Monday’s rally shows there is still energy on the right as the 2020 election approaches.
A decade after conservatives launched the tea party movement, a crowd of roughly 75 commemorated the anniversary of those first tea party protests Monday with a rally in downtown Sarasota to “stop socialism.”
The first tea party event in Sarasota drew more than 2,000 protesters to the Sarasota Bayfront. Monday’s rally at the same location and on the same day – Tax Day - was much smaller, but it showed there is still energy on the right as the 2020 election approaches.
Liberals are fired up to try to defeat President Donald Trump and their grassroots organizing – from the plethora of left-leaning Indivisible groups that haves sprouted up since Trump’s election to the Women’s March and other big demonstrations – have received considerable attention.
But Trump still is extremely popular on the right and his supporters are determined to deliver him a second term.
While some are still going strong, other tea party groups have faded over the years as conservative fervor surrounding former President Barack Obama's election and his policies faded. But a new wave of conservative activist organizations have sprung up since Trump’s election.
Monday’s rally included a range of conservative organizations, including Tea Party Patriots Action, Sarasota Trump Adorable Deplorables, Sarasota Trump Volunteers, Sarasota Patriots and Women for Trump Sarasota Manatee.
Lilly Garcia still attends meetings of the Sarasota Patriots - a group that formed as part of the original tea party movement - at the Waldemere Fire Station in Sarasota.
“We’ve been doing this for 10 years,” said Garcia, a retired Longboat Key nurse, adding: “This is our way of thanking America for going in the right direction.”
Garcia pointed to the economy in touting Trump’s presidency. She said her son-in-law had two part-time jobs when Barack Obama was president but has found full-time work as an engineer.
“We still have some never Trumpers; for the life of me I don’t know why,” Garcia said as she waved a large, yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and held a sign reading “Clean up D.C. with Trump” in the other hand. “Trump is doing a great job.”
Lillian Ridgeway helped organize Monday’s rally. Ridgeway is a real estate agent on St. Armand’s Circle and an active member of a local tea party group who also volunteered for Trump’s campaign.
Trump and the GOP increasingly have seized on the issue of socialism to argue that the Democratic Party is moving too far left in support of costly big-government programs. Republicans have been making the same argument against Democrats for decades, but Ridgeway and others at the rally said the issue will be a big one in 2020.
“They’re brainwashing our children in school,” Ridgeway said. “The kids really do believe we should be a socialist nation. They think everything should be free. Nothing’s free.”
The crowd also was united in their support for Trump.
“He’s God’s gift to America,” said Bradenton resident William Benedict.
Sarasota GOP activist Julie Brady said Trump “is the glue that’s holding us all together.”
“He has accomplished so much,” Brady said, pointing to the big tax cut package approved by Congress and the strong economy.
Brady expressed confidence that Trump will win reelection.
“I don’t think any of them can beat him,” she said of the current Democratic field.