Delegates from California have started to arrive in Cleveland in preparation for the four-day Republican National Convention that will take place Sunday through Thursday. And despite a push last week by some moderate Republicans to “Dump Trump,” the delegates from the Fresno area say they are committed to the presumptive nominee.
On Thursday and Friday, the rules committee met to discuss many amendments to the convention protocols, most notably debating whether delegates should be released from their obligation to vote for the candidates that they committed to in their state primary or caucus. Many moderate Republicans are concerned about what a Trump nomination could mean for this November’s election, as well as for down-ticket races and the future of the party.
The proposal failed late Thursday night, meaning that all of California’s 172 delegates are required to vote for their pledged candidate, Donald Trump, in the first round of the nominating process. However, for the many Trump delegates who are devout supporters, whether they were bound or unbound would have made little difference.
Michael Der Manouel Jr., former treasurer of the California GOP and radio show host, said he has been less enthusiastic about the Republican Party in recent years but envisions Trump as the solution to the party’s problems. Looking forward to his fourth convention as a delegate, Der Manouel says he is excited about the historic nature of the convention, noting that this is the first time the GOP will nominate a candidate without any previous political or military experience.
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Sharing similar sentiments, delegate Tom Fife of Tulare County said that he is intrigued by Trump because “if you listen to what he’s saying, if you get down to the essence of it, he’s right.” Fife added that Trump’s message is “sometimes misunderstood because he’s too clear.”
The delegates have more than just voting on their minds as they prepare for Cleveland, though. With the convention also comes protests from both pro- and anti-Trump groups, all of whom are allowed to carry firearms openly in accordance with Ohio law. Both Der Manouel and Fife admitted that this could potentially lead to violence, but they emphasized the importance of upholding the Second Amendment. Fife maintains that “an armed society is a polite society.”
Der Manouel explained that he is only concerned about violence from anti-Trump supporters because those are the only groups he’s seen get violent. However, a neo-Nazi group from Sacramento pledged to attend the convention and protect Trump supporters, the same organization that stabbed seven anti-fascism protesters outside the state Capitol building in June.
Also in the parade of protesters will be the New Black Panther party, a black nationalist group that has made it known they will be heavily armed. The presence of passionate protesters with polarizing ideologies and weapons has many Clevelanders fleeing the area for the week.
When asked if he thought it was good for Trump to be supported by a neo-Nazi group, Fife said, “Anybody who wants to support somebody in this country is absolutely free to do it,” adding “they don’t believe in anything I believe in.” Except, apparently, Trump.
Although firearms are not allowed into the convention itself for security reasons, some delegates plan to carry outside the secured zone. When asked what he would be packing, Der Manouel said: “I’m not going to be defenseless. I’m not going to say what that means.”
The Republican Party is just days away from officially nominating Trump as its 2016 presidential candidate, a reality that many thought impossible just 11 months ago when campaigning began. Now that Trump has announced Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana as his running mate, much of the uncertainty going into the convention has dissipated. But there is still plenty of room for excitement as protesters, politicians and celebrity speakers all come together to nominate one of the most controversial presidential candidates of all time.
Brian Ward is a fourth-year English and political science student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He is the undergraduate student body president and plans to pursue a career in public policy upon graduation next spring.
Central San Joaquin Valley GOP delegates
16th Congressional District
Jeffrey Christensen, Fresno
Fred Fagundes, Madera
Brittanni Shollenbarger, Fresno
21st Congressional District
Aubrey Bettencourt, Hanford
Kelley William Boudreau, Coalinga
Vernon Costa, Hanford
22nd Congressional District
Michael Der Manouel Jr., Fresno
Tom Fife, Visalia
Bob Smittcamp, Fresno