So I attended a Trump rally yesterday. First, let me assure my readers that this isn’t a reversal on my Trump-as-lesser-evil position. I continue to maintain that Trump is not a positive so much as Hillary is a negative. However, I was curious to see what kind of people are supporting this man, and why they were doing so. Why speculate when you can actually see for yourself? Thus I went to the rally and talked to people there to find out what was going on.
Here are my observations.
First, there was an older lady of clear Mexican ancestry who was interviewing with the media talking heads just outside the gates. She was angry and clearly agitated at some of the questions. At first I thought she might be an anti-Trump protester.
No. She was a Trump supporter, and was expressing how pissed off she was that she spent all this time and money coming into the country through the legal channels, and other Mexicans just walked across the border for free. She was saying that they didn’t want to be Americans, and that they just wanted to make money and go back to Mexico. She never wanted to return to that hellhole, and didn’t understand why they did. Other Trump supporters extolled her virtues for coming in the right way.
Second, there were lots of women in the crowd, much more than I expected. Someone had been distributing pink “women for Trump” signs, and I saw a lot of those — more than the regular Trump/Pence signage, actually. The women were louder and more energized than the men. This despite there being an anti-Trump protester outside the venue with a megaphone and a loudspeaker constantly playing back Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comment on repeat.
I talked to one woman about it and she said she didn’t care about the comment, because she’s said worse about men when hanging out with her girlfriends. It may be that Trump lost marginal/borderline supporters for the comment, but it is clear that it didn’t make a dent in his base.
Overall, the anti-Trump protesters were few, and not particularly well-organized. I honestly expected a lot more of them given the media’s focus on them. Either Hillary thinks she has this election in the bag, or they have moved on to other tactics. The First Amendment area was mostly empty.
The people there were nice, peaceful, and nothing at all like what I expected. The area off the Florida State Fairgrounds, where there was parking, was cash-only. $10 to park there. Naturally, I failed to bring cash. The parking attendant let me in anyway, and told me there was an ATM inside where I could get money and come back to pay her. Unfortunately, this ATM was very well-hidden. I asked one of the campaign workers if she knew where it was, and instead of pointing me toward it, she just offered me the $10. I politely declined, and continued my search for the ATM (which I eventually found), but I was impressed nonetheless.
There were no incidents of violence, no craziness, none of the stuff the media has been reporting on. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The rally was held at the amphitheater, which is a venue for a lot of concerts and big events, and I have *never* seen a crowd so well behaved as this one. Usually people are all up in your personal space, jostling, bumping up against you. There would be spilled drinks, screaming people, dirty looks and occasional fights. Not at the Trump rally.
When the rally ended, everyone filed out in orderly fashion, personal space was respected, there was no jostling, or the usual hostile folks trying to force their way out. For me, the contrast was staggering. All this despite the fact that the amphitheater was packed to the gills, and there was a whole crowd outside the venue. The amphitheater has seating for approximately 20,000, plus an additional space for around 1,000 to stand up front (usually a mosh pit when bands are in town). So there was around 21,000 in the venue, and an indeterminate number outside.
There were two people at the rally that I suspect were plants. Again, the crowd was exceptionally well behaved, and so these two women (who appeared to me rather like SJWs) screaming and exaggerating everything Trump said were very out of place. They seemed to be agitating for something, but to the crowd’s credit, everybody ignored them. A man seated next to me wondered if Soros paid them to be there.
I expressed to a few people there that I wasn’t really a Trump supporter, and I didn’t personally care for the man. I expected people to get in my face about that. Certainly there’s been a lot of that on Facebook. Instead I received mostly sympathetic responses. A number of people felt likewise. One man said that he still didn’t like Trump, but that America deserved someone who at least wasn’t a felon.
Another man said he was an immigrant from Hungary, and that he didn’t care much for Trump’s boisterous attitude, but that he was very worried about militant Islamics getting in and causing trouble. He said that Eastern Europe has long memories in that regard. More than a few cited wikileaks as their reason for going Trump. I was surprised how many people had actually read through many of the emails.
The crowd itself was a blend from all walks of American life. There were Working Class folks in large numbers, who I still think comprise Trump’s base. But there were a lot more Upper-Middle class folks in the audience than I expected. I may have underestimated his support there. There were more minorities than I expected, also. Especially blacks. It was still more white than America-at-large, but contrary to media spin, Hispanics and blacks were very well represented.
The rally itself was strange. I have very little to compare it to, because I don’t usually attend these sorts of things as I don’t go in for this politician worship. They had a smattering of guest speakers, and went with a strongly anti-Obamacare message, overall. The guest speakers included a doctor of Cuban descent, a local black bishop, and a number of Republican party politicians from the area, most of whom I recognized.
It was very high energy, in terms of the music they played, and the way Trump spoke. It is clear that whatever Trump’s other faults (and they are legion), he is a good public speaker and knows how to work a crowd. The crowd occasionally burst out into spontaneous chants of “USA” and “Lock Her Up.” There was an awkward moment when Trump said that the media would not pan the cameras and show how big the crowd was, and when he said this, only one camera did (I presume that was Fox, but I don’t know). The rest of the media just sort of stood there awkwardly and did nothing. They never did show the crowd. Of course, the crowd booing them probably didn’t make them any more willing.
I was wondering if the populism would feel wrong. I’m a big skeptic when it comes to populism, though I don’t care for elitism either. And a number of folks have worried that Trump could spin his populist appeal into tyranny. It didn’t feel that way. The crowd was very normal, for lack of a better way to put it. I got no sense that this man was being held up as some kind of demigod or demagogue. I did, however, get a very strong sense that they absolutely loathed Hillary Clinton. That seems to be the big unifying factor for them. I doubt that Jeb would have commanded the same kind of strong support, but at the same time, I don’t think Trump would have been received like this if it weren’t for the fact that Hillary was so terrible. Thus I am less worried of a populist-backed tyrant in the form of Trump than I was before attending this rally. It didn’t feel like a fascist thing in any way, regardless of how the media spins it. And bear in mind, I’m a career cynic in this regard. I would most definitely tell you if I got even a whiff of that sort of thing.
None of this changes my opinion of Donald Trump, mind you. I don’t like him, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ll vote for him because my hatred of Hillary is so strong. But that’s as far as I will go. Yet my opinion of his supporters has changed somewhat. Certainly the media portrayal of them as violent racists and sexists is complete bullshit. The old Mexican woman who came in legally was held up as a model by other Trumpites. His black supporters were welcomed, and one guy said of the black bishop “nobody preaches to a crowd better than a black man of God.” And the women were louder and more supportive than the men. There was no violence, and in fact there was a considerably bizarre level of respect for personal space that I’ve not experienced in a very long time. These people were genuinely nice, and the two hecklers were largely ignored.
At this point, I have nothing to compare between Trump’s campaign and Hillary’s campaign. And I’m not sure I can find the stomach to attend a Hillary rally. But if I can, it would be interesting to compare.