Inside the Republican MAGA Coup in South Carolina

Defeat McNamie / Getty

Defeat McNamie / Getty

When Lena Smith arrived at her constituency’s annual Republican Organizing Conference last month, she didn’t expect to be greeted by a dozen strangers.

Smith has been involved in Republican politics for 30 years in Greenville, South Carolina. As a prominent anti-abortion activist, she has in Rolodex almost everyone who is noteworthy or influential in the conservative circles of the state’s most populous counties. She is named the former governor.

So when Smith entered the church’s function room for her constituency meeting on March 22 and saw people who had never participated in local Republican politics, she became a little nervous. I did. As district president, it was Smith’s job to run the meeting, and she chalked a new face simply as “a neighbor I’ve never met.”

But what happened next was completely out of her control. When it was time to elect the president of the constituency next year, one of the newcomers nominated a fellow newcomer, but none of them nominated Smith. Stunned, she had to nominate herself. “It was a little disappointing,” she said.

When it was time to vote, the result was a natural conclusion: Smith had lost the presidency she held for years. The same thing happened with the next higher office vote, which continued until the next office was gone. Smith was completely locked out.

“I went home and told my husband, I was just kicked out,” Smith told The Daily Beast. “Do these people consider me not me?” She remembered wondering. “Did I offend them?”

What happened in Smith’s precincts was not a one-off strange thing. That night, long-time party activists were similarly banished from their position at a Greenville County-wide conference after the appearance of hundreds of new faces that appeared to be out of woodwork. Republican supporters didn’t know them, but newcomers seemed to know the process, and they used it to dump long-time officials.

Smith and others seemed offended just to have a sign of local political experience, a black mark associated with the worst crimes against Republican bases: Donald Trump as a result of the 2020 elections. Not doing enough to support.

With the defeat of Trump January 6 Attack on Parliament Building, MAGA loyal people all over the country were restless. State-level activists have led the prosecution nationwide by loudly criticizing Republicans, who are perceived as enemies of the Trump movement, and plotting plots. Voted to impeach the former president To local officials who were seen as weak or soft when it was counted.

This phenomenon is not unique to this pocket in South Carolina, but the battle here is a powerful epitome of dynamics in national tug of war. Republican direction After President Trump.

The pioneer of the latter camp was Presley Stats, the leader of the local tea party, who had thorns on the side of the alleged Republican founder “RINO” for many years.

Like many Republicans, Stats chased the former president and right-wing media into a conspiracy theory that elections were fraudulent, and the reckless Republican politicians and officials he had ridiculed for years. I wasn’t doing anything to stop. The rhetoric facilitated an attack on the Capitol on January 6. In fact, Stats was proudly there that day.

Starting in December, Stats and his allies launched a large-scale campaign to train voters to “understand and live on President Trump’s MAGA agenda” on how to exercise power in local political parties. Politics. They plan to expel and replace officials from zero to political parties. Stats, aiming for a leadership position in the Greenville County Republican Party, LynnwoodAn Atlanta lawyer who became an icon of conspiracy-obsessed rights in his early bid to the state Republican chair after he left Georgia for South Carolina.

“There are a lot of good people who have lost their positions. Some are my friends,” Stats admitted, and the Daily Beast contacted on Tuesday. “Some people say Presley, what did you do?”

However, Mr. Stats said the instructions to Mr. Trump’s followers were clear. “He said he would wipe out and get rid of the Republican RINO, so we took him seriously.”

Greenville County is a good setting for such a drama. It is the most populous county in South Carolina and is already considered the most conservative region of Ruby Red. Local Republicans proudly consider it the most influential and necessary stop for presidential candidates seeking an edge in South Carolina’s important primaries.

Long-time activists here are worried that taking control of newcomers could undermine their reputation and ability to continue to control South Carolina elections. Suzette Jordan, a 30-year Republican activist in Greenville, said the exiled people had the institutional knowledge and skills that helped the party win elections and build influence. She says it seems to be lost in Stats and his likes.

“It’s frustrating to think that the party may be handed over to people who have different goals than we’ve had for years,” she told The Daily Beast. “Their goal is to replace us all. They may succeed.”

Jordan, who worked for Trey Gowdy, a former member of the House of Representatives in the region, has not run for another term on the executive committee seats of the Parties. But even after clearly informing her constituency that she was one of the few South Carolinas to vote for Trump as a member of the Electoral College, she managed to be elected to a minor constituency position. did.

“We have been accused of being founded. Whatever that means, MAGA wasn’t enough,” Jordan said. “Then the woman stood up and said,’Congratulations on being an elector!’ It was ironic. It didn’t matter.”

Nate Loop, the current chair of the Greenville County GOP, estimated that about 30 percent of the county’s precincts were targeted by an outsider faction on the night of March 22. , And we are here to take over. “

But Leupp couldn’t help but be aware of the personal side to that effort. He is an active Trump supporter and, as chairman, organized a local Republican to travel to greet the former president on his visit to Charlotte, North Carolina. But when he toured the precincts and introduced himself that night, Leup said the attendees “looked at me as if I were a devil.” He is not running for another term as the chairman of the county.

This bright red county concept, crowded with RINO, has been routinely pursued by Stutts, who lost to Leupp to chair the party in 2019. Fierce showdown Leupp said it didn’t, including accusations from Stutts that Leupp stole a bathrobe from the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC, and surfaced Stutts’ personal financial debt to North Carolina and the IRS.

L. Lin Wood launched from a lawyer club after calling for Pence’s execution

However, long-standing concerns have been raised by Republican bases’ dissatisfaction with the processing of the 2020 elections, and the best chance to expel local and state leaders to stats and like-minded allies. Is given. Stats told The Daily Beast that his coalition attended a 1,400 constituency meeting across Greenville County in March. “People are angry and they want to regain their country.”

Facebook is an important organizing tool. Stats has built up supporters on the platform, despite being occasionally banned on suspicion of censorship. His post since November was read like a real-time diary of the increasingly desperate hope of the MAGA movement that Trump could stick to power. On Facebook, Stats reposted a fantasy influenced by QAnon, a mass squeeze of Deep State traitors, with pictures of memes and dogs scattered broadside and inspiring local Republicans. Read a meme he shared with “Judgment Day”.

Stats also posted a number of photos of the January 6th rally and subsequent riots, including a selfie of Infowars host Alex Jones and rally organizer Aria Alexander. In one early post of the day, there was a photo of a mob screaming at an inauguration stand on the West Front of the Capitol, with a cheerleading message saying, “Trump supporters broke the Capitol!”

However, Stats later accepted the conspiracy theory that it was “Antifa” rather than Trump supporters who caused the violence. Compared to Kristallnacht, the night of cooperative violence against Jews in Germany by the Nazi paramilitary organization in 1938. Of course, federal court proceedings show that many of the people who invaded the Capitol and attacked police officers belonged to the far-right militia, or at least were Trump supporters, not anti-fascist.

In the wake of this, Stats claimed to be convinced of Antifa’s existence on January 6, despite the lack of evidence. He insisted that he would not accept QAnon, even though he posted Q-friendly content. “Don’t climb that tree,” he told The Daily Beast...

It’s no wonder that Stats and his supporters have found a common cause with L. Lin Wood, a lawyer who supports Trump, and even Team Trump is away from him. Georgian Republicans have accused Wood of enthusiastically promoting an election plot in his former home state for contributing to the party’s defeat in the Senate final vote on January 5.

“Presley and some of his friends came to me a few days ago and raised with me the question of whether to consider running for Republican chairman,” Wood said on March 31. .. Challenge Drew Maxic, which has been approved twice by Trump.

After Judge John Roberts discussed Wood’s unfounded conspiracy allegations that he had something to do with Jeffrey Epstein, the caller asked Wood why he would challenge someone who secured Trump’s support. Wood said that people like Maxic said, “Say the right thing, they seem to accept President Trump, but when they have to make a tough phone call, they don’t seem to take a walk and say their words. I don’t seem to support it. ” “

Few take the long-term bid for Wood’s party chair seriously, but Stats and his allies have laid at least some foundation for him. Replacing activists like Jordan and Smith with a corps of newcomers at the constituency level can ensure that they support the candidate’s slate at the county convention scheduled for April 13. From there, they can send representatives to the May state convention to vote for the party’s chair. “A lot of madness will happen next week,” Leupp said.

Some established Republicans have cast obvious changes in guards as a cyclical part of the political process. “When an event, candidate, or issue gets the attention of an onlooker, they are motivated to’join’and’regain the party’,” said former chairman Chad Gruber. Greenville Republican Party. But he added that many of the people taken out were loyal supporters of Trump.

“The grassroots activists who worked hardest for President Trump’s reelection were county party officers and executive committee members,” Gruber said. “Therefore, it’s a shame that these same people have been set aside for the leadership role of constituencies and county parties by individuals who have recently decided to be involved (mostly since November).”

Smith, a longtime activist exiled in the precincts of her hometown, has not personally taken her defeat. “Hopefully they will all jump in and be great leaders and great spokespersons and what we want to be a party,” she said of the people who replaced her. Still, Smith can’t help wondering about them. “I have no history with them,” she said. “It wonders to me, where were you?”

For the first time in decades of involvement with the Republicans, Smith will have more time a day to ponder these questions. “I think I’ll spend more time in the garden this year,” she said.

For more information, see The Daily Beast.

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