A line of people wearing blue “Hate Has No Home Here” shirts chanted “impeach Trump,” while a 30-second walk away, a sea of people in red “MAGA” hats chanted “four more years.”
That was the scene outside the building in The Villages where President Donald Trump on Thurday signed an executive order addressing the administration’s future Medicare plans. The signing took place at one of the largest retirement communities in the country where some of his most fervent supporters now live.
Previously titled “Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction” on the White House schedule, the executive order will expand privatized health care. It was later renamed “Protecting and Improving Medicare for our Nation’s Seniors.”
Joanne Munchak attended the event and pointed to her and her husband’s bad experience with President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan as to why they chose to support Trump’s executive order.
“At one point, he was paying $1,500 a month (for health care),” Munchak said. “Plus, our $6,000 deductible. It was crazy.”
The Villages’ Republican dominance notwithstanding, the event did draw protesters.
Chris Stanley, president of The Villages Democratic Club, rallied outside the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.
“Cutting Medicare cuts people’s ability to live here, in some cases,” she said. “We live on fixed incomes. When all of a sudden you need to pay more, it changes your lifestyle.”
Stanley was outside the building rallying from 9 a.m. The event was scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m.
“We have people on their GoFundMe trying to get money for their insulin,” she said. “That’s wrong.”
Trump stressed in his speech that the aim of the executive order is to lower prescription drug prices and give seniors more options in their choice of doctors.
He said he regards the Democratic push toward Medicare for everyone as socialism.
The indoor audience of mainly seniors cheered and gave standing ovations.
The protestors outside blew the whistles they carried, a nod to the recent whistleblower report that initiated Trump’s possible impeachment.
Jerry Prince, president of The Villages Republican Club, said he does not believe he’s in a place to suggest to the president anything about Medicare.
“He’s had a lot of experts in the field put this executive order together,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ve done a good job. We’ll find out, won’t we?”
In past presidential and gubernatorial elections, the undecided votes of people living in counties located near Interstate 4 were determining factors in winning elections.
While The Villages in Sumter County has cemented its reputation as a politically red area, Florida remains a swing state.
With the 2020 election approaching, the strength of the support in the I-4 corridor, or lack thereof, in Trump’s changing health care plan can be an indicator of where Florida’s future electoral votes lie.
The president did not describe specific policies in his speech. Instead, he focused on his disapproval of the Democratic Party’s plans and his administration’s achievements.
“It was going to be the best health care ever, remember?” Stanley said. “But nothing has come of this.”
Theresa Petersen, a visitor in town, held a different stance.
“He’s right on the mark when talking about Medicare and what’s going on in this country,” she said.
The crowd filtered outside after the event. Some stopped to cheer and wave flags while others marched, chanting with signs and passing out flyers.
Trump, before the event’s conclusion, displayed his sense of humor.
“Should I sign it?” President Trump rhetorically asked the audience before signing the documents.