Another horrifying detail emerged from the last January 6 hearing in Washington, DC: Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Mike Pence feared for their lives so much that they called their families to say goodbye.
Yet, for a MAGA crowd across the country, it was almost as if January 6 had never happened.
Inside one of the cavernous exhibition halls of the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles — alongside vendors offering hot tubs, jewelry and high-heeled boots — a San Luis Obispo County Republican Party-sponsored booth was selling its brand of radical conservatism.
A life-size cutout of Trump was on full display – and made available to passers-by who posed next to the cardboard Donald, flashing their thumbs-up and mugging for the camera.
They also checked MAGA paraphernalia: banners, buttons, caps, campaign pamphlets and stickers, including one that read “Guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.” (Fun fact: Donald Trump Jr. sells T-shirts with the same slogan on his clothing website.)
Granted, it’s just a booth at a former county fair, but it’s also a sign of the support — even adulation — a disgraced former president still enjoys.
What the polls show
It is true that some minds change – a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 40% of Republicans now think Trump was at least partially to blame for the uprising, up from 33% six weeks ago — but that still means a majority of Republicans believe he did nothing wrong.
Other polls show up to 70% of Republicans still believe Joe Biden ‘stole’ the electiondespite reports that many of Trump’s advisers — including his own daughter – knew there was no evidence to prove it.
Given these stats, it stands to reason that a MAGA booth would attract Trump loyalists, even if half the nation thinks the former president should be prosecuted for his role in the uprising.
The only surprise is seeing him at a county fair on California’s “left coast” – home to progressive strongholds like Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Berkeley.
San Luis County, however, is an outlier, a smaller version of Orange County, if you will.
Democrats are gaining strength here — they’ve taken the lead in voter registration — but there remains a strong contingent of conservatives promoting lies about stolen elections and attempting to undermine trust even in the local elections office.
Paso Robles — famous for its many wineries and annual fair that attracts high-profile entertainment — is the epicenter of the county’s far-right movement.
“Family, faith, freedom”
The official SLO County GOP party — which calls itself pro “family, faith, freedom, police, 2nd Amendment, science, women and 100% pro-American” — voices support for election denial.
The party backed a candidate for county clerk who did not believe Biden legitimately won the election. (He lost by landslide.)
It helps raise money for a $100,000 recount of ballots in a race for the oversight board that a Democrat won by 639 votes.
And a Republican official, Debbie Arnold, refused to certify the results of the primary electionsciting a long list of “concerns” about voting machines that have been repeatedly refuted.
The county’s future hinges on the November election
The SLO County GOP is fighting to preserve its majority on the Board of Supervisors.
In November, Liberal incumbent Bruce Gibson will face the challenge of retired physician Bruce Jones in a district that has been gerrymander to give the Republicans the edge. The stakes are enormous; the outcome of the election will determine whether SLO County can pass policies supporting affordable housing, clean energy and an expansion of homeless services – policies the Conservative majority has denied.
Jones, by the way, was center stage at the GOP Mid-State Fair booth, shaking hands as Donald’s cutout smiled in the background.
Most passers-by are polite. Some are enthusiastic. And no one seems surprised by Trump’s giant image.
It’s a fun accessory for a selfie, after all.
And who cares about those January 6 hearings anyway?