Up Close at the Des Moines Trump Event

First-person accounts of campaign events are always welcome here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I attended today’s Trump campaign rally as a result of my concerns over the way the candidate treated the Gold Star family whose son was killed while on duty overseas as an Army officer. I wanted to draw some quiet attention to Iowans’ and Iowa’s history in affirmatively protecting the Constitution and how we have all benefited from that.

I got there about 12:15, and got a really good seat directly behind the barriers. There was a secondary section, “VIP,” which was about two rows deep, so I was in the 4th row. Interestingly, the special VIP section on my side of the stage consisted entirely of a group of exchange students here learning about US civics.

It was what you’d expect from a political event in which you’re seen as “belonging” there; people were nice to me, and a few of us discussed career paths and the like with some young people who were there. It was pleasant; that was what you would expect at any gathering where people have time to stand around and make small talk. But it is different than doing so when there are simple partisan divides. Lots of people go between a Democrat and a Republican set of friends, work colleagues, and the like. We know how to see the world beyond those R and D angles, and recognize most of us are shooting for a version of the same thing. I can’t see how that is possible with this campaign. There’s a measurable difference between the Trump campaign and that of any other mainstream candidate. The small and vocal true believers will tell you, “that’s the point!” But that focus, that eccentricity, comes at a real cost for the majority of people who are simply getting ready for an election. In any other cycle, they wouldn’t have to do the internal calculus to let them support this candidate and then do another set of acrobatics to still stay true to themselves and what we do here.

I didn’t go intending to cause any trouble or get in anyone’s way / be impolite, but instead wanted to make a respectful and recognizable comment about the way we value the US Constitution in Iowa. I want to be clear; I am not “punking” the people who were there and I respect that most people were there for reason similar to the ones I have when I attend an event for my party’s candidate. The vast majority of them would attend for any nominee of their party. This nominee is different, and this election is as a result, very difficult.

Once Trump took the stage, I took out my pocket copy of the US Constitution and held it above my head for the entirety of the speech where he and anyone else in the front could see it. I didn’t say a thing and didn’t want to. After the speech, 15 or 20 people came up to me to discuss, and a couple of people thanked me. I told them simply that anyone who loves the Constitution has to protect against anyone who would undo its protections of people – that’s it.

There’s no getting around the fact that after the DNC, is someone misses the point being illustrated with someone holding up a pocket constitution, then we are not quite there yet regarding a substantive discussion; that’s fine with me. The Trumpist message didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen on its own, so some time might be even good. For that reason, my intent here was to raise an issue both in polite protest but also in a recognition that most of these people will need an “off-ramp” from the Trump cycle very soon regardless of the outcome of the election. If we can get to where the Constitutional protections are where that process starts, then we are in a much better place to limit the political and societal impacts of this campaign.

Mechanically, the speeches were very typical. Gov. Branstad got the first organic “Lock her up, lock her up,” chants. I felt uncomfortable for him. Pence was acting the part of the radio host / communicator he once was. For Trump, if you like Trump speeches, you’d like this one. He read an article from a paper and then referenced some notes. He got a lot of responses from small pockets of the audience throughout his speech. The responses were a combination of polite / normal political cheers coupled with some very dirty stuff. There was a segment of the crowd which was vulgar. Routinely, upon any speaker saying Hillary Clinton’s name, there were boos / catcalls, but two of the more noticeable responses were “treasonous bitch,” and what I am reasonably sure was a “kill her.” “Lock her up” was the default.

Most of the people there were exactly what you would expect at a political rally, and 80% of them will go back to being regular Iowa Rs once this is done. They are going to need help. This is an absolutely damaging campaign for the future of the two-party system. It’s too soon to determine its impact on the country as a whole. But this campaign has not simply channeled anger, it’s created anger, and it’s created an environment in which the more reasonable people are expected to accept the heat and the messaging which is caustic to a degree which has not existed in the modern era. People like Gov. Branstad and LG Reynolds are expected to be just fine with the message on shirts like the one in the picture, for example. Most people don’t act like that. But the ones who do? They are in charge for now.

"Trump That Bitch!" photo 13931655_968892975642_1841834098_o_zpscf9skzsy.jpg

Unlike people in Maine yesterday, doing precisely what I did today, I was not ejected from the event. I am sure this was because I didn’t look the part of a protestor. I wore a dark suit, had a crew cut, wore my US flag pin (given to me by the US Secret Service no less,) and simply held up the document. I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way but instead, due to the absolutely unforgivable treatment of this soldier’s parents, I wanted to know, personally know, that as this candidate came to our state and for the time that he spoke, he had to look at a Constitution when he did so. And this was the day, with a reminder that the Constitution matters, that peoples’ lives and well-being are protected by it, and that good Americans have chosen to protect and defend it, at enormous costs, because that it what Americans do.

I hope that once the Trumpism dies down more people get back to that and see themselves as defending the Constitution and the people, and can know they don’t need to rely on a Donald Trump to do it for them. I want to be explicit here: these voters are not a joke. If we are to get beyond Trumpism, they are going to have to be a part of it. They will indeed have to be the drivers of it. It’s one thing to win in a campaign. It’s another to fix a societal problem. This campaign has created such a problem, and it will take for more people that just Dems / left / center-left to fix.

It’s a very rough scene. All of the people were courteous to me personally. I very much respect that, and I hope I was good to them, too. But that isn’t something which can take away the fact that you can’t have half the country being run by adrenaline and hostility. Yet that’s the Trump party at present, and he’s its leader, for at least the next 100 days.

If there’s to be a path through that, it’s because we built it based on not just an election cycle, but on our own willingness to dig in, in the idea that the Constitution matters, and that people get to- anyone gets to, and has to – protect it on their own behalf and on behalf of other people. It’s a good place to start, and it’s the only place to start.

  • Baby Bye Bye

    All this without recognition of the similarity between Trump events and Bernie Sanders rallies, or of the fact they have a similar appeal. The wealth and status obsessed Clinton’s have focused so strongly on ethnic and identity politics while, like Obama, demonizing and dismissing the former core of the party, the white working class as to have permanently broken the two party system. Baby bye bye.

    This has been a particularly bad campaign season with the offensive Donald Trump and the awkward, unlikeable Hillary Clinton. The hatred and bile aren’t just coming from the Trump people. Clinton search and destroy tactics are on display.

    I’m sure Pete smells victory and his little story here is a first step in the reconciliation process, an attempt to bring us all together. “Yes, we screamed racist in your face, redefined the word to serve our purpose, but the election is over and let’s all get along”

    Nah. We’ve seen the Beast. Baby Bye Bye.

    • How many Bernie rallies

      did you attend? The atmosphere was not at all like what was described here.

      Most observers recognize that Trump has unleashed a different level of anger and hatred.

    • Not sure I understand you.

      Michael, I emphatically do not recognize a similarity between Trump events and Sanders events. The thing the attendees have in common is also the same thing Johnson and Clinton attendees have, too: they show up. That’s a pretty low bar. I am going to try to and add another which you imply; they are angry. You certainly understand the difference between hostility and righteous anger, or? Look, I’m not even saying I agree with or like the “righteous anger,” but that sure looks a lot more like what Sanders was doing that the “lock her up” etc. You of course can see the difference.

      I mean, I have heard people say this before, and it’s never made any sense to me. It’s like saying you and Taylor Swift are somehow the same, too, because you’re both on the radio.

      For the records, any D or R who believes they have anything sewn up or that they are going to lose is making a real mistake. My thoughts regarding the Trump message and its role in Iowa and national politics are so regardless of the election’s winner. If Clinton wins or if Trump wins, that is absolutely not sustainable.

      Any national campaign worth its salt can build a terrific infrastructure in a short time. Dems should remember that if they think they are going to walk all over the Trump campaign. Rs also have a lot to worry about regardless as to whether their nominee wins or loses. I know how difficult it has been over the years for both parties to balance out the various ‘factions’ in order to have some type of working coalition. But wow: Rs have stuff to deal with now which hasn’t been seen since the late 1940s.

      My point’s simple, I guess. While I’m a Dem., I think this applies to both parties just in terms of the mechanics. Ds and Rs will always have pieces of their coalition which ebb and flow in terms of influence. The Trump component of this cycle did a deep dive into strange ethnic and racial politics (you can look at our own Rep. King for a localized example of it; why do they do it? It works.) Those folks aren’t the white working class you speak of. The screamers aren’t my neighbors. That anger isn’t the anger which leads someone to a decision or to take some stand, that’s just hostility.

      That’s why I don’t equate the Trump campaign with the Clinton campaign or any other. They aren’t equals. In my day job, I spent the better part of a year listening to most of the Republican and Democratic candidates for President all over the state; from Ted Cruz to Chris Christie, and all the rest, at least they tried to show some outcome or some ends to their complaints / hopes / plans. I fear that for the R nominee now, the message *is* the outcome.

      We’ll see, but this is a rough cycle.

  • Karl Schilling

    I think the inherent flaw in Donald Trump’s campaign is the idea that one can unite the country by agreeing on whom to hate.

  • thanks so much for writing this up

    You raised several important points, and this one particularly struck me: “This is an absolutely damaging campaign for the future of the two-party system. It’s too soon to determine its impact on the country as a whole. But this campaign has not simply channeled anger, it’s created anger, and it’s created an environment in which the more reasonable people are expected to accept the heat and the messaging which is caustic to a degree which has not existed in the modern era.”

    It reminded me of Matthew Rezab’s disturbing story for the Carroll Daily Times Herald about the recent parade to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Arcadia Fire Department. Children were encouraged to throw water balloons at a man dressed in a prison orange jumpsuit, wearing a Hillary Clinton mask and riding in a cage.

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