Read Part I here.
I had gotten the invitation to attend the Trump rally from my friend, Keith, who emailed me saying he had two tickets and asked if I wanted to go with him. I was surprised getting the invite from him. I’ve known him 10 years, and never thought of him as a political person. I was happy to accept.
My last political rally of any consequence was a local Tea Party rally, when that was a thing maybe — ten years earlier. I’m just not the rally type. We arrived a little after 3 p.m., with the doors to opening an hour later. A long, snaking line of thousands had already formed.
A police officer later told me that people began arriving the day before, wanting to be the first in. The crowd was distinctive only in its ordinary appearance; it looked like the audience for any county fair, concert, or sporting event you might go to. People of all ages, families with strollers, groups of teenagers, all shuffling along in the long queue, orderly and chatting. Almost everyone was wearing some sort of Trump apparel — hats and shirts of all types and colors, but the most common color was red.
I spoke to several. One woman in her late forties was with her teenage daughter and son of about eight years old. She had been a Cruz supporter but voted for Trump as the party nominee. “I wasn’t too sure about him at first, but he keeps his promises,” she said. I asked about her son missing Trick or Treating that night for a political rally. “He wanted to see the president,” she explained as her son walked, balancing himself like a Wallenda on the curb.
Another couple in their mid-thirties were from California; he was a native of Michigan, she was a Resident Alien from Japan. He had a medium regulation Marine haircut, but was not prior service. He explained that he was not political at first, but became disillusioned by what he saw on the network news and began looking at Fox and thought the coverage made some attempt at being balanced and fair to the facts. And while he had voted in previous elections, he was a Trump fan, as was his fiance. They met while she was in Los Angeles on a student visa studying English. As she told me, “Education is very cheap here compared to Japan, and if you want to learn English this is the best place and it isn’t hard to get a student visa.” Though only in the US six years, her command of the language made it seem as if she had been in the country for much longer.
Local TV stations and newspaper reporters worked the crowd line. The only national news reporter working the line was a thirty-something redhead from the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily. She wore ‘serious person’ reading glasses.
In the crowd were T-Shirts for various Trump groups: “Bikers for Trump,” “Blacks for Trump,” “Jews for Trump,” “Left-handed Phlebotomists Who Play The Oboe for Trump” (not really). Two young men dressed in colonial garb were handing out cards inviting everyone to wear their Trump gear and hats in public the day before the election. They were upset about media reports of people being attacked for wearing a Trump hat, complaining that over 600 incidents of violence have been recorded against Republicans and Trump supporters since 2016.
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