Monday night, Justin Schieber and I attended a Donald Trump campaign rally here in Grand Rapids, out of some morbid curiosity that may not have killed the cat but might have taken a few years off my life. Now I hate campaign rallies to begin with, even if I support the candidate. I find the Pavlovian bursts of applause at lines that mean absolutely nothing — “We need to get America moving again!” — too depressing. But a Trump rally promised to be many times more painful. And it was.
I also generally despise protests, even if I agree with their point. As we approached the Delta Plex, there was already a group of maybe 100 protesters out front doing the “hey hey, ho ho” chant. Did I mention how much I hate chanting? The only thing that irritates me more than chanting is wooing, as in those people who scream WOOOOOOOOOO at the top of their lungs at a sporting event or concert. Seriously, I agree with you that Trump is a shithead, but can’t you at least try to be creative and come up with a new chant? When we left, they had broken out into the almighty drum circle, which as we all know is far more powerful than mere chanting. Unfortunately, not one of them had any sense of rhythm whatsoever.
We had to go through metal detectors to get in the building, which made me wonder why. A gun-free zone? But that’s what the bad guys exploit! That’s why they attack schools! If they actually believed their bullshit about good guys with guns, shouldn’t they be encouraging people to bring guns to the event? Or does that only count for other people, not for rich white guys?
Once inside, it was literally like a circus, not just figuratively. I mean, they had a trailer selling elephant ears and everything. The audience was made up of business types, retired people and men in trucker hats. Way too many trucker hats for me to feel comfortable at all. A good hour before Trump went on stage, the chair of Trump’s Michigan campaign — I have no idea who it was, nor do I care — came out and got the audience fired up by yelling “Are you ready to make America great again?” The response was so loud it was deafening. Pavlov would have been so proud.
Then they had an Eagle Scout come out and do the Pledge of Allegiance, as a man in the front row behind me shot nasty glances at me for not putting my hand over my heart and not saying it. That was followed by the national anthem, sung by a trio that call themselves, and I’m not kidding here, the Alexander Hamiltones. At that point, I was ready to stab my car keys into my eardrum. But they still weren’t done. Then a woman came out and sang America the Beautiful. Somehow we were mercifully spared a rendition of God Bless the USA done by a Lee Greenwood impersonator and his jug band.
In between, they were playing Christmas carols. When “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” came on, that seemed entirely appropriate to me. I’m still not entirely clear whether “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” was about Jesus or Trump.
When Trump took the stage, it was predictably to wild, almost delirious cheering. His stump speech is, as I’ve noted many times before, just a stream-of-consciousness rant about whatever pops into his head. It’s about 1/3 him talking about how great, how rich and how popular he is (seriously, he brought up all the polls he’s winning at least three times before we left), 1/3 juvenile insults at the other candidates (including ones that aren’t even in the race anymore; he took shots at Bobby Jindal, for crying out loud), and 1/3 just random, disconnected thoughts about various things.
He started talking about how much Putin loves him and the crowd went wild, for reasons that seems a bit perplexing. Then he talked about the allegations that Putin has killed journalists who challenge him. Then immediately after that he launched into an attack on the press and how much he hates them (he literally said he hates them, more than once). Then he added, “But I wouldn’t kill them!” Glad you cleared that up, Donald.
The whole thing really does have the feel of those 1930s news reels from Germany. Trump comes off as a cross between a tinpot dictator, a carnival barker and a shitty stand up comic. Imagine if Manuel Noriega showed up at the Chuckle Hut in Peoria and signed up for the open mic: “Take my wife, or I’ll have you arrested and thrown into one of my secret prisons.”