March 24, 2016

Observations on a Trump Rally, Dayton Ohio

These are a few observations and personal reflections about the Trump Rally on March 12th in Dayton Ohio – the rally at which a protester, Thomas DiMassimo, charged the stage.  While I was there, I didn’t actually see the attack.  The event was held in a large aircraft hangar and as soon as the commotion started everyone stood on tiptoe to see – which meant that only people very near the stage saw anything.  In any case, there is plenty to say about the event itself.
Above all else, it is more than a little notable that thousands of people would gladly come out and stand on a hard concrete floor, crowded together waiting for hours on end, to watch a presidential candidate who, by any objective standards, is no great orator.  Trump likes to say there is “alot of love” at his rallies, and from his perspective he is right.  The man is a political rock star.  He doesn’t get polite applause – ever.  He gets a deafening roar of solidarity.  I saw several people who had obviously come to disrupt his speech simply lose heart and slink back through the crowd to quietly leave.  I did not, by the way, see one of them impeded or threatened.  It is fair to say that Trump supporters are angry, but it is unfair to say they are a mob.  Having been to many Tea Party events where the average age was probably close to sixty, it was refreshing to see a large turnout of people in their twenties and thirties.  I’m not going to say the crowd was a perfect mirror of the latest US census in racial terms, but frankly I am sick of caring.  There were Asians and Latinos here and there.  There were a scattering of blacks, some of whom had actually not come to shout the speaker down.  I didn’t get any sense that anyone who honestly came to listen was unwelcome.
The event really had two salient features.  The first was Trump’s own rambling, off-the-cuff, idiosyncratic stump speech.  The second was the premeditated, periodic interruptions of protesters.  I can fairly say that most of the protests were little conspiracies in themselves because when someone either raised an inflammatory sign or shouted some self-righteous obscenity, there were almost always two or three others in support, ready to capture the event on their cell phone cameras.  The goal, I suppose, was either to become heroes on YouTube or to get extra credit in their multicultural empowerment studies classes.  These people were not beaten or pushed, but ushered off with swift efficiency by the Secret Service.  Usually they went out peaceably and smiling, though one young gentleman left throwing mock punches at the crowd, and hooting like an ape.  I am sorry, but I actually witnessed this.  Most of the protesters I saw were white college-age males with furry faces and glasses – not that I want to be accused of profiling.  Without talking to them, I admit I have no idea with what race or gender they actually identified.  I retain a measure of sympathy for the blind idealism of youth, but it is strained pretty thin when it is treading on someone else’s freedom of speech.  Trump supporters have not performed such antics at Bernie Sanders rallies.
The content of Trump’s speech was an amalgam of things I’ve already heard him say, with a few hard jabs at Governor Kasich who was, of course, Trump’s major competitor in the state.  Not very many thoughtful people like all of Trump’s message, but there is much there to like if you give him a fair hearing.  Trump’s genius is simply to state obvious things that all of the other candidates have been too straitjacketed by consultants and donors to say, and he says these things over and over again to the delight and reassurance of his supporters.  We need a real border.  Muslim immigration is a risky proposition.  Trade deals should be made for economic rather than political reasons.  This makes Trump a reincarnation of Hitler – really?  I looked hard, but did not see the little mustache. 
To be honest, I am truly bothered when Trump reaffirms his advocacy of torture.  Sometimes I wonder if I am ready to vote for a man who does such a good imitation not of Hitler – but of Tony Soprano.  He thinks that we should reinstate waterboarding and worse, on the argument that ISIS is unconstrained by moral qualms and our constraints make it impossible for us to fight them effectively.  George Orwell said it with a bit more eloquence: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  There is some truth to this species of argument – made all the more credible by the Obama administration’s anemic suggestion that the way to defeat ISIS is to somehow raise employment levels in the Middle East.  I think that torture will always happen in war, and in certain cases really is the lesser of two evils, but I have a problem with introducing it as a legally sanctioned instrument of the government of a republic.  I fear that what is done to terrorists today may be done to ordinary criminals tomorrow, and, eventually, to people who just hold politically unpopular views.  It bothers me.  I worry.  It does not end my support for Trump, however.
It is not as though the choice we have were Trump or Gerald Ford.  We no longer live in a functioning, rational republic – but a thoroughly degenerate kleptocracy.  Apart from Trump, we have essentially two choices.  On the one hand, we have Bernie Sanders – a comparatively honest ideologue who would have more-or-less the same relationship to the US economy that an iceberg had to the Titanic.  Hasn’t the world tried socialism often enough?  Why should we imagine that, maybe this time, it will not lead to chronic economic lethargy at best – and gulags and totalitarianism at worst.  In answer to my own question, most millenials simply don’t know any real history.  They believe in socialism because they’ve been indoctrinated by a couple of generations of frustrated old radicals.  Socialism has always had a pleasant icing of progress and idealism – it’s the rotten or iron-hard cake underneath that always proves distasteful to digest.  On the other hand, behind the other podiums we have – everybody else.  Cruz supporters will probably fume that I would toss their perfectly-branded hero into the same dirty basket with Hillary Clinton, but ultimately the two associate with the same Council on Foreign Relations, the same Goldman Sachs, and they both went to the same elitist, ultra-liberal universities.  They are both surrounded by similar groups of political consultants to craft their messages for maximum effect and minimum culpability.  They are, in short, just members of different family branches of the same corrupt, inbred, politic class.  Kasich is just an awkward uncle of the family – out of touch and past his prime.  I have ceased to listen to what any of these people say because, frankly, their words are empty.  “Conservative,” from the lips of a politician, means about as much as “racist” from the lips of Melissa Harris-Perry.  It’s a nonsense word used solely for effect.  Political consultants have undoubtedly estimated the fraction of the public who will be seduced by a particular lie, what fraction will check their facts, and if the lie will probably net more votes from suckers than it will lose from fact-checkers – any of these candidates will use it.
There is every reason to believe the mother of all monetary crises lurks just over the horizon.  Running crushing deficits year after year is unsustainable.  An elitist, lying, kleptocratic lawyer versus Tony Soprano with some real world experience and an economics degree?  Is that really a hard choice?  Which is more unpleasant – the human suffering caused by an unchecked economic implosion or the waterboarding of a few terrorists?  The latter does raise risks – the former is all but a certainty.  Trump’s detractors may just wish they had a strongman when the banks collapse again.
The ending of the rally was surprisingly calm and quiet.  When the news cameras were put away, the protestors disappeared.  Trump walked the edge of crowd, smiling and shaking hands.  A small cloud of signs bent in his direction for autographs the way that plants bend toward the light.  He signed a few.  From the side he could barely be seen among his federal bodyguards – standing out only because of his distinctive hair.  It is strange to witness the unlikely fulcrum on which history appears about to pivot.  Tens of millions of people watch and pray.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I believe the public can be and allow themselves to be conditioned over time. The more we allow, the more people get used to it. Most people do not condone violence, so it's not surprising that this rally did not have any major incidents. People are just passionate...though many not about things that can really make a positive difference in the world. If we or millenials "don’t know any real history" – then we will repeat the same mistakes. I remember watching "The Apprentice" for a while with mild interest, but I still cannot get over the fact that Trump is an actual presidential candidate. He wouldn't be a good president or the one we need now. Why? The only word I can use is "instinct".

  3. According to the extreme Left, Hillary Clinton is Gerald Ford. So, you know, that's always an option. :D

    I agree that the ready embrace of torture is a troublesome issue; as Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

    I think essentially I disagree with Orwell; I do not consider myself a "rough man," yet were I called upon I would do violence on my nation's behalf, and with a little training, I would do it quite adequately. The citizen-soldier has repeatedly proven his worth against the mercenary armies of tyrants.