Trump rallies the stormtroopers in Louisiana


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.

His speech was exactly what you’ve seen. Rambling, self-obsessed, braggadocious, presumptuous, and utterly devoid of ideas. There is no ideology undergirding the few actual policy proposals Trump has. He’s going to do X, Y, and Z, because they would be good. Not because they would make us more free, or because they are proper roles of the federal government, or because they are conservative ideas that work.

He literally bragged about and encouraged eminent domain, because “it can make you rich” if the government has to compensate you for taking your land. Also, he has a lawyer you can use to get “double or triple” the value.

And the reaction. I’ve never heard anything like it, and I’ve attended large political rallies before. At the first mention of Obamacare, there was an instantaneous and unanimous “BOO” that filled the arena. There were similar thousands-strong Pavlovian reactions to Common Core, illegal immigration, and ISIS.

After what I witnessed at the entrance, I have little doubt that if a protester had been captured and strung up from the rafters, it would’ve been celebrated with thunderous applause. It was a lynch mob just waiting for the hanging.

It was a grim but inevitable coincidence that the event took place in downtown Baton Rouge just outside the Beauregard Town neighborhood, named for the decorated Confederate general. So weird that the only “heritage” this country seems to celebrate happened between 1861 and 1865.

The reactions to military topics were particularly interesting and most revealing. While Trump is actually one of the most non-interventionist of the remaining Republican candidates, his supporters reacted much more strongly to his bluster about destroying terrorism than to his self-advertising opposition to the Iraq War, which only got tepid applause.

While this hints at the hawkish nature of his fanbase, it demonstrates just how far from an issue-based campaign Trump is running. Tough talk on illegal immigration may have gotten the train rolling down the track, but Trump’s personality itself is what fuels the engine now. That’s why no matter what he says, no matter how unconservative his proposals, no matter how many times he changes his mind, he’s unstoppable. New Hampshire legitimized him, and state after state will fall in goose-stepping line.

He’s throwing a circus and converting even onlookers and bystanders to his cult of personality. They want to feel good about their country, because they’ve been convinced by 8 years of (mostly Republican) doomsaying that they’re not allowed to, so I don’t fault them that. But for some reason they need a smarmy, snarky, brutish golem of confidence to let themselves do so again. The schtick may wear off in time, but I fear that the only thing that can really stop Trump now is an ideologically resolved Congress, of either party, once he’s elected.

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