An amateur sociologist observes a Donald J Trump for President rally
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By Tony Robinson
During my somewhat less than illustrious career as an amateur sociologist (I say amateur because my methods are just barely scientific), I’ve had the opportunity to attend some extraordinary events in the City of Dallas, TX. In fact, not too long ago I attended The Donald J Trump for President Dallas Rally here at the American Airlines Center. But first, let me tell you a few things about this often misunderstood municipality.
We have great weather most of the year, fantastic restaurants and museums, lots of trees and lakes, 30,000 people a month moving in, and almost 7 million people in the metropolitan area. But my office looks down on the Grassy Knoll and I don’t care what anyone else says, Dallas still lives in the parallel universe which is the assassination of Jack Kennedy. The Comanche Indians ruled this territory for more than 150 years and mowed down wagon trains, villages, and the US Calvary with impunity. The Mexican government welcomed US Army irregulars and scalp-hunters into this area in the 1820’s. Among other things, history has made this place a sanctuary for gun-slinging, evangelical Christianity, free-market fundamentalism and anti-government sentiment. The Ministry of Climatology is located nearby in the corporate headquarters of Exxon-Mobil, which is why we have Extreme Weather here instead of Climate Change like they do in Austin, 200 miles away. Dallas is used to calling itself a “world-class” city, but of course that is a lot like calling yourself “cool”, or referring to yourself as a “winner”.
I was actually living in New York City on the Lower West Side in the 70’s when Trump was getting his start in real estate. But nobody was talking about his shady deals back then because New York was on the verge of bankruptcy, the cops and the garbage men were on strike, and rats, crack dealers and transvestite streetwalkers were running the show in broad daylight. Across the river in New Jersey they were making plans to build Trump’s too-big-to-fail casinos, while Republican President Gerry Ford was bailing out the too-big-to-fail New York City. Ford got his 15 minutes of fame by falling down exiting Air Force One while the cameras were rolling. So far Trump has been a lot smoother, only walking into a lamppost on 5th Avenue (he denies it).
I heard about Trump’s visit to American Airlines Center in Dallas just a few days before the event, so when I went to get one of the “free” tickets on-line I was informed that it was already sold out. Of course the “free market system” being what it is in these United States, nothing is ever, really, sold out. I went to E-bay where I saw a pair of free tickets listed for $220, located in a section of the American Airlines Center that does not exist. But I was undeterred, so I went to the event website, found a portal and the system emailed me a ticket. Then I tried an experiment. I submitted the name of José Rodriguez, and the name of a well-known Liberal Democrat, with bogus phone numbers, different email accounts, and non-existent mailing addresses. The system emailed two more tickets, although obviously the “illegal immigrant” detector had not been activated. The website stated that IDs would not be checked at the door, so I was disappointed because I wasn’t going to get the chance to see if a 6’3” Blond Scotch-Irishman could pass for Mexican, or if impersonating a liberal would get me shot by a sniper.
I decided to leave early and drive through downtown, but little did I know that a protest march against the Trump rally had assembled there and was proceeding to shut down a major intersection. As the waiting dragged on the road-rage increased exponentially around me because protest marches are about as common in Dallas as prayer breakfasts are in Berkeley. However, I got past it without a brick through the windshield, and they let me park in the Lexus parking lot at the arena in a 10-year old Nissan because I had a button-down shirt, a herringbone sport coat and a winning smile.
You know it isn’t often that you are booed as a tall blond white man here in Dallas, TX, but that’s exactly what happened when I approached the arena. Some of the protesters from the march were there behind a temporary chain-link fence letting the Trump Supporters know that they were racist hate-mongering temporary chain-link fence-builders. I wanted to stop and yell out: “I am not a supporter of this Hair-Piece Clown and his Traveling Circus of Angry White People, I’m just here as an amateur sociologist!” but the lady at the door eyed my ticket and said: ”I’m sorry, Sir, this is a wait-list ticket.” I felt like I’d just handed a fake passport to a North Korean border guard, but I had to get in so I lied: “Ma’am, I just arrived from Portsmouth and I’m here as a freelance reporter for The New Hampshire Union Leader.” She enthusiastically pointed me over to Door #2 where another lady handed me a ticket with the name Debbie Smith on it and I was in. Wow. Now I was glad they weren’t checking IDs so I didn’t have to explain why I was dressed up as a man.
The 20,000 seat AA Center was filling up, but since I was alone I barged my way in and got a seat close to the stage with a full view of the “yuge” Video Monitor (VM), a fixture of every new stadium and arena. The reason for the VM, of course, is so that even if you have a seat that’s so far from the stage the performers look like sand fleas, you can say you were at the event even though you watched the whole thing on a screen and you paid $10 for a draft beer and $12 for nacho chips swimming in an orange goo of petroleum derivatives. I learned later that about 15,000 showed up and I confess I saw almost every type of person there (except for people whose skin is darker than Wonder Bread). I saw punks, vapers, jocks, executives, cheerleaders, senior citizens, the disabled in wheel chairs, people with American flag shirts, flag shorts, flag skirts, flag socks, flag tattoos, flag headbands, and one guy who was wearing a flag. I don’t think he got the memo from Woodstock Nation about that. Well anyways it was a spirited gathering and everyone was unfailingly polite, even the Goth Rocker next to me who looked and smelled like Marilyn Manson if he had been dead out in the sun for a week.
While we were waiting for The Donald, we heard You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Hey Jude over the sound system. I wasn’t sure how The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were connected to Trump’s Carnival of American Exceptionalism, but in this society we have proved that when it comes to marketing and selling things, you can co-opt any message and put it anywhere you want, anytime you want, just as long as your goal is to make a lot of money. So how about using The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again for “pre-owned” cars, or Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide for earthquake insurance in LA?
During the warm-up, under the huge Believe in America banners, we were treated to ”a vast right-wing conspiracy” of curvy busty women with tight skirts who stirred, among other things, our Patriotism, by invoking Barbie, the Military, American Freedom and the National Anthem. It had been a long time since I had been to a big political rally, and the sound of 15,000 crazed, uninformed citizens, who are legally permitted to carry concealed weapons in public, screaming for the next Prophet Isaiah, was a bracing experience.
And then, on to the stage he came, The Donald. His hair was perfect, his tailoring impeccable. He looked like he’d just stepped out of an Armani shoot for The New York Times. He was the Dapper Donald, a bare-knuckles real estate thug who you’d want to sit down with and have a glass of Prosecco, a winner, a no-bullshit negotiator who would never back down. His aura of self-confidence and toughness was palpable, and he was a Believer in freedom, self-determination, and getting rich. And even though Trump had millions when he started in real estate, and he was bailed out of trouble by New York banks repeatedly during his career, everything in the show contributed to the same pleasant fiction of Trump as the quintessential “self-made man” of American History.
I’m going to say that for the first 15-20 minutes Trump was engaging, mildly inspiring and full of self-deprecating humor which helped soften the I’m going to bomb all of our enemies back to the stone-age persona. He would turn around on occasion to address the people sitting behind him, make a joke about how they could see that his hair was real, and thank them for coming. I’ve got to admit it: Trump was good on stage. He was a lot better than the other GOP contenders who were like barking seals every time a new opinion poll came out. And like Reagan, Trump had a lot of practice honing his image on screen before he started running, but then I remembered where I was and I heard the real message:
Don’t apologize to any Nation which kills Christians, Obama is an Appeaser, We are the Jesus Christ Nation, We Deserve the Truth, Reject the murderers running Iran, We need closers, We can do anything with Oil & Gas, We’re going to have victories coming out of our ears, We have to stop illegal immigration, Repeal Obamacare, We are a dumping ground for the rest of the world, Climate change is a hoax, The biggest threat we have is Nuclear Global Warming, We’re going to take care of our veterans, We’re Not Going to Take it Anymore! (Cue the song).
After the first 20 minutes Trump degenerated quickly into a salesman for a Self-Improvement Program and his messaging was very simple:
We’re in trouble and I know what to do about it.
It was the classic strongman speech, and it was soothing, kind of like:
God Will Balance Your Checkbook
This Life Insurance Plan Will Protect Your Family Even if You Are Killed by a Cyborg
The Invisible Hand of the Free Market Will Improve Airline Safety
Global Warming is Good Because More People Can Live on the Beach
I was willing to forgive the crowd for their Climate Change Denial and Fear of a Gay Planet, since liberal scientists had already predicted the Earth would catch on fire before the election, thereby incinerating both the faithful and the unfaithful. And of course at these kinds of gatherings there is usually one individual in the crowd who stands out, someone who embodies the lunatic qualities of the proceedings. Not like Robert DeNiro with the Mohawk in Taxi Driver, because we were in Dallas and he couldn’t possibly have gotten past the tight security I had to go through. This guy at the rally was on the VM screen, sitting right behind Trump, with a big plastic smile, wearing a western shirt and a cowboy hat, which had messages on the headband that he rotated, obviously on cue. I am guessing that he was part of an artificial intelligence experiment conducted by the NSA. And of course political campaigning is no longer real anyway: it’s Reality TV. So Trump could say whatever he wanted to and say what everyone else was afraid to say: THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME AND HOW MUCH MONEY I HAVE! Nevertheless, Trump’s Prosperity Gospel seemed less like the platitudes of a mega-church preacher, and more like the ravings of a Crypto-Fascist Game-Show Host.
In closing, because I have to become a Closer or I will continue to be a Loser, I want to tell you a story I heard that might give you an idea of the kind of people Trump would have in his cabinet if he were elected President. In the 1990’s I worked with a guy in commercial construction who I will call Jimmy D. Jimmy D was from New Jersey, had been in the commercial construction business in Manhattan in the 70’s and 80’s, and Trump was one of his clients. One day Trump invited Jimmy D to ride with him in his chopper from the helipad out to Long Island. It was kind of noisy in the chopper and there was another guy riding with them who wasn’t introduced. Jimmy D was a pretty tough guy, but he said this other passenger gave him a bad feeling, really made his skin crawl. The unknown guy got out first and left quickly, and when Jimmy D was walking in to the building he asked Trump about it. “Oh yeah,” said Trump, “that’s my attorney, Roy Cohn.”