I’ve been watching a lot of Donald Trump rallies lately. Unfiltered. Unedited. In their entirety. There are a couple of networks and websites that carry all of them in real time, and while I’m glad they do, I won’t post names or links here because I have no interest in driving traffic to either. Suffice it to say, they’re not tough to find.
Day in and day out – sometimes two or three times a day – Trump gets up at a podium and gives the same tired, empty speech. Came down the escalator. Record crowds. Don’t have to do this. Self-funding. Lyin’ Ted Cruz. Little Marco. Get rid of Common Core. Repeal and replace Obamacare. We’re building a wall. Who’s paying for it? (Mexico!). Press are the most dishonest. Terrible people. We don’t win anymore. Vets treated horribly. Military depleted. Make America Great Again. Swear you’ll vote for me.
But peppered throughout the rhetoric, without fail, are the extra words of anger, hate, and violence. When a protestor stands up and speaks out – something happening about once every five minutes these days – Trump yells in the microphone variations of the following:
“Get him out of here”
“Go home to mommy”
“Go home and get a job”
He then says they’re “just singles” and that they’re weak and that they cave quickly.
He ridicules. He makes faces. He launches insults. And then it gets even worse.
He laments the fact that he and his people can’t get physical with phrases like, “It would be so nice. It would be so nice, folks. I refuse to say what’s on my mind.”
“That’s the kind of stuff that’s taking us down. There has to be some law and order. We’re going to do things. Can’t be like this.”
“These people are so bad for our country. You have no idea. They contribute nothing.”
“They help us realize how important we are and how important it is what we’re doing. They add nothing.”
“Troublemakers. Just troublemakers. Get ’em out, police. Come on. Let’s go”
“They all look like spoiled kids.”
“Who are these people? Where do they come from?”
Saturday morning in Ohio, Trump – having learned nothing – called Friday night’s Chicago protest a planned attack by professionally-staged wise guys (not true). Says he dealt with law enforcement at every level (not true) and that they told him not to go (not true). Says his supporters caused no problems (not true).
When protesters showed up Saturday morning and he had a chance to use softer rhetoric, instead he chose to go with “If there’s a group out there, just throw them the hell out,” adding, “The media is the most dishonest group of people I’ve ever met. The worst.”
Then a little later: “We have one protester. He’s a whack job”
“It’s easy over there. They can just put him out on the runway.”
None of this is new information, but it’s important to put Chicago into accurate perspective. After weeks of taunting people who are speaking out against his bigotry, sexism, ignorance, and all around animosity, thousands turned out in Chicago to say stop. And what did Trump do? He assessed the situation, and against the recommendation of law enforcement, he turned and ran. He left thousands of riled-up people alone to sort it out amongst themselves.
There is such a thing as nonviolent protest. When I was working on health care reform in DC, we learned strategically how to protest insurance industry events. Yes, you can get arrested for just sitting down and refusing to leave, but at no point was any form of violence ever in any plan. And I fully believe the intention Friday night in Chicago was for people to turn out in numbers and show Trump that he’s not as wildly beloved as he likes to think he is.
The truth is that the protesters were not violent. They outnumbered Trump and his supporters. But they were not violent. Things only got out of control once Trump decided not to show up – against law enforcement advice. I knew at the time Trump was lying about consulting with law enforcement because it didn’t make any sense. If police knew Trump was going to cancel, they would have had officers in place to shuttle people out of the hall supervised and in an orderly fashion. Instead, he pulled the plug without warning, and police had to rush to the scene once the fire had been lit. It was dangerous and irresponsible and downright selfish.
Trump wasn’t worried about the people or law enforcement. He was worried about himself. For the first time, he was faced with reality, and he handled it like a high school bully who’s been taunting underclassmen for weeks and finally is confronted by the kids’ older siblings and their friends. Trump is all talk when one or two people show up and speak out, but when real crowds take a stand and say, “Enough!” he bolts.
This is why we have to stay on him. It’s why – as sick as it makes me to listen to him vomit the same tired buzzwords and unbridled venom over and over again – I will keep watching and sharing what I hear and see. Because while Trump has proven he can manipulate a crowd predisposed to gulp his poison in a controlled environment, he’s got nothing but bluster in the light of day. And frankly, I still believe this country has more light than darkness and more love than hate, and the real majority can be mobilized not to let one narcissistic sociopath hijack something as important as our presidency to fuel whatever deranged ego trip he’s on.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m scared. But I still have faith.