The Republican presidential race came to The Mermaid in Mounds View Wednesday night, as about a hundred GOP faithful gathered to eat, drink, watch three hours of debate on TV, and bond over their shared anger at President Obama and distaste for Democrats in general.
The viewing party was sponsored by the local The Patriot radio station and its parent company the Salem Media Group, “the exclusive radio partner of the CNN (GOP) debates this year” (per the event’s press release) and the Christian media conglomerate whose holdings also include Twin Cities-based radio stations The Mission and The Fish.
While a couple hundred politics-oblivious Minnesotans took to the boisterous bar and bowling alley a few feet away, MinnPost went to the debate viewing party, an oddly quiet affair that felt more like an underground meeting of a secret society than a radio-sponsored political rally in an election year. In words and photos:
Lee Becker, Stillwater: “I’m hoping that all across America that people in general that are planning on voting understand that there’s a lot at stake right now as far as how to handle this country. I’d love to see a strong Christian conservative politician get in office if at all possible because I do feel that they best can serve the country the right way. I don’t think the Republican candidates need to beat each other up. They’re the most elite group of candidates running as is, and I think that 90 percent of a lot of the stupid people, and that’s a lot of the left, are going to use that against them to try and get Donald Trump unelected just from stupid things he might comment on. I would vote for Donald Trump, but any one of the Republican candidates can do 10 times better than any leftist individual or Democrat, especially Obama, who has to be the worst president we’ll ever have in this country.”
Katie and Shelah Driver, Richfield. “I came with Mom, because we listen to talk radio a lot together,” said Shelah. “I feel like I’m learning a lot from Mom. I feel like I grew up with it in the background all the time, and I’m an educator now and I feel like a lot of the educators out there are super Democratic and don’t have the same values or belief systems that I do or grew up on. I’m going to keep listening to it, because it’s encouraging who I want to be, and I hope I’m influencing my kids and my students.”
“I teach motorcycle riding for the state of Minnesota and work with my husband who has a painting business, and I like to listen to The Patriot when I’m doing stuff around the house,” said Katie. “It’s a conservative view of politics, life, culture, and it’s my values, Christian values.”
Mitch Berg, radio personality, The Patriot: “Our show was basically started by a bunch of bloggers who basically got together to have fun, do radio, and meet babes, and we have fun getting people together. Conservatism is such a solitary thing, right? People don’t get together and go to protests and march around as much as people on the other side do. This is kind of our version, to say, ‘Hey, there’s other people out there. Have some fun, make some friends, socialize a little bit.’ It’s a lot of fun.”
Carol Kusic, Darlene Lund, and Debbie Bruck, Shoreview. “We need change. It just seems like the whole world is crumbling, and we’re just watching it. Hopefully we can come back from it,” said Bruck. “Donald Trump is harsh, but he brings up good points,” said Lund. “His ideas of trying to straighten things – just the immigrants and the way the country is going – are good.”
Alyssa Brekken, Eagan: “I’m the traffic manager at The Patriot, so I schedule all the commercials and such. It’s fantastic to come out to events like this, because you see the Republican base of Minnesota start to rise, and at The Patriot we have a front-row seat for that. This year we’ve seen more and more people become more vocal than ever, and where they once were kind of quiet now they’re starting to rise up, and that’s cool to see.”
Julie and Bruce Clay, Spring Lake Park. “We don’t pay for cable TV, so we came here to watch the debate,” said Bruce. “It’s nice to talk to like-minded people. The country’s not going in the right direction. Secure the borders. Support our troops. Don’t cause racial trouble in the country. Reverse that trend of causing racial tension. I support the police department. I don’t agree with Black Lives Matter and the chants they chant at the police.”
Jennifer Holmquist, Shakopee: “I want to be with like-minded people, and I’m a big Patriot radio fan. They say pretty much what I’m thinking, and I like to know that there’s somebody out there with a platform providing information. I try to let people know that they need to listen more. I want more people to be educated and informed, and I think that our culture has fallen away from that. I really like Carly Fiorina – and not because of her gender, by any means. I’d rather have a man be president, actually.”
Chris Fields: “I’m the deputy chairman for the Republican Party of Minnesota. There’s a real strong belief that a Republican is going to be the next president. When you look at the Democrats, they’re in disarray. The Democrats have owned the black vote, but black people have not done better under Obama, or Democrats, period. For the last 50 years they’ve owned this black vote, but yet black poverty is at its highest levels, we have the highest levels of broken families in the black community, and the lowest levels of education attainment here in Minnesota as compared to whites, so really, what has the Democratic party done for the black voters? The answer to that is, sadly, not much.”