Trump True Believers See America’s Future on the Line with Election
By John Savage
For Reporting Texas
SAN ANTONIO — “Hillary makes you actually like Putin,” 59-year-old Shelia McHenry said. “Where was Hillary during Benghazi?”
McHenry, a marriage and family counselor from Canyon Lake, was among about 30 of the Trump faithful who gathered Wednesday night at a restaurant in suburban San Antonio to watch the final debate between their pick for president and Hillary Clinton.
“Protecting America and American values — that is what this election is about,” McHenry said.
These Texans at the Lion and Rose restaurant are some of the people who have propelled Trump from inexperienced political outsider to unconventional presidential candidate. And they are convinced he will prevail.
They are unfazed by national polls that show his support falling and Democrat Clinton gaining in some key battleground states. Even in deep-red Texas, Trump’s poll lead has dropped to the low single digits.
Across the country, many Republican leaders have distanced themselves from Trump or withdrawn their endorsements, especially following his crude comments about groping women. Glenn Beck, the Dallas-based conservative radio commentator, has endorsed Clinton as “the moral and ethical choice in this election.”
The watch party attendees said they are convinced that Clinton supporters are manipulating the polls, and that the women accusing Trump of sexual assault are lying.
Their loathing of Clinton was apparent; one man wore a button reading, “Hillary lied, 4 good men died, Benghazi,” a reference to the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya that killed the ambassador and three others. The episode happened when Clinton was secretary of state, and Trump supporters say she bears responsibility.
One of the biggest cheers of the night came when Trump said Clinton should be in jail for using a private email server while she was secretary of state
“Lock her up,” someone in the crowd yelled.
As Trump insisted that the sexual assault allegations against him were false, one woman leaned over to the man next to her. “You know it’s been documented that Bill Clinton took 26 flights to a pedophile island,” she said. “Look it up, it’s true.”
Many of the group said they belonged to the San Antonio Tea Party. They sat at tables decorated with small American flags brought in for the occasion, and watched the debate on flat screen televisions in the restaurant, whose owner is the president of the San Antonio Tea Party. They watched the debate with the fervor of football fans cheering their favorite team in a crucial game, cheering when Trump spoke, booing Clinton.
For these true believers, the United States is at a precipice, McHenry and several others said, and a Clinton victory could spell the beginning of the end of the country as they know it.
Patrick Rains, a 70-year-old retiree from Boerne, summed up an anti-establishment sentiment other attendees agreed with. “I’m tired of politicians who have gone off to Washington and been ineffective for 30 years.”
Trump elicited loud cheers when he talked about building a wall along with the Mexican border and kicking undocumented immigrants out of the country.
“I want to build the wall; we need the wall,” the Republican nominee said, adding that “we have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.”
George Miller, a 63-year-old actor who said he is an evangelical Christian, wore a shirt that read “Vote the Bible” and one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats. Miller had supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Republican primary, but had no problem switching his allegiance to Trump when Cruz did not win the nomination.
“Trump is for stopping homosexual marriage, stopping abortion and stopping illegal immigration. This is why I’m for Trump,” Miller said.
When moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Trump if he would accept the results of the election even if he lost, a man at the restaurant yelled, “Don’t cave!”
Trump refused to say he would accept the results if he loses. “I will look at it at the time,” he said. “What I’ve seen is so bad.”
The audience applauded, loudly.
One woman leaned over to the man next to her and said, “Do you know that George Soros [a billionaire and Clinton supporter] controls the voting machines in at least a dozen states?”
“Of course the election is going to be rigged,” she said.