When Bakersfield resident Peter Wonderly heard an evangelical group was coming to town with the purpose of holding a rally to convince conservative voters to vote against the Republican party, he decided he needed to help out.
“It’s almost like the Christian faith has been taken over with Republicanism and I just don’t agree with that,” he said.
So Wonderly helped publicize the event, and on Thursday evening he showed up to Central Park at Mill Creek, where a giant bus was parked on the grass along with a few dozen people, a state-of-the-art sound system, and one talented piano player.
At the rally, which had the feel of a good ol' fashioned revival, multiple speakers and a poet gave miniature speeches tinged with politics and religion.
Every vignette had a common thread, reducing the power of President Donald Trump.
The event was the second-to-last stop on a 31 city, 14 state bus tour that has taken a collection of pastors, musicians and writers, calling themselves the Vote Common Good tour, from Pennsylvania to California.
Each stop along the way has been scheduled to coincide with a district that contained a Republican incumbent the group hoped to convince Christian voters to flip.
Trump’s policies and rhetoric have strayed from what is the “common good,” the group says, and the Republican-controlled Congress has not done enough to rein in the worst impulses of the president.
“Not only is the Trump Administration opposite of the values and teachings of our faith, they are just in bad spirit and bad tone,” said Doug Pagitt, a pastor from Minnesota who is leading the rally.
At Bakersfield’s stop, Democrat TJ Cox, who is running for the 21st District seat in Congress against Republican David Valadao, gave a short speech.
He is supported by the Common Good tour, which has supported only Democrats throughout its trek across the United States.
The group says it is nonpartisan.
“We would support any candidate for Congress who would say, ‘I will restrain the president,’” Pagitt said. “We believe that the common good requires restraining this presidency.”
If the polls are to be believed, most evangelicals take the opposite view that Pagitt and his group does.
The Washington Post has reported that 80 percent of white evangelical voters voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
“We represent the other 20 percent,” Pagitt said. “We’d like it to jump to 30 percent, 40 percent or even 60 percent.”
Trying to convince the supposed 80 percent to vote against Trump has not always made the group the most popular tour in town.
Pagitt said he has gotten yelled at every night of the tour. From angry motorists blaring their horns during the open-air rallies to threats of violence, the Common Good tour has persisted on.
Shortly after the tour bus pulled into the parking lot of Central Park in Kern County, Pagitt said a man in a pickup truck yelled through the window “you’re in a red district, you better get out of here before you get hurt.”
“I don’t believe he would have acted that way had he not been emboldened by the president acting in ways that are similar,” Pagitt said.
He added that after he approached the man and spoke with him for a few minutes, the man became friendly.
Past all the aggressive rhetoric, though, Pagitt said the tour has connected Christian voters who have felt isolated because of their political views. He said one woman in Holland, Michigan, tearfully thanked him for holding the event. She told him she didn’t feel comfortable speaking her political views in her conservative town.
From a few dozen people to hundreds, the crowds at the rallies have varied, but Pagitt hopes the tour is getting their message across.
“This is a singular time in our American political history,” he said. “If you’re going to vote your faith ever in your life, do it this time.”