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Le Monde
Le Monde
24 Feb 2024

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The meeting was drawing to a close and no one was making any more detours to the buffet. The Republican section of Greenville County in South Carolina had completed a full review of current events on this Friday, February 23. Some 30 dedicated supporters, almost all White and over 50 years old, applauded each other and heaved knowing sighs at the mention of enemies from within, responsible for supposed American decline. There had been talk of books containing pornography, of Harry Potter and the promotion of the dark forces instead of the Bible, of abortion clinics. Everyone was encouraged to act as a poll watcher on Saturday, the day of the Republican primary in South Carolina, even though there wasn't much suspense about the outcome. All the polls predicted Donald Trump would triumph by around 25 points over Nikki Haley, a likely humiliation for the former local governor (2011-2017).

A poster written in felt-tip pen was stuck to the wall: "You must be politically feared to be politically respected." As the meeting drew to a close, the Le Monde reporter was asked, in an affable tone, if he had anything to say. A poll was feigned. "Who among you will vote Trump?" Every hand went up, proudly declaring their identity with their allegiance. "Who among you has a college degree?" The response to this was more surprising. More than half of the participants put up their hands. "Trumpists aren't the toothless hicks the media portrays them to be," noted session president Yvonne Julian with satisfaction. "Aside from blue-collar workers, we have a lot of people here from liberal states, like me, educated people, entrepreneurs."

Julian grew up in Chicago, then moved to California, where she worked for 35 years in the chemical industry, after studying management. A newcomer to politics, she arrived in South Carolina less than 10 years ago and now heads up the local Republican Party committee, which has been taken over entirely by enthusiastic, radicalized activists, rejecting all the traditional Grand Old Party frameworks in their state. Christian and Black, Julian likes to view herself as part of "the populist movement that Trump has raised up, bringing together ordinary people, for whom the 2020 election acted as a catalyst because it wasn't honest."

She has no regard for Haley. "I believe our government is totally flawed and that, as they say, madness is repeating the same action over and over again expecting a different result. For me, Nikki Haley is part of that madness." Ex-governor Haley has tried everything against Trump, hardening her attacks, portraying him as a "loser" and supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin. But to no avail. On the other side, former president Trump has caricatured Haley as a "bird brain" candidate for the disgraced elites and donors.

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