Members of Villagers for Trump defended the president and offered praise for him Tuesday night amid a backlash following two mass shootings this past weekend.
Trump was supposed to speak about Medicare in The Villages on Tuesday afternoon but postponed the visit following the shootings at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, and outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio – a decision wholeheartedly supported by Villagers for Trump. He is scheduled to visit both cities on Wednesday in a move that is drawing sharp criticism from critics who claim the president has inflamed white supremacists and sowed racial division.
Democratic presidential hopeful and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke pulled no punches on Tuesday when he said Trump isn’t welcome in his hometown, where the shooting left 22 dead and is being characterized as domestic terrorism. He has repeatedly called the president a racist and claimed that he is partly to blame for the tragedy. And on Monday he exploded into a profanity-laced tirade after being asked what Trump could do to make the situation in El Paso better.
“Consider the source,” said David Gee, founder and president of Villagers for Trump, at the club’s monthly rally on Monday night at Eisenhower Recreation Center. “We all know he’s kind of out there, a loose cannon that’s about to be disinvited from being a presidential candidate. So, I take it for what it’s worth,” added the Village of Sunset Pointe resident.
Art Donnelly, a director with Villagers for Trump and an assistant vice president with The Villages Homeowners Advocates, agreed.
“It’s unfortunate, because in politics today people that are running for office in a lot of respects have lost any respect for civility,” he said. “To them, it’s more any means that supports the end game is on the table. I think that’s part of the problem with politics today as a whole.”
Donnelly recalled how the Democratic presidential candidates attacked each other during recent televised debates and said he really isn’t surprised to see O’Rourke and others lashing out at the president.
“I think as citizens we’re starting to get to the point where that sort of turns us off,” he said. “We need politicians that are going to be elected and represent us and do what has to be done. We don’t need politicians that are going to say anything and do anything to get elected to further their own means or further their own ego.”
Sid Bowdidge, who lives in Spruce Creek and was recently appointed as executive director of Villagers for Trump, said the real issue with the recent mass shootings and others like them is mental health – not guns.
“One out of five people – 43.8 million people a year – have some type of mental illness that sets them back,” said Bowdidge, who in 2016 helped run Trump’s ground campaign from New Hampshire to California. “It’s frightening and that’s really the crux of it.”
As for O’Rourke’s explosive comments about the president, Bowdidge said he’s one of many Democratic candidates who are “eating themselves from the inside out” and shooting themselves in the foot in the process.
“It’s unfortunate but the left sees the American public as stupid,” he said. “As sad at that is, they think people are going to buy this. Moderate Democrats over to Republicans are not buying this.”
In February, Trump found himself at odds with Republican El Paso Mayor Dee Margo over the border crisis when a war of words erupted following the State of the Union address. But on Tuesday Margo promised to carry out his duties as mayor and welcome Trump to the border city.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who is a Democrat, said she plans to tell Trump that she was disappointed with his remarks on the shootings on Monday morning – nine people were killed in the city’s downtown district – and “how unhelpful he’s been” on the issue of guns. But like Margo, she said she will fulfill her role as mayor and welcome Trump to Dayton in his “official capacity” as president.
“The mayors hopefully will have a little bit of an open mind and I know they’ll be gracious,” said Suzanne Zimmerman, who lives in the Village of Charlotte and serves as communications director for Villagers for Trump. “If they have an open mind, the president will change their minds. There’s no doubt in my mind at all.”
John Temple, who lives in Wildwood and serves as the Sumter County Republican Executive Committee chairman, said it’s unfortunate to see the backlash taking away from the tragedies at hand.
“We really need to be focused on the families that are dealing with that loss,” he said. “People are going to say what they’re going to say. And what we know about our president is he’s going to stick to his policies and he’s going to make sure that he does right by the people.”