It starts a few days out. These things pop up quickly. Someone in the office says they heard an announcement on the radio or a newsflash online. “He’s coming to the arena.” That morning some coworkers stop by and ask if you are going. Some say they saw him the last time he swung through the area, and others say they will avoid the circus.
“Trump is coming.”
As you drive to the stadium or arena, you see the vendors on the roads hawking Trump merchandise. The shirts and signs with “Make America Great Again” on them. You crack a smile. If you are with friends, the debate turns to who will he make fun of the most, how many times will he mention “the wall,” or if he is going to drop a gaffe that you know is not a gaffe but a deliberate leak of truth.
Did you get there an hour, two hours, or four hours early?
I showed up four hours early and saw a line of 500 people waiting for the doors to open in an hour. A friend had showed up as gates opened for parking and let me and my son cut in line. What is the mood, the vibe, and the crowd like? There is a buzz. It is all smiles. Those conversations from the car are repeated with others in line. Everyone is happy because the night before Trump swept five primaries. “He keeps winning… We keep winning… Landslides… They can’t stop him… They can’t stop us.” This is a nation of instant gratification and impatience, yet 500 people showed up four hours early to see The Donald. Nothing helps Americans tolerate discomfort like success, and Trump keeps winning.
The line stretches out further behind you, and as the doors open, you glance back just to take it all in. Our line was 1,000 people long at minimum, and the rally was still three hours away. This crowd does not care. It is a diverse crowd. Not diverse in the Angelina Jolie adopted kids manner but in age, style, and fashion. Young and old. Farmers, gun guys, blue collar men, dudebros and their girls, veterans, old ladies, young cuties, and parents holding their kids. The red hats stick out.
The recurring image is the red hat. The first one makes you smile. That stops, though, because once you see the first, you notice how many more are out there. Once you get into your seat and the crowd fills in, the hats pop up everywhere. Like looking at a New England foliage panorama and the dark green conifers stick out against the smattering of orange, yellow, and red–the red hats stick out. How has no progressive writer called the red hats the new Brownshirts? It will happen. It is not just the frequency of hats, but the men wearing them.
The men in the red hats are younger and look fit. These are the millennial and young Gen-X men who troll triggered millennials, or express their unabashed support for Trump. These red hats start the “Trump” chants, and if you are lucky, the “Build the Wall” chant. It starts to become a type and almost mold of strong man drawn to a leader framing himself as strong and fighting for them. This is a right-wing image that does not conform to the chubby Christians voting for Jesus image peddled by the media.
The reaction to these rallies penned by journalists can almost be pinned entirely on those young men. A strong masculine energy that has been exorcised from the left flows among the crowd. These are the men who either deal with protesters or inspire the older attendees to sock a protester.
Everyone is buzzing, and the cheeseball ’70s and ’80s rock staples blare over the loudspeakers. Maybe you hate Elton John, but you’re singing along to Tiny Dancer by the time the lights flicker. There is an opening prayer. Did you know Trump flew Michael Jackson to Indiana to be with Ryan White’s family when he died of AIDS? I did not not, but I found out then, and Trump never took credit for it. They sing the national anthem. They lead you through the pledge of allegiance. A good performer has an opening act, and one of Trump’s advisers gets the crowd revved up. We will need the: No one cares about you! They ship your jobs to China and Mexico! They are corrupt! Who fights for you? Who is not bought and paid for? Who cares about you? Who loves you? Trump! Trump! Trump!
At this point, everyone wants to see the man. Even the elderly look like a kid waiting to open Christmas gifts. The emcee gets up and everyone rises, everyone looks at the tunnel and “Ladies and gentlemen the next president of the United States…”, and you don’t even hear his name because of the crowd.
All are on their feet, even the people who look like they need insulin or an oxygen tank. All are clapping and shouting. Trump eats it up. He waves. He points. He smiles. You get a rush seeing him pump his fist and saunter to the podium. A Trump chant starts. He waves but gets right into it.
“Are you feeling good? You should because we just won, and won yuge, we’re winning and winning, it’s nevah been done before, we’re gonna win no matter how much they say we can’t win, and then we’re gonna win some more.” I do not recall what Trump started with, but that paraphrases it. Trump cannot even mention Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz without the crowd shouting Trump’s nicknames for them. You are feeling good, because he mentions repeatedly how much he needs you. He needs your help, and usually the deal is closed by the time you get to vote, but you have power now. Trump needs you. He is a winner, but he can only win with you. A cynical attendee hears echoes of Richard Dawson’s character “Killian” from The Running Man saying, “Who loves you and who do you love?”
Trump brings on a speaker–in our rally’s case, legendary winner Bobby Knight, with a personal story of how they met, how Coach Knight told him to run, and how winners stick together and win. It does not matter what the other speaker says because you just want Trump to get back onstage. The crowd needs it, though, because they need to hear someone else echo Trump’s message. It is not about the party; it is about America.
Trump gets back onstage, and you might notice he is not looking at the teleprompters. Is he allowed to ramble free form? Is it so scripted he can memorize it? Is he offbook? It does not matter because he does not need a speechwriter. He is simply telling you what you want to hear someone with money and status say. Making fun of his speeches is a pastime for reporters now. How much more ridiculous can Trump be than Obama saying in June of 2008 that this would be the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow?
Pundits mock them because Trump is not speaking the approved talking points. He is speaking to you. All the third rails of politics that you want discussed are out in the open. Trump uses his long right arm as a conductor would and exaggerates points, snaps or slows down the pace of delivery. Focus. He mentions the wall, and when he asks who will pay for it, thousands scream “Mexico”. By now in the campaign, the crowd knows the chant “Build the Wall,” which gives Trump a moment to walk off and point to people behind him. Even when Trump mocks himself, he is still the most amazing man with the most beautiful, wonderful plans waiting for you next year.
Trump’s touch for pacing is immaculate. Trump is building you up, making you laugh and pointing out those wicked media members. Look at those dishonest people in the media section. Trump uses the chant points to break from the podium and let the energy flow, and my God does it flow. You barely sit down for the speech. You do not want to sit for him because Trump is going to suck you into his battle against the rigged system. This is about a movement, this is about you, this is about winning and this is about greatness. You need to help him make America not just as great as she once was but even bettah!
It is easy to get lost in the moment. A lady gets teary-eyed because the emotion is there. Someone hugs their kid. There is the oceanic feeling of togetherness. You feel you would lay the bricks and mortar for that wall not just for Trump, or for your kids, but for that crowd. Then it hits you. The media is wrong to call the Trump show a circus or a crazy carnival. This is not even a rock concert, despite the opening act.
This is a big tent revival for the Church of America. Trump is your preacher. The details are flimsy, but he keeps winning, you keep winning, and together we can keep winning. The bad guys are lying reporters, sleazy politicians, nebulous but corrupt special interests and law-breaking illegals. For all that voting and winning, Trump is going to fight, defend, and protect you and that great abstract image of America in your heart… because it is in his heart, too.
An old tent revival is out of Americana. Rallies pop up, the preacher speaks, the lame may walk and the faith is confirmed and shouted. Trump rallies pop up quickly. Those who hear the calling and feel that love for old America show up. Faith and love of America is exclaimed by all. It is worth fighting for and worth saving. We have betrayed the faith by letting in others and destroying our manufacturing through free trade negotiated for the benefit of others. The lame do not walk again, but all go home with an extra pep in their step. My son is five and stayed up until ten o’clock, too excited to fall asleep because of the energy in that building, talking to his mother about “The Donald”.
Another realization hits you. This is why the media is so scared. It’s ten o’clock, and you want to patrol the border. This is a cult of personality that the media has not allowed to form. It is not the fake cowboy from the most politically connected family in America. It is not the fake black guy who was raised by whites in foreign lands and Hawaii, attending prestigious schools. It is not the fake Hispanics who need Spanish tutors. This is not a figure who encourages you to dislike your fellow true Americans, but each mention of the corrupt, rigged system has you itching to get at its caretakers. Each rally has more people thinking the day is coming.
The political gatekeepers are scared because this is the reaction to just a casino magnate tip-toeing towards the idea that this is your land, and it is time to end the lies and purge the wicked. Trump is no Charlemagne but if, or when, a Charlemagne returns, Trump’s rallies indicate that there may be no limit to the unleashed energy.