News clips of Donald Trump’s rally on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh Airport revealed massive crowds cheering, laughing and booing as if on cue. It was a huge rally, no social distancing and few masks except in the camera-friendly gallery behind him. And I wondered: who are these people? And why are they cheering so effusively, bellowing their support for four more years?
To try to understand, I decided to watch his entire speech, all 90 minutes of it, to see if enduring the whole event would shed some light on the crowd’s fascination with the man that brief media clips failed to do. Am I being taken in by “fake news”? Are the clips biased to present the President in an unflattering light? What motivates such a large crowd—estimated at several thousand—to react so ferociously to his racist, xenophobic, alarmist comments? To his arrogant asides and his overtly violent taunts? To his lies and his deflections? Are these video clips real or just well edited to present a one-sided picture of the President?
What I discovered was that, if anything, the news bites actually minimized the President’s meanness…
…His propensity toward violence (sneering and fist-pumping his way through his remarks); his odious asides (“there’s another one” referring derisively to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer) and his demeaning diatribes (directed at former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry)…
…His mocking laughter (“it’s dangerous to be anti-Trump”), his lies (Biden spending a lot of money on plastic surgery) and his exaggerations (Democrats will ban American energy, slow the pace of a vaccine, destroy the suburbs)…
…His inadvertent admissions (“when I don’t like somebody, it lasts a long time”), his overt appeals to white nationalism (in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar, “she’s telling us how to run our country”) and his belittling of the media’s Ali Velshi who was struck by a rubber bullet while covering a protest are only some of the divisive taunts laced throughout his speech.
So, if anything, the hour and a half I spent watching the President served as a troubling reminder of how deep the vein of mendacity runs in this man and how scary it is that such a person wields so much power. I was shocked, saddened and dispirited by the experience and returned to my initial question.
Who are his supporters? How can they overlook his misogyny, his contempt for the truth, his incompetence, his cloying support of Vladimir Putin, his willingness to dismantle the democratic norms that have been established through 250 years of American history?
I no longer have any answer to this question. On the macro-level, his ineptitude in handling the pandemic with its death toll exceeding 200,000 is matched only on the micro-level by accusing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s granddaughter of lying about her grandmother’s dying wishes. My troubling response to this frenetic rally where demagogy was on unvarnished display, is that whoever wins in November will have a Herculean task in reuniting this country. It is alarming how so deeply divided we are right now.
As an aside, I noticed that Trump’s overcoat has returned. Despite the balmy weather in Pittsburgh, where many of his supporters wore shirt sleeves, the President delivered his remarks in his signature winter garb. Almost two years ago, I wrote “Donald Trump’s overcoat has become a symbol of the President’s covering over the truth, diminishing the rule of law, promoting an administration that lacks transparency in governance and shielding him from his own self-destructive proclivities.” The post prompted Joe Parlagreco to comment bitingly on my website, “it is also the ubiquitous attire of the New York mob boss.” Two years later, and both the outfit and the analysis remain remarkably the same.