The opening guitar chords of “Eye of the Tiger” cut through the crowd in ORU’s Mabee Center. Suddenly, the stadium surged. The crowd stood up, wild with “Make America Great Again” signs. As the song gained momentum, so did they. It was finally Trump time.
The man himself came “risin’ up” from behind the black curtains surrounding his podium. He introduced his “great wonderful friend Sarah Palin,” and she proceeded to explain how her son, who is a veteran, acts horribly because he has PTSD, and he has insufficient treatment for his PTSD because the Obama administration does not care about veterans. Donald Trump, however, does (or at least hasn’t gotten the opportunity to vote against funding for veteran benefits the way most other GOP candidates have).
She talked about how “former President Obama” (cue fervent cheering and the people in front of us high-fiving) will have to live under Trump Tower’s literal shadow when he returns to Chicago. And she praised “President Trump’s” negotiation skills and refusal to bow down to the “GOP machine.” Sarah Palin claimed that because Trump was accountable only to himself, he was the most reliable choice for the presidency. Which, I guess if your political party distances itself from you, the best thing you can do is pretend that you were too cool for them anyway.
Palin then noted how “haters” want them to “chill” (at this, one guy in the crowd promptly held up a sign saying ‘Chill’), but that she and the crowd had every right to be angry. Indeed, people had no chill after that. Their anger was a rallying cry.
So Trump returned to the stage, said some nice stuff about Oklahomans in an attempt to seem relatable and affectionate towards the crowd, and then started complaining that President Obama gave the Iranians 150 billion dollars for the hostages. If he were president, Trump said, he would just walk out of the negotiation if the Iranians didn’t agree to his proposals.
This was the closest thing to a concrete policy plan that Trump offered, and after watching the audience, we don’t blame him. They didn’t really care about his hostage negotiation plan. At least, they definitely weren’t cheering as much. So Trump got to vaguely talking about guns and, in a complete non sequitur, Common Core.
“Protect the Second Amendment! Down with Common Core!” The crowd roared in response.
He pointed out how the cameras never showed his adoring fans and only focused on his face. He said they only turned when there was a protester because it was scandalous. He was right. The crowd booed the camerapeople with an intensity that was unsettling to us small student journalists, to say the least.
We left the rally with a vague sense of unsettlement. Something about it was frightening. Trump’s policy and speech were, for the most part, either factually incorrect or based only on how great Trump himself was. Who could take him seriously?
It was easy to make fun of Trump until we saw his huge crowd of supporters. And let’s be honest, it’s still easy to make fun of Trump. But obviously he appeals to some people, and as reassuring as it is to dismiss them as lunatics, we’re a little bored of everybody doing that. So, here’s our portrayal of the “silent majority,” as exemplified by the attendees of Trump’s rally.
1. Woman who yelled at protesters to “get a job”
Trump supporters think of themselves as hard workers. They’re just trying to protect their jobs and, by extension, the livelihoods of their families.
In this country, if you work hard you’re supposed to be able to get rich and famous, just like DJ Trump. To Trump supporters, this “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality is only ruined by the fact that some people cheat, and by cheat I mean enter the country illegally and get access to jobs that they, the hard workers, maybe possibly might have (but probably wouldn’t have) taken. That just adds insult to injury. In this (not necessarily founded in reality) scenario, they’re understandably afraid for their job security, and angry about unfair job-stealing.
2. Guy selling Trump merchandise whose pins said “Bomb the shit outta ISIS”
Another thing to be afraid of: ISIS. The presence of salesmen yelling “Bomb the shit outta ISIS” at top volume in a crowd containing families and children speaks to Trump and his supporters’ reliance on shock value as a selling point. American media already portrays ISIS as an unquestionably evil entity, so all Trump is doing is capitalizing on this supposed clear fight between good and bad. People don’t want ISIS to bomb them, so apparently the mentality is to bomb them first.
A number of anti-Trump protesters popped up at various points throughout the rally. These ranged from a gaggle of college-age people standing outside of the rally with clever signs to a few people who actively caused a disturbance during the rally itself. On three separate occasions, protesters interrupted the rally, including a man who walked into the middle of the crowd with an American flag bandana over his mouth and his fist held high. Each time, the Trump followers converged on the protester, screaming things like “HATER” and “KICK HIM OUT!” as security guided them out of the venue.
It was a Trump rally, after all. If you were trying to have a peaceful (albeit loud) convention about Finnish movies and some people showed up to complain about Finnish movies, you’d tell them to leave. The protesters had every right to be there, of course, and to be angry. But the Trump supporters were angry too, and feel marginalized by what they think is a “politically correct” society that doesn’t care about them. In the end, no one listens to you when you scream at them. Even if you’re screaming a message of love.
4. What can we do?
Donald Trump, believe it or not, has a couple decent ideas: for example, opposition to Common Core and better care for American veterans. These few and far between policy points, however, are drowned out by overwhelming buzzwords and inaccurate facts. It’s a very weird and confusing combo but it makes him very influential.
The point we’re making with this is to not be like a Trump supporter—or at least, an unquestioning supporter of any politician. At this rally, we watched people cheer at blatantly false statements. You have to keep yourself informed, because if you don’t you’ll turn into a mindless Trumpish zombie and you might even start to grow a hairpiece and squint a lot.
The point of a rally like Trump’s is to stir up people’s emotions and whip them into a frenzy, and the best way to address that isn’t to act that way yourself and retaliate just as mindlessly. For example, the protester who came out with that bandanna on his face holding his fist in the air. Regardless of his intentions, he just got the Trump supporters more riled up and more convinced of the righteousness of their cause. Rather than unintentionally feeding into the machine, the way to combat this sort of thing is to take a step back, educate yourself, and, well, chill. React by starting informed political discussions, writing to government officials, protesting peacefully rather than aggressively, and most importantly by voting.