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Flushing — Red was the color du jour in a Flushing banquet hall Saturday, as it has been at other events around Michigan.

Cherry dresses, scarlet scarves, red-tinged Mar-a-Lago mimosas and MAGA red chicken salads along with the signature Make America Great Again hats.

But if red was the dominant shade, the theme at the Michigan Women for Trump luncheon was just as distinct.

“We are part of the silent majority of 2016 and because Donald Trump is president we are silent no more,” Amy Carl, co-director of Mid-Michigan Trump Republicans, told the more than 150 women gathered Saturday in support of the Republican president.

The luncheon was one of nearly 70 events Michigan Trump Republicans have held since their founding after Trump's surprise Michigan victory in 2016. The group, which eventually gave way to Women for Trump, promises there's more to come in the run-up to the 2020 election.

Think Trumperware parties, Trump Tuesdays, Women for the Wall, Students for Trump and even Truckers for Trump, an enterprising group of drivers who plan to blare their support for the 45th president via big rig billboards while zipping up and down the nation’s highway system to deliver goods.

Though the 2020 election is still a year and a half away, the group is mobilizing among a demographic they feel is under-reported in the Trump narrative: Women.

“We can’t book them fast enough,” Marian Sheridan said of Women for Trump luncheons and Trumperware parties. Sheridan, who also is the Michigan Republican Party’s grassroots vice chair, has toured the state with two other Michigan Trump Republican leaders to assure GOP women they are not alone in their support for the president.

Women have flocked to Norton Shores, Canton, Madison Heights, Frankenmuth, Marshall and Marysville for Women for Trump luncheons and Trumperware parties. The larger luncheons typically draw 50-75 attendees, according to organizers.

This week, members of Michigan Trump Republicans are scheduled to speak at Florida Trump Republican events in Sebring and Winter Haven. They also have fielded inquiries from groups in Ohio. 

Some of the emphasis on grassroots female Republican support is in response to Democratic successes in the same arena, especially in light of the “pink wave” that won Democrats many statewide and legislative seats in 2018.

Women for Trump often find themselves battling labels associated with Trump supporters, said Meshawn Maddock, a co-founder of the group and 11th Congressional District Chair. Those stereotypes, she said, run the gamut — crazy, privileged, sycophantic or strictly of the male Caucasian persuasion.

“Look around this room,” Maddock said. “Do we look like old white men?”

'Sign the wall'

More than 150 women Saturday sipped on the mimosas and snacked on the salad before several wearing MAGA hats modeled Ivanka Trump clothing.

There were plenty of life-size cutouts of Trump, Melania, Ivanka and the Statue of Liberty, but they didn’t hold a candle to the number of MAGA scarves, pins, shirts, bumper stickers and sweaters for sale in the room. Women were encouraged on their way into the banquet hall to “sign the wall,” a sturdy brick-patterned roll of paper that would eventually be sent to the White House.

Peggy Meyer took it all in with wide eyes. The luncheon was the first political event for Meyer of Essexville, who described herself as usually “apolitical.”

“So far I like it,” said Meyer, whose interest in Trump stems from a concern for veterans. Her husband served in the Marines and Air Force. Her son is still active in the Air Force.

“I applaud President Trump for what he’s trying to do for veterans,” Meyer said. “I like some of the things they’re doing, but I’m not a die-hard Republican.”

Her cousin’s blood ran a little redder.

A Marine Corps veteran, Pamela Beaver of Kawkawlin said the fine linens and dainty salads were a little elegant for her McDonald's tastes. But the Trump message was spot on, she said.

“There are women for Trump, and our husbands don’t force us to vote for him,” Beaver said. “We have our own minds.”

A group of Montrose Republican women said they came out to show their confidence in the president’s ability to keep the country great for future generations.

“I think there’s more support for what Donald Trump is doing than the media and press like to say,” said Janet Driesen of Flint Township.

Fighting Fems for Dems

The outreach to women is sorely needed after a 2018 election in which Michigan Republicans saw flagging support among women in western Wayne County and eastern Oakland County, said Bill Ballenger, a political analyst and former Republican lawmaker. 

"They need to do better; that's the understatement of the year," Ballenger said. "Particularly, Donald Trump needs to do better.”

Given the party's realities, the way to reach those women may not be a direct appeal for Trump, Ballenger said. Rather, Republicans should emphasize “how far out in left field the Democratic Party is drifting.”

While the GOP may struggle in more affluent areas of Wayne and Oakland counties, the Flushing location of the event is proof of inroads into suburban, blue-collar areas that have not typically been considered GOP strongholds.

“Trump has done surprisingly well there in 2016,” Ballenger said of rural Genesee County. “The Republicans are getting stronger in these suburban areas of Flint.”

Though the issues discussed Saturday were serious — immigration, abortion, the economy — Maddock said the group also realizes people need a bit of levity in the overly combative political atmosphere. Thus, the tongue-in-cheek Mar-a-Lago mimosas, the Ivanka-apparel style show and the Trumperware parties.

The Trumperware parties are an effort at “making politics fun again” through grassroots coffee meetings at the homes of female Trump supporters, Maddock said.

They were in part inspired by the opposition, a response to the grassroots Fems for Dems movement that helped Michigan Democrats to sweep the seats of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and two congressional seats in a “pink wave” in the 2018 mid-terms.

“We need conservative women to be an answer to the progressive women who right now seem to be leading the entire Democratic Party,” Maddock said.

Lori Goldman started Fems for Dems out of her Bloomfield village home in 2016 ahead of Hillary Clinton’s run for president.

The political action committee continued its phone bank work and door-to-door campaigning after Clinton’s loss, providing a “political home” for people who wanted to volunteer after Trump’s win but were unsure of how to do so, Goldman said.The group now communicates with roughly 3,000 people and has spun off a education 501c3 called Fems for Change.

“The worst thing we can let happen is just being apathetic about who’s running,” Goldman said. “Republicans are not our enemies and we’re not their enemies. Our enemies are the people who don’t care enough to show up on election day.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

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