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A Recovering Republican Visits the Stump

By Bart Collins

Monday, September 16th, 2019 saw the first time two things happened in our great county: it was the first time that the nationally famous Galivants Ferry Stump was held to host presidential candidates, and it was the first time that I made the 45 minute drive from the beach to the Pee Dee River to attend the gathering of both local and non-local Democrats.

I am not ashamed to admit that I am a recovering Republican because, by God, at least I am recovering, and I was not the only person in attendance who has had elephant blood streaking through their veins at one time or another.

There was a tiny speckle of about eight Trump supporters gathered together in their hate for democracy across highway 501 protesting the fact that people thought differently then they did. I’m sure the irony of them protesting democracy was lost on them.

One older white man with white hair, a white beard, and a red MAGA hat was walking around providing his own commentary while recording the event on his phone, rebutting the speaker’s criticism of Trump by saying things like us Democrats couldn’t do anything about Trump being in the White House and how the current bag of meat and bones occupying that office was the best leader ‘merica ever had.

And there were, also, some more civilized and evolved members of the red party in attendance. John Dabrowski, from Pawley’s Island was there holding a sign that read, “Republican for Pete!”

When asked why he was supporting Mayor Pete, Dabrowski said of Buttigieg, “Because he’s a selfless servant and a centerist that’s electable. He’s got the best mental health and gun control plan.”

When I asked him the more obvious, glaring question, “Why are you, a Republican, not supporting Trump?” Dabrowski replied, “We’d be here all day” if he was to fully answer that question.


                                                            Republican John Dabrowski shows his support for Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Joe Reynolds, a GOP U.S. Senate candidate, running in opposition to Trump’s BFF Sen. Lindsey Graham, was also there. When I asked him why he was running against Graham, Reynolds said, “I’m a marine engineer. I fix things. And there are things that need fixing.”

The general mood of the gathering was festive and optimistic. This being my first time at the Stump, I was surprised – and pleased — to see so many    southern Democrats in one place.

Maybe it’s because if you look and sound like me, a white middle-aged southerner, people will come up to talk to you here in Horry County, SC and just assume that you hate liberals, too. And they will say the most hateful things right to your face without knowing who or what they are talking to.

All of this has truly left me feeling like I’m living behind enemy lines in an occupied zone called Trumpistan. Because of this, it felt freeing to be able to breath a sigh of relief and be surrounded by like-minded countrymen. I was excited to see and hear four of our presidential candidates speak in person here in Horry County and to try and get a feel for what some of my fellow red, white, and blue blooded, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and democracy loving, patriotic American Democrats thought of what these candidates had to say.

Responses in the Crowd

The first thing that I noticed when I went around to interview people was how many of them were wearing several stickers from different candidates as well as carrying signs for multiple people.

Denis and Otilia, who moved to Myrtle Beach three years ago from Massachusetts, said they were not at the Stump to pick who to vote for just yet. But they said that they liked Mayor Pete Boot-Edge-Edge (sorry for that- I just loved those signs so much because I needed help pronouncing his name!) and Amy Klobuchar ( I could use some pronunciation help here as well) the best.

When asked why they liked Pete and Amy the best, the couple said, “Because they’re so energetic!”

A group of four friends from Little River, Susan, Terry, Jan, and Audrie, were split on who they liked the best this night. Two said they liked Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while the other two preferred Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Vice President Joe Biden. All four agreed that it was a disadvantage for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to go last and follow Biden.

Many people I spoke to were disappointed that Bernie Sanders had to cancel. Jill Jones from Charleston was still undecided, but thought that Joe Biden was strong and said that, “Pete always sounds great!”

Robin from Lexington thought Buttigieg won the night, stating that his speech “Made me like him more!” When I asked her about the front-runner she said, “I didn’t listen to Joe Biden. I liked him when he ran a long time ago, but I think it is time for some new younger people to run.”

But what I thought was the most compelling was an answer that someone else shared with me when they were asking attendees for their thoughts on the evening.

When Rick Patelunas, a fellow Horry County Democrat and HCDP Communications Committee member, asked a young woman who was undecided what issues were the most important to her, the seven-year-old girl at her side piped up first and answered, “The air. I want to be able to breathe.”

Rick said a Sanders supporter put that sentiment another way saying that the climate was the most important issue because, “If we don’t fix that then the other issues won’t matter.” How true.

While some voters on the other end of the bell curve were saying that prescription drug prices and Social Security were major issues, and they are, it really shines a bright spotlight on just how important it is that we Americans put the right person in the highest office in our land when a little girl just starting her bell curve answers a political issues question for her mom by saying she just wants to be able to breathe.

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