I went out to the Trump venue last night as planned. It is an outdoor amphitheater at the Pier Park mall and town center, SRO capacity about 10,000. Reportedly about the same number outside; the venue was overwhelmed and parking slammed throughout the mall complex and feeder streets. The weather was excellent.
The assembling crowd was 99.99 percent white, mostly older although many children and younger couples. Signs and demonstrations were discouraged, and except for just a few over-the-top t-shirts no untoward behavior. I found a spot outside the fence but in earshot of the stage. The warm-up speakers were local and regional politicians, ministers, candidates, and Republican officials. Trump ran almost an hour late; I left before he arrived.
The warm-ups were disturbing to me. The atmosphere was almost Pentecostal camp meeting, with Hillary Clinton as Satan and Donald Trump(!) as Savior.
One candidate did a chant exhorting: “Christians, hold on! Donald Trump is coming!” “Nation of Israel, hold on! Donald Trump is coming!” “Neglected military and veterans, hold on! Donald Trump is coming!” …and on through the unemployed, the displaced, a litany of despair to be relieved by… Trump. Rousing cheers in response to each declaration of this mystical Coming of Trump.
Other speakers brought up other lost or endangered causes: gay marriage, guns, abortion, law and order, deep trouble across the land. All laced with Hillary Clinton’s crimes and malevolent plans to degrade society.
About 7:30 PM the outside crowd had realized there was no hope of getting inside, so people started finding listening spots along the fences. This seemed to disturb the authorities and police, who commenced herding the crowd back to the hopeless entrance and yellow-taping the street to keep people from some of the remaining spots with audio access. When the police got stern and brought out their K-9, I left. I have zero tolerance for police dogs. Still no Trump.
I drove 30 miles home and watched Giuliani and Trump on local TV (kudos to WMBB-TV, the local ABC station that pre-empted ABC’s network schedule).
Rudy Giuliani’s intro was heavy on Hillary’s crimes and FBI special treatment, and his total confidence in Donald Trump to restore order. Trump gave his usual word salad stump speech, with little evidence he even knew where he was. The crowd loved it and interrupted often with applause.
I’m concerned about what happens after this election. These candidates and speakers left no space for reconciliation or engagement with Democrats, win or lose. It seems quite possible a Trump loss would move a large faction to isolate themselves even more from government, becoming a large hostile tribe akin to the Orange after the Northern Ireland Troubles. Let’s hope and pray not.