A Look At The GOP From Inside A Matt Gaetz-Marjorie Taylor Greene Rally
The two members of Congress may not have much power on the Hill, but they get celebrity treatment from Trump supporters.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Liz Cheney is the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives. She is in danger of losing that position because she has told the truth about the 2020 election. Many lawmakers in the GOP support the lie that the election results were fraudulent. Cheney has refused to do that. And a vote in the House this week may determine her political future. While the vote will happen here in Washington, D.C., we're going to head this morning to Florida with some important context from NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Good morning, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hello.
MARTIN: All right. So you spent some time in the part of Florida that is really the heart of Trump country. And that matters to Liz Cheney's situation. Explain what's going on.
KURTZLEBEN: Right. So I came down here on Friday for a rally that was in The Villages, that huge retirement community in central Florida. It was a rally put on by Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida's Matt Gaetz. Now, The Villages is not in Matt Gaetz's district. It's not even in Marjorie Taylor Greene's state.
KURTZLEBEN: But it is full of their people because it's full of Trump's people. The counties around The Villages voted for Trump last year at rates of around 60% or more. And this rally - they called it the America First rally. Now, the name of that gets at these two's defiance in the face of scandal. America First was floated as an unofficial caucus in the House earlier this year. Leaked language about launching that caucus invoked white nationalism. Other Republicans distanced themselves from it. The caucus was not launched. And they said that this America First rally is going to be the first part of a national tour.
MARTIN: All right. So let's take a listen to what you found.
KURTZLEBEN: There's a sort of time warp going on at The Villages. On a street made up to look like a small-town Main Street, it's maybe an idealized, slickly varnished version of the 1950s, albeit with a lot of golf carts. Next to a gazebo, where a band was warming up on Friday afternoon, it was the Reagan era.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Oh, here she comes. Watch out, boy. She'll chew you up.
KURTZLEBEN: At a hotel ballroom on Friday night, it was something like 2017.
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: All right. I just got to check something. I just want to make sure I'm in the right place.
GREENE: Tell me, who is your president?
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Donald Trump.
GREENE: That's my president, too. OK.
KURTZLEBEN: And a lot like Trump, Gaetz and Greene talked a lot about their perceived enemies. And like Trump, they gave a sense that being more embattled only makes them more defiant. In short, opposition, no matter how serious, just gives them more opportunities to put a thumb in someone's eye. Matt Gaetz, for example, winkingly reference to an array of serious allegations against him, including sex with an underage girl, as a way of slamming the media.
MATT GAETZ: And I already know how CNN's going to report it. Matt Gaetz has wild parties surrounded by beautiful women in The Villages. So just get ready for it.
KURTZLEBEN: Greene, meanwhile, bragged about being stripped of her committee assignments after social media activity that promoted violence, racism and false conspiracy theories. Greene wore that punishment as a badge of honor, talking about how she decided to slow down House floor activities.
GREENE: If you want to give me some time on my hands, then you better believe I'm going to figure out smart ways to use it.
KURTZLEBEN: But some of the most fiery attacks were reserved for those fellow Republicans who aren't unfailingly loyal to Trump.
GAETZ: If Adam Kinzinger wants to be the front man for the establishment to bring our party back to the days of Mitt Romney and John Kasich...
GAETZ: ...And - you know what? I'm not going back. This is Donald Trump's party. And I'm a Donald Trump Republican.
GREENE: Topping the list of Republicans non grata was Wyoming's Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican.
GAETZ: If Liz Cheney could even find Wyoming on a map and went there, she would find a lot of very angry cowboys who are not happy.
KURTZLEBEN: Many Americans may have no idea who is in congressional leadership, but the people here are paying attention, like Ria Amiess.
They mentioned Liz Cheney a lot in there.
RIA AMIESS: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I cannot stand her.
AMIESS: You know, why she hates Trump? Why she - she supposed to be out of Republican Party. Republican Party need to be united.
KURTZLEBEN: Don Perrin put it more succinctly.
DON PERRIN: If you're going to be a party person, you got to be a party person. And she went against the party.
KURTZLEBEN: People at an America First rally in The Villages are likely to be among the most hardcore Trump supporters in an already Republican area. But that doesn't necessarily make them fringe. Polls have shown that a majority of Republicans, for example, believe the lie that the election was stolen or rigged. One is Linda Murphy Griffaw, who came to the rally in a red dress with Make America Great Again emblazoned across the bodice. She voted for neither Obama nor McCain in 2008, nor did she vote for Obama or Romney in 2012. But Trump fired her up.
LINDA MURPHY GRIFFAW: I never vote unless I truly believe in the party I'm voting for. And I truly believe that he wanted the best for us.
KURTZLEBEN: And Republicans in the House are voting this week about potentially stripping Liz Cheney of her leadership status in the House. That could happen as early as Wednesday.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, thank you.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.