WILMINGTON — The New Hanover County Republican Party is headquartered in an unassuming office on Market Street, near Indochine. In the lobby, tables stacked with stickers for a fleet of Republican campaigns sit next to cardboard cutouts of Donald Trump. The calendar on the wall gives notice of upcoming election-centered events, like a Trump Flotilla scheduled for early next month. In a back room, hundreds of campaign signs are stacked in piles, awaiting their deployment onto the streets and into mailboxes.
In the parking lot behind the building, a crowd of around 50 gathered Wednesday evening in anticipation of a visit from Congressman David Rouzer (R-N.C.), the headliner of a “MAGA Meet-up” designed to connect and energize Republican voters in the county.
Chaz Ivy, regional field director for the fundraising committee Trump Victory North Carolina took to the podium to rile up the crowd, introduce Rouzer and discuss his electoral hopes for November.
“We’re definitely getting [Governor Roy] Cooper out of there, aren’t we?” he asked of the crowd, who responded with cheers of affirmation.
“Hell yeah! That’s right,” he said. “Yes we are. We’re going to take our state back. We’re going to turn it dark red. That’s what I like.”
The congressman then took over, painting a picture of what he sees as a gaping chasm between the two political parties and the values each prioritizes.
“You’ve got one that seems to believe that at our founding, America was bad, has been bad, and remains bad. I don’t share that view, do y’all share that view?” Rouzer asked.
A voice in the crowd shouted, “Hell no!”
“Absolutely not,” Rouzer said. He then pivoted to a story — designed to degrade the value of wind and solar power — about a meal he ate in a California restaurant, where he was told none of the appetizers were available because of rolling blackouts throughout the state.
“Do you want lower energy, do you want the Green New Deal? Where the waiter comes out and says ‘I’m sorry we can’t serve your appetizer.’ Seriously,” Rouzer said.
He told the audience Democrats have been roadblocking the President since 2016.
“First we had Russia-gate, then we had Ukraine-gate. All these are hoaxes,” Rouzer said. “The Russia hoax, the Ukraine hoax, the impeachment hoax. Last week we had the Post Office hoax. You know, there’s no end to their efforts to try to put barriers in place.”
Rouzer claimed in an interview after the speech that “there is nothing that’s being done to compromise the ability of the post office to deliver the mail, and to deliver any absentee ballots that are mailed back in.”
In June, Trump donor and former North Carolina logistics company CEO Louis DeJoy took over as the new postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service. According to the Associated Press, DeJoy quickly eliminated all employee overtime, late delivery orders, and other expenses to ensure on-time mail delivery. He later defended his moves in a Monday hearing before Congress, and ensured critics who claimed he was strategically dismantling the service that the Post Office would be able to accommodate all mail-in ballots this fall.
Rouzer ensured voters in his district, including New Hanover County, would have the option to either vote in-person or request mail-in ballots.
“It’s perfectly appropriate to request an absentee ballot,” he said. “I think it’s also — you’re going to find that there are a number of people that feel very comfortable in showing up at the polls.”
Rouzer’s rhetoric used to vilify the Democratic party bore semblance to tactics used by the White House and conservative pundits. By his description, Democrats are the party of mob rule and socialism, whereas Republicans represent hope, law and order, and prosperity.
“That’s the bottom-line difference between the two directions that this election takes,” Rouzer said. “It is my prediction that years from now, history will record that Donald Trump is the man that saved America.”
While Rouzer spoke, a group of individuals holding Black Lives Matter signs demonstrated on Market Street by the entrance to the field office parking lot. Tim Joyner, a Wilmington activist, said he was there trying to spur local change.
“We were at the Democratic headquarters last week. This is the Republicans’ turn. This isn’t just a one party thing,” Joyner said. “Believe me, if I could find the Libertarians we’d be out there too.”
Back in the rear parking lot, Rouzer had finished his speech and was shaking hands and talking with voters. A man named Matthew DiGioia was letting other guests take photos with his car — a black Cadillac Escalade outfitted with pro-Trump and pro-conservative messaging — adorned with three large flags attached to the trailer hitch, which DiGioia said he drives around with at all times. DiGioia said that if this were the Revolutionary War, he would be the drummer boy.
“Somebody’s got to carry the flag. I want to be that guy,” he said.
A young couple hit a flavored vape pen in a sedan, then joined the crowd. The man wore a shirt with a pistol on it that read “Trump 45,” and received compliments from other rally-goers, who then discussed other preferred methods of “trolling” the opposition.
Rouzer said he thinks the Democrats are promoting a “defund the police” agenda nationwide, but he hasn’t witnessed that in New Hanover County, he said, crediting the “great sheriff” and the “great police department downtown.”
“This really is an election between socialism and mob rule, versus the rule of law and prosperity,” Rouzer said. “That’s how it’s breaking down in the average voter’s mind.”
View the gallery of the MAGA rally below:
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