in Colorado, Republicans are torn apart over Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy

Colorado justice had declared the candidate for the Republican Party nomination ineligible due to his role in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, causing strong tensions in the conservative camp. But the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the decision.

“If necessary, I could take a bullet in Donald Trump’s place.” In the basement of his house in Windsor, in northern Colorado, Trent Leisy, 43, does not have enough superlatives to describe the former president of the United States, candidate for a new term. He remembers those few times he met him. Particularly in his sumptuous residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. “He shook my hand. We feel that he is someone who loves peopleis moved by this son of farmers and former navy veteran. He’s the kindest, most upright man I know.”

Support “die hard”, as he says, of Donald Trump, the forty-year-old has been campaigning for several months for the billionaire to win the Republican primaries in Colorado organized during “Super Tuesday” Tuesday March 5. That day, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party organize their primaries and caucuses in fifteen states simultaneously to nominate their candidate for the November 5 presidential election. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is the big favorite. Since the start of the nomination race, he has won hands down almost all the states at stake against her rival Nikki Haley.

“No one can silence him”

“He is the leader we need to turn the country around”, Trent Leisy continues, readjusting his red tie. His admiration for the billionaire is displayed everywhere in his house. In particular, he has three giant dolls bearing the image of Donald Trump. One wears a “Make America Great Again” cap, the Republican’s famous slogan. The models “are life size, just a little slimmed down”, slips, amused, his young assistant. He himself is wearing a sweatshirt with the image of Donald Trump with the inscriptions “Sexiest man alive” (“The Sexiest Man Alive”).

Nine months before the presidential election, Trent Leisy is convinced that his idol will return to the White Housefor a third term.”He was elected in 2020, but the election was stolen from him.”, he justifies, in reference to the conspiracy theory according to which Donald Trump is the real winner of the 2020 presidential election which pitted him against Joe Biden. He is one of more than six out of ten Republican voters believing in this “alternative fact”, according to an opinion survey. “The problem is that leftist judges and the establishment are doing everything to keep him out of the race”, he accuses, regarding the justices of the Colorado Supreme Court, whom he thinks are “supported by Georges Soros”the Jewish American billionaire philanthropist, hated by conspiracy theorists and the American far right.

In December 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court declared Donald Trump ineligible due to his actions during the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021. It was based on the 14th Amendment to the American Constitution which provides for the ineligibility of those who have “engaged in an insurrection or rebellion” against the country. But Donald Trump appealed and the Federal Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The judges considered that only Congress, and not the States, could request the removal of a candidate from the ballots for the presidential election.

A few days after this decision by the Colorado courts, Trent Leisy organized a convoy of Donald Trump supporters from his county of Weld to Forth Collins, one of the largest cities in the state. “It’s judicial relentlessness, an abuse of power”, he fumes. Also a Republican candidate for local Congress with the slogan “Make Colorado Great Again”, he wants to go even further and calls for the prosecution of Colorado judges for treason, a charge punishable by the death penalty, recalls 9News Denver. “They will not succeed in silencing Trump. No one can do that,” he assures.

“The establishment is afraid of Donald Trump because they can’t control him or buy him. Donald Trump doesn’t care about political correctness and they don’t like it.”

Trent Leisy, Donald Trump supporter

at franceinfo

Paradoxically, the numerous legal investigations against the former president have united and galvanized a large part of the billionaire’s supporters. In Colorado, the Republican Party officially gave him its support, although he was bound by a duty of reserve before the election. The “Grand Old Party” warned that if its name did not appear on the ballot, it would consider canceling the primary and turning it into a caucus, an electoral process reserved for party members only, reports NBC News.

“The Court chose freedom of expression”

Many Republican voices believe that the assault of January 6, 2021 cannot be qualified either as an insurrection or even a rebellion. “It didn’t go that far. There were probably people who were at the Capitol and were dragged away by the crowd, but like in a football game”defends Joy G.Hoffman. This 70-year-old Republican, in an impeccable blue suit, has been involved in the party for decades. President of the Arapahoe County chapter, southeast of Denver, she welcomes the decision of the Federal Supreme Court in favor of Donald Trump. “The Court chose freedom of expression, she greets. It’s all the stronger since the nine judges ruled unanimously.”

Joy G. Hoffman and Kim and Ashley Troxell, members of the Denver Federation of Republican Women, at the Independent Institute in Denver, February 29, 2024. (ELISE LAMBERT / FRANCEINFO)

For the conservative, the responsibilities of January 6 lie with the Democratic camp. “Mrs. Pelosi had been warned of the risk of unrest, and she deliberately did nothing. However, as President [démocrate] of the House of Representatives, she was responsible for the security of the Capitol”she decides.

“On January 6, Donald Trump never said anything to encourage an insurrection. What he said was free speech.”

Republican Party member Joy G. Hoffman

at franceinfo

Alongside him, Ashley Troxell, president of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women, believes that keeping Donald Trump on the Colorado ballot “reaffirms one of the fundamental principles of American democracy : the power of the people to choose their political leaders”she enthuses.

This Republican, who once supported Bernie Sanders, a figure on the left wing of the American political class, thinks that the assault on the Capitol is in any case not the kind of act specific to supporters of Donald Trump. “There were Black Lives Matter riots or pro-Palestinian riots, where people tried to get into the White Houseshe defends. There may have been bad intentions on January 6, but we also see that on the left.”

“He should not be able to be elected”

This day will in any case remain forever engraved in the memory of Norma Anderson. “I spent the day watching TV, I couldn’t believe it”, explains this historic figure of the Republican Party of Colorado. At 91 years old, “I’m old enough to remember the Great Depression, World War II, but what happened that day, I had never seen it”. Norma Anderson “was born and raised Republican.” She was even the first female Republican majority leader in Colorado’s Congress. In December, she became the lead plaintiff in the state’s lawsuit against Donald Trump.

Norma Anderson in her home in Lakewood, Colorado, February 28, 2024. (ELISE LAMBERT / FRANCEINFO)

“Trump violated the Constitution and therefore should not be able to be elected”, she estimates, sitting in the living room of her tidy house in a secure residence in the Denver metropolitan area, where copies of the Bible and the Constitution are stored on the shelves. The one who spent her entire career within the GOP observes the evolution of her party with a saddened eye. “There are divisions between those who believe in the Republican Party that I have always known, and those who believe in a demagogue”, she blurted. According to her, the values ​​of free enterprise, respect for the Constitution and democracy were put aside in favor of the sole success of Donald Trump.

“I want the president to be a man my grandchildren can look in the eye.”

Norma Anderson, plaintiff against Donald Trump

at franceinfo

It is for the same reasons that Krista Kafer, Republican affiliate and columnist at Denver Post, also became a plaintiff. In 2020, however, she voted for Donald Trump. “I knew he was a horrible person, but I agreed with his policies. But he went even further than I could have imagined, she explains over coffee, near the Colorado Capitol. She said to herself “obviously very disappointed” by the decision of the Federal Supreme Court, but emphasizes that the latter was careful not to qualify the actions of the Republican candidate. “So that doesn’t mean Trump didn’t participate in an insurrection.”she notes.

Krista Kafer in front of the Colorado Capitol, February 27, 2024. (ELISE LAMBERT / FRANCEINFO)

Since her complaint, Krista Kafer says she has suffered threats and lost friends. “That’s where we recognize the real ones”, she confides. On social networks, Donald Trump’s supporters call her a “RINO” (“Republican in name only”), an expression denigrating “those who are Republican in name only”. But she assures that she is not the only one who thinks this way. “Many left the party because of Trump and will vote independent this year”she supposes.

“Our complaint had the merit of showing that Republicans were dismayed and opposed to the violence of January 6.”

Krista Kafer, plaintiff against Donald Trump

at franceinfo

Despite the failure of the procedure, Norma Anderson promises to respect American institutions. “We won’t argue. We’re not like him”she says with a smile.

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