Yesterday was an interesting day as I infiltrated the Donald Trump rally here in Virginia Beach. I had thought about wearing a Hillary button but in light of how some Trump supporters have treated anyone thought to be protesting I decided not to create a scene. Instead I tried to blend in, watch, and observe the crowd that I estimate to have been around 3000, maybe 3500 people, about the same number that might attend an early season weekday game at our local minor league affiliate. Since I have been to quite a few of those games I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size. The Trump Campaign claim that attendance was around 10,000 which seems to be their standard answer, as they routinely over inflate attendance numbers, but I digress.
Since I wanted to fit in without wearing any Trumpware I decided to wear my World Baseball Classic Team USA hat and my flight jacket which has a good number of my military unit patches on it. It was a great disguise because no one suspected that a that a aging white veteran dressed like this could possibly not be a Trump supporter. In fact while I was walking around taking pictures and blogging a fashionably dressed female Trump volunteer thanked me for my service and invited me to a Veterans for Trump meeting, and several other people also thanked me for my service. The fact that is that I am a career military officer and a combat who happens to oppose the totalitarian state that Trump and his supporters remained hidden. I politely thank each person and continued on with my task.
My visit to the rally provided me a surreal view of the bizzaro world in which Trump and many of his supporters live; a world full of conspiracy theories, lies, and propaganda that they believe to be true.
The rally was held at Pat Robertson’s Regent University and I arrived as the national anthem was being sung. Because Trump was running late I got to listen to several warm up speakers including Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Rudy Giuliani ratchet up the anger of the crowd of Trump loyalists who bedecked in all sorts of Trump campaign gear and who ate up every word as if it was the gospel.
It was a strange feeling to be at a university less than ten miles from my home listening to these speakers spew hate, and seeing the overwhelmingly white crowd respond with aplomb. To each charge the crowd chanted Make America Great Again, or Lock Her Up, and booed any mention of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Tim Kaine. The language used by the speakers was that of war. They described the election as a war and in apocalyptic terms. The most appalling use of the war analogy was by State Senate candidate Frank Wagner who used the model of Robert E. Lee rallying his troops during the Battle of the Wilderness as a call to Trump followers to fight. I cannot imagine using the example of a rebel leader whose troops killed more American soldiers than any enemy in any other war, a man who backed secession, a man who violated his oath and took up arms against his country.
The organizers trotted out fundamentalist pastors including a Mexican American and Bishop E.W. Jackson to speak and pray, mixing their faith with their politics in a manner that excluded anyone of any other faith present. Likewise a leader of a group which opposes immigrants, accusing them of all being criminals and rapists and repeating myths and lies spread by Ann Coulter. It is amazing to watch, as people booed as he said people that don’t belong here and screamed build the wall! It was a display of hate filled nativism that I could not have imagined.
The speakers consistently returned to the theme of working up his supporters as deplorables and repeating conspiracy theories, lies, and myths. It was amazing to watch people wearing their made in China Make America Great Again baseball hats, Infowars Hillary for Prison t-shirts, and other paraphernalia such as Trump that Bitch t-shirts gathered in the square of one of America’s supposedly premier Christian universities. To add to the irony of this being a supposedly Christian university was the fact that vendors were hawking these wares and worse on campus.
Trump was running late so after a delay and finally Rudy Guilani took the stage talking about a change of direction, talking about trickle down economics, and radical Islamic terrorism, while praising Vladimir Putin, and starting yet another series of Lock her up, and Bill Clinton is a Rapist. He promoted the lies of the rigged election and attacks on the press.
As I blogged amid the crowd and took pictures a fashionably dressed female Trump volunteer thanked me for my service and invited me to other Veterans for Trump events. I was surreal because here I was in the midst of the rally writing this on my iPad mini.
After Guliani finished recorded music played and ironically one of the songs was You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones. I guess that could well be the case if Trump loses on November 8th. The music kept going and going as the crowd waited for Trump, some talking among themselves, and others, particularly the elderly becoming tired and trying to find places to sit or lean.
Finally at 4:18 PM to the sounds of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA Trump took the stage. After his obligatory remarks praising Evangelical Christians. He then when Ito his stump speech, taking about draining the swamp in Washington, cutting taxes bigly, removing immigrants, refusing refugees, removing restrictions on churches from speaking politically without losing their tax exemption. He talked about lowering taxes while dramatically rebuilding the military and talking about peace through strength. He said that he would add 25 million jobs in ten years. In the mean time he presented a dystopian picture of the country in which he alone could fix the problems. He promised a massive military buildup that without new taxes would bankrupt the county and which would be unsustainable in the long term. It was the same picture and promise made to Germans by Hitler.
Trump went into his usual diatribe against Hillary, crooked Hillary as he calls her, threatened her with jail. He continued with the rest of his standard stump speech and then claimed that three major national polls supposedly released today show him to be leading. As a consistent poll watcher I can say that the polls he is citing are outliers which heavily weight people over 55 years old and in which his lead was so small that it was within the poll margin of error. I expect that when the polls taken after the last debate are released that the Clinton margin will continue to expand.
Chants of Trump! Trump! Trump! And Lock Her Up, and Build That Wall! echoed around the square as Trump repeated his charges about Mrs Clinton while praising Wikileaks and other hackers even as he accused the FBI and Department of Justice of criminal cover ups. Images of violence toward Mrs Clinton were widespread. One person strutted around with a Hillary head no top on a pole while another waved paper shooting range target with Mrs Clinton’s face in the center.
Trunp’s speech was designed to play to his faithful and certainly not intended to convince those outside Trumpland. Most if not all of what he said has been discredited and marked by lies which have been called lies by fact checking organization. He said if he loses that we will lose the country as we know it and the crowd ate it up as facts don’t matter in Trumpland.
He concluded by talking about defeating Crooked Hillary Clinton, and said if he won America would be One People, under One God, saluting the American Flag. He said that the rally would be something that the people at the rally would remember the rest of their lives and he warned about the Virginia race in which he is far behind Clinton, we gotta win it, this is going to be our last chance. I hate to tell you.
After Trump left a good number of boisterous supporters in a near frenzy mugged for the reporters that they so despise, chanting Trump slogans and Make America Great Again. One lady screamed at the reporters why are you here if you’re not going to tell the truth!
The rally was surreal and was amazing to watch.
I didn’t see any protesters but I can only imagine what would have happened if I had not been silent or had worn a Hillary button or t-shirt.