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The Daily Beast

“Whole Crazy”: Inside the Republican MAGA Coup in South Carolina

Victory McNamie / Getty When Lena Smith arrived at the annual Republican Organizing Conference in her constituency last month, she didn’t expect to be greeted by a dozen strangers. 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 a former governor, so when Smith stepped into the church banquet hall for a constituency meeting on March 22 and saw people who had never participated in local Republican politics. I was a little worried. 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. It was related to the worst crimes against Republican bases: not doing enough to support Donald Trump as a result of the 2020 elections Trump’s defeat and the January 6 Capitol Since the attack on, MAGA followers across the country have been 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. This phenomenon is not unique to this pocket in South Carolina, but the battle here is a powerful epitome of the dynamics of national tug of war over the direction of the Republican Party after President Trump took office. A state Republican operative said, “Between the founding forces that are in the current Republican Party and Trump supporters who believe in QAnon on the far right, who wants to take over the county party.” The pioneer of the latter camp was Presley Stats, the leader of the local tea party, who had been sought after for years on the side that allegedly founded “RINO” (Republican by name alone). .. -The president and right-wing media have fallen into a conspiracy theory that elections have been fraudulent, and reckless Republican politicians and officials he has been ridiculing for years are doing nothing to stop it. did not. The rhetoric facilitated an attack on the Capitol on January 6. In fact, Stats was proudly there that day. Since December, Stats and his allies have launched a large-scale campaign to train voters in the rank and file of “people who understand and live on President Trump’s MAGA agenda.” On Facebook — How to exercise power in the politics of a local party. They plan to expel and replace officials from zero to political parties. Aiming for a leadership position in the Greenville County Republican Party, Stats became a symbol of conspiracy-obsessed rights in an early bid to chair the Republican Party after leaving Georgia for South Carolina. I urged Lin Wood, a lawyer in Atlanta. Carolina. “There are a lot of good people who have lost their position. Some are my friends,” Stats admitted, and the Daily Beast contacted on Tuesday. “Some people say,’Presley, what did you do?'” But Stats said the instructions to Trump’s followers were clear. “He said,’Clear and get rid of the Republican RINO.’ Greenville County is a good setting for such a drama. South Carolina’s most populous county, already a ruby ​​red state. Regarded as the most conservative area in South Carolina. Local Republicans are the most influential and necessary stop for presidential candidates seeking an edge in South Carolina’s important early preliminary elections. Proud to be the land. New entrants take the lead. Suzette Jordan, a 30-year Republican activist in Greenville, said the exiled people would have the party win the election and influence. She said she had the institutional knowledge and skills that helped build. She seems to be losing to Stats and his likes. “The party we’ve had for years. It’s frustrating to think that it might be handed over to people who have different goals, “she told Daily Beast. “Their goal is to replace us all. 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. However, she manages to be elected to a minor constituency position, even after clearly informing her constituency that she is only one of the few South Carolina citizens who voted for Trump as a member of the congressional delegation. Couldn’t. It was accused of being founded and MAGA wasn’t enough, what does that mean? “Jordan said. “Then a woman stood up and said,’Congratulations on becoming an elector!’ It was ironic. Nate Loop, the current chairman of the Greenville County GOP, said about the county’s precincts. Estimated 30 percent were targeted by an outsider faction on the night of March 22. Their message told Daily Beast. Clear: “We are MAGA and are here to take over. However, Leupp could not help noticing the personal side of the 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 has not run for another term as chairman of the county. This bright red county concept, crowded with RINO, is routinely pursued by Stats, who lost to Leup in 2019 in search of party chair. Stats, who had stolen a bathrobe from the Trump Hotel in DC (Loop says he didn’t), surfaced Stats’ personal financial debt to North Carolina and the IRS. The facility’s widespread dissatisfaction with the processing of the 2020 elections has heightened long-standing concerns and has given stats-like allies the best chance of expelling local and state leaders. Stats told The Daily Beast that his coalition held a rally of 1,400 people throughout 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. 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 Ali Alexander. In one early post that day, there was a photo of a mob screaming at an inauguration stand on the West Front of the Capitol, with a cheering message that “Trump supporters broke the Capitol!” Stats later said it was “anti-fa, not the Trump supporter who caused the violence.” Compared to Kristallnacht, the night of cooperative violence against Jews in Germany by the Nazi paramilitary organization in 1938. Those who invaded the Capitol and attacked police officers belonged to the far-right militia, or at least supported Trump, and were not anti-fascist. Pushed by this, Stats claimed to be convinced of the existence of anti-fashi 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 the tree,” he told The Daily Beast. Not surprisingly, Stats and his supporters have found a common cause with Lynnwood, the 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 hometown, contributing to the party’s defeat in the January 5 Senate elections. Whether to consider running for Republican chairman. ” On March 31, Wood listened to their call and decided to challenge Drew Maxic, who was twice supported by Trump. After discussing Wood’s groundless conspiracy allegations, Chief Justice John Roberts was associated with Jeffrey Epstein, and the caller asked Wood why he would challenge someone who had 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,” Loop said. Some established Republicans have cast obvious changes on 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 officials and executive committee members,” Gruber said. “Therefore, it’s a shame that these same people have been set aside for the leadership role of the constituencies and county parties by individuals who have recently decided to get involved (mostly since November).” Smith, a longtime activist exiled in her home constituency, should not take her defeat personally. “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 has more time a day to ponder these questions. Probably. “I guess,” she said, “I’ll spend more time in my yard this year.” Read more at The Daily Beast. Did you get a hint? Send it to The Daily Beast here. Put your top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now! DailyBeast Membership: Beast Inside digs deeper into the stories that matter to you. learn more.