraine, Bondarenko said she came to the United States seeking religious opportunity and freedom. “I have experienced socialism at its best,” she said, “best in quotation marks.” She said socialist societies force people to become properties of the government. When she had to go to a gynecologist, she claimed she received substandard care because the doctor was paid by the government.
Gregory Gandrud, former chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee, encouraged people to travel to Las Vegas to walk precincts, as he recently did. He explained that Nevada — a swing state — could be crucial to a Trump victory. “If we don’t win Nevada, we won’t win the presidency,” he said.
Jim Worthen, an archconservative who was the emcee, said he was appalled that as he organized the event, a public employee warned him not to approach anyone to talk politics because that would be a violation of a city ordinance. Yet he expressed pleasant surprise at the crowd’s size, adding he believed the rain kept a few hundred people home.
The event was held in unison with a conservative rally in Sacramento. Bobbi MicGinnis, the current secretary of the Central Committee, was delighted at the number of people who braved the rain since, she said, Californians rarely leave the house when it rains.
Asked if it was difficult to be a Republican in Santa Barbara, MicGinnis said no. She explained her soon-to-be in-laws are on the opposite end of the political spectrum. In fact, her future son-in-law’s father is the president of a labor union. “When it comes down to it, it is not the politics,” she said. She acknowledged that the county is overwhelmingly Democrat, but noted that has not always been the case. “We are pro-business,” she said. “We just want responsible government.”