Sunday night my son and I attended a Donald Trump rally in Albuquerque. The rally was in a huge aircraft hangar next to the airport. The local paper said there were 4,000 people, but that seems like an underestimate; the hangar was packed. That Trump would campaign in New Mexico nine days before the election is significant. New Mexico is a majority Hispanic, reliably Democratic state. The trip was hastily arranged, but Trump wouldn’t have made it if he thought New Mexico was out of reach. He said a poll showed him in a dead heat. The state has only five electoral votes. It seems reasonable to assume that he must feel fairly comfortable about his prospects in the big swing states if he’s taking time away from them to visit New Mexico.
There were a few peaceful protesters, some of whom were dressed in clown suits. Trump supporters are clowns, get it? There had been some violence the last time Trump visited Albuquerque, but the airport is south of town. Maybe the drive and the parking—which left a hike to the hangar—deterred the troublemakers. Trump supporters ignored, smiled or waved at the protestors. My son and I stopped at one of the many vendors’ tables and bought T-shirts and hats.
COMING SOON TO AN AMAZON NEAR YOU!
I looked in vain for anyone exhibiting obvious signs of deplorability—racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. There were plenty of women and Women For Trump signs, T-shirts, and hats. Does Hillary For Prison constitute sexism? Hillary probably thinks so, but there was plenty of that slogan, too. About the closest anyone came to ticking off a box on the deplorables checklist was applauding Trump’s immigration proposals. Undoubtedly all correct-thinking Americans find such proposals xenophobic, but Trump supporters have this weird belief that a nation must control its borders to remain a nation, and they’re not letting go of it.
The crowd looked and acted like it could have been pulled from Albuquerque’s churches. It skewed older and white, but there were plenty of younger people, including children, and a fair number of Hispanics. One fact that the mainstream media will not acknowledge: an appreciable number of Hispanics were either born in the US or jumped through all the hoops for legal citizenship, are proudly part of the American mainstream, and are opposed to illegal immigration. This is especially true in New Mexico, where Hispanics arrived centuries before Anglos did (and Native Americans, some of whom were also in the crowd, arrived centuries before both). Is a Hispanic who opposes illegal immigration a xenophobe?
Trump knows a bit about showmanship. A white jet with an American flag and the Trump logo rolled up to the hangar about fifteen minutes before the speech was scheduled. Many in the crowd got excited, thinking it was Trump’s personal jet. A man next to me who worked on Boeing jets assured me it was not. About fifteen minutes later Trump’s personal jet taxied over from the runway (how refreshing, a politician who’s on time). It was a big Boeing 757, black with a purple Trump logo. It dwarfed the white jet, which must have been for the press, advance people, security, and the like. The Boeing expert said between the two planes there was at least $150 million worth of jet on the tarmac—wealth and success.
Trump stepped from the plane, waved to the roaring crowd, and strode to the dais. He had been traveling all day and it was his third speech, but he was dapper and energetic. Somewhere on that 757 he has a wardrobe of freshly pressed, expensive suits, a bathroom that most of us can only dream of, and a bed fit for a king. He radiates vigor and it’s impossible not to make the mental contrast with Hillary and her coughing fits, weird spasms and tics, and the 9/11 fall into the van.
New Mexicans and New Yorkers are different types of people, but Trump connected with his audience immediately. He didn’t talk down or up. Relaxed, with a ready smile, he spoke in an unaffected manner, sticking in some Big Apple sarcasm and humor. Until the Internet played it up, Hillary Clinton acquired a drawl in front of Southern audiences, which is just plain weird. Trump reminded the crowd that he’s visited New Mexico four times and Clinton has made no appearances. His speech ran about fifty minutes. It was the standard stump speech with a few factoids and appeals inserted for New Mexico. He’s given it hundreds of times, twice earlier that day, but like all good actors he delivers his lines with an enthusiasm and verve that makes them sound fresh.
He received a wildly enthusiastic response, with the audience chanting at various times, “Drain the swamp!” “Lock her up!” and “Trump! Trump! Trump!” He pointed towards the media platform and called them biased and dishonest, eliciting the loudest chant of the evening: “CNN sucks!” This election is as much about the mainstream media versus the Internet as it is about Clinton versus Trump. Whether Trump wins or loses, the traditional media is toast; it will never regain the presumptions of impartiality and veracity it once enjoyed. Its performance during the election is its death knell, hastening the triumph of the Internet.
Every Republican president since Gerald Ford has been portrayed as bumbling and stupid, while Democrats’ intellectual and character deficiencies are always downplayed or ignored. This year even ostensible Trump supporters preface their supportive words with the obligatory adjectives: crude, boorish, egotistical, bombastic, etc. Few among those who disparage him have made billion-dollar fortunes, and none have captured a major party presidential nomination and ran a competitive race in the face of daunting establishment and media hostility. Even as he may be on the verge of the most audacious feat in the history of American politics, few disparagers acknowledge what came through loud and clear at his rally: he is smart and successful, competent and confident, outspoken and independent.
America is headed for difficult times. Most Americans who aren’t drawing a paycheck from Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street or Washington know this. Do the majority pull the handle for independent, accomplished, and vigorous, or incompetent, corrupt, and sickly? In the privacy of mail-in balloting or the voting booth, a surprising number will choose the former, regardless of what they’ve told family, friends, and pollsters. Trump looks like a winner.