After driving two hours, standing in line for two hours, and catching most of Donald Trump’s hour and a half long sales pitch to a packed Baton Rouge River Center, I have a new, less charitable understanding of the phenomenon he has unleashed on the country.
I am not a Trump supporter, of course. I actually went to the event with the intention of holding up an anti-Trump sign and making my dissent known in person. But as the line nearly reached the door, I witnessed two gentlemen with similar, but more harshly worded signs than mine wrestled out of the building, to the ground, then one of the two tased by Baton Rouge PD after not going peacefully. After hauling away the protesters, the dozen remaining officers at the entrance were on high alert for any shenaningans, and I had a wife and children waiting at home for me. So I quietly tossed my sign in the trash on my way in. I decided to protest silently, then online instead.
The crowd was about what you would expect - almost exclusively white, conservative, polite but cocked and ready for action. When the scuffle ensued with the protesters, many got their phones out and scurried over to record and jeer the detainees. They stopped just short of calling for blood.
Trump was already speaking when I got inside, and the crowd was eating up every word. They weren’t transfixed in silence; there was lots of murmuring between friends and neighbors, going in and out from the bathroom and concession stand. After all, thousands of people were still getting inside as he spoke.