Yellow police tape strewn everywhere, a Hillary Clinton mannequin behind bars, larger-than-life cutouts of indicted Democratic politicians: These are just a few of the signs that the party thrown Monday night by the United Republican Club of Philadelphia at its enormous, 19th-century Port Richmond headquarters was not the typical DNC fare.
Also known as the “Welcome to Philly, Hillary – You’ll Fit Right In” party, the event drew a mixed crowd of 60 people despite searing temperatures followed by a protracted thunderstorm complete with sideways sheets of rain.
Considering it took place on a stormy summer Monday – during the DNC, no less – party organizers Joe DeFelice, the chairman of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, and Albert Eisenberg, the committee’s communications lead, would have been happy with half that number.
For DeFelice, the turnout is hopefully indicative of a sea change in the way that the city GOP approaches its role. “I’ve changed the style of the way things are done around here,” he said of the deliberately provocative theme. “I think at the beginning, some of the old guard were resistant, but I think they’ve come around. For the most part, there’s guys out there who support the direction we’re taking the party.”
And, points out Eisenberg, the same can be said of the new guard, if the committee’s Facebook page is any indicator. “Our social media presence alone has picked up dramatically – we’ve doubled it since we came on board,” he noted. “It’s gone from 1,100 to 2,200 likes in the last five months.”
For DeFelice, the people who turned out in a driving rain to play games like “Pin the Crook on the Donkey” are just the tip of the iceberg of Donald Trump’s support in the region. “It’s like the old ‘Rizzo Factor,’” he explained, referring to the notoriously polarizing Philadelphia mayor of the 1970s. “He would do 8 points better than the polls said he would do because people didn’t want to admit they were voting for Rizzo. I think that is happening with Trump.”
One person who had no problem acknowledging her love of the Republican presidential candidate was Daphne Goggins, the 18th Ward leader, who says she has been on board with Trump ever since Ben Carson dropped out of the primaries.
“Most of my work is based on educating people in my community” – located in and around Temple University – “about Donald Trump,” Goggins said. “No one listened to his speech but me in my community. But have you listened to what Trump has to offer to black people? He wants to reduce crime: that helps us. He wants to provide school choice: that helps us. He wants to lower taxes: that helps us. He wants to bring jobs back: that really helps us. And his immigration policy: he’s the only one who sees that they” – immigrants – “are taking jobs from black people. The Democrats don’t even address black people. It’s an easy choice to support Donald Trump.”