Bakersfield resident Daniel Shaffer can’t remember exactly when he made the decision to fly out to Washington, D.C. But he and other supporters of President Donald Trump had marked their calendars for Jan. 6 as a day to convene in the nation’s capital.
Shaffer said he really enjoyed the trip right up until about 2 p.m. Wednesday. The violent mob that stormed the Capitol? Not only was that not what he came for but he missed all of it. Like most of the country, he watched in horror as events unfolded, in his case just a mile away in his hotel room.
“It was heartbreaking that it ended that way,” he said.
Shaffer and his girlfriend could afford the time and money to fly to D.C. He knew there were a lot of other longtime Trump supporters like him who shared his belief that the states, courts and county agencies had not done their due diligence. He didn’t really believe the election would get overturned on Jan. 6, but he thought that maybe congressional members would air some of the issues.
“We felt like it was our duty to go for the people who couldn’t,” he said.
Shaffer, who has worked in the tech industry, has supported Trump and knew this would likely be the end of the president’s stand.
“They’re in the courts, they have the presidency, they have the Senate, they have the House, and in schools they have the 1619 project,” he said, referring to a New York Times project that reframes American history through the lens of slavery. “I just really am fearful for the country.”
Shaffer said he thought the trip might be a good way to make his voice heard and network with other people who felt the same way he did. He describes the trip as being largely pleasant. It was his first time in D.C., so he took in the typical tourist sights. He met fellow Trump supporters at the Lincoln Memorial. He’d run into like-minded people who would want to talk about state law.
On Wednesday, he and his girlfriend got a spot in front of where the president would speak at 7 a.m. He said hearing the president and Don Jr. speak were highlights for him. People were singing the national anthem. He described the crowd as “respectful” and the mood as “kumbaya.”
The crowd headed over to the Capitol. Some of the news filtering out from inside the chambers started to rankle those in attendance. A man Shaffer met at the Lincoln Memorial warned him that not everyone there was on the same page as them. Shaffer said he saw people in camouflage, chest gear and black helmets. It was at about this time that people were trying to get inside the Capitol.
Shaffer said his girlfriend complained she was getting cold and needed a break after being outside since the early morning.
While they were back in the hotel room, warming up and taking a break, they flipped on the TV. They planned to head back but what they saw on TV changed their minds: tear gas was being throw over a barricade. And just like everyone else in the country, Shaffer spent the rest of the evening glued in front of the television watching “one nightmare after another” unfold.
“I thought we were all there for the same thing,” he said. “It put a big damper on the trip.”