A face-to-face encounter with the unconventional, yet conservative candidate.
Sarasota, FL—I went to a Donald Trump rally. And it was exactly what I expected.
I didn’t go as a reporter. I didn’t have a press pass. I didn’t get any special seats. I went as a guy with a DSLR camera and tickets to see Donald J. Trump.
For this, I received the full Trump fan experience.
There were protesters. There were vendors selling cheap, unlicensed Trump gear. There were grumpy old men. There were sweet old ladies. There were angry old ladies. There were a lot of police. There was awkwardly epic music which exalted Trump to some sort of godlike status. There was even an elephant.
All of this though, sadly, I expected.
What I didn’t expect was how normal and sane the crowd of supporters appeared to be.
But then I started listening.
Walking to the back of the mile-long line to see Trump, a young woman said, “I would rather have a racist, fascist Nazi than…”
Neither my camera nor my ears caught the rest of that sentence. I can only imagine what those next words were going to be.
A young lady in her 20s yelled at the protesters from behind the human shield of the Sarasota PD, “F— you! I’m Hispanic and I support Trump!”
Another supporter, a middle-aged man, responded to the anti-Trump protesters. “Maybe if you got a job, then maybe you’d see the other side!” he said.
Farther down the line, a middle-aged woman complained about the indecency of public breastfeeding for several minutes after a “Free the Nipple” chant.
This is Donald Trump’s base.
Some rally patrons were just there to have a good time, though.
“We should have brought those beers, man,” one young male said to his friend as he stood by the fence watching Trump’s obnoxiously eccentric helicopter land outside of Robarts Arena.
Another young man was accused by a Trump supporter of being an “undercover liberal.” He proudly boasted his tongue-in-cheek, sacrilegious sign which boasted a divine Donald in a white robe, standing above worshipers and a bald eagle, summoning fighter jets and firing President Obama. “BIGGER THAN JESUS,” the sign read.
Some people were just shamelessly trying to make a buck.
A vendor strolled back and forth past the tremendous line, selling hideous, unlicensed Trump T-shirts that were supposedly “handmade by soldiers in Afghanistan.”
Another man was peddling “Make America Great Again” hats with the promise that Donald himself would sign everyone’s, and that he only had ONE left.
“Does he really sign everybody’s hats?” an elderly woman asked frantically.
“Yes ma’am. He goes up and down the line at every one of these events, signing everyone’s hats,” the vendor said.
The arena filled to capacity, but the Trump campaign was prepared with giant speakers so the crowd outside could hear his Trump stump.
“Marco Rubio can’t even keep his seat warm in the Senate!” Trump said.
“She (Hillary Clinton) should be in jail!” Trump said.
Making news, he defended himself from the recent accusation that he mocked a New York Times reporter’s disability (with hand gestures) at his campaign stop in South Carolina.
“I was talking about groveling,” he said. “A reporter is groveling because he took back the statement that he wrote 14 years ago.”
He talked a lot about his frighteningly simplistic understanding of foreign policy.
His plan is to “bomb the oil and then take it.” Then, he would use the profits of said acquired oil to give to the families of 9/11 victims, and deceased and wounded veterans.
He blamed our current generals in the Middle East, accusing them of weakness. He made oversimplified, popular statements like “We need General MacArthur! We need General Patton!”
He explained that nowadays, war is simply “a matter of buttons.”
He joked about the politically correct culture. He berated Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. He criticized Ben Carson’s Super PAC.
“We’re gonna win bigly,” Trump said on multiple occasions. I don’t think “bigly” is a word, but Donald Trump is making it a word.
This was exactly the Donald Trump rally that I had expected.
When Trump made his ostentatious departure over the crowd with his Trumpcopter that sunny afternoon, a bewildered gentleman in the crowd yelled “that is SO cool.”
And he wasn’t being sarcastic.
These people think of Donald Trump as their political savior. The enthusiasm is real. They are just as sincere and fired up as Bernie Sanders supporters—if not more.
And they are ready to vote next year.