PLYMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE—Inside of Donald Trump’s rally on Sunday in northern New Hampshire, the press stayed inside of a tiny prison, where they were safe. Surrounding them: haters.
Fortunately, Trump’s campaign did not credential Gawker for the event, so my friends and I went into the massive indoor track building at Plymouth State University with all the other curious spectators. It smelled strongly of rubber. Inside, about a tenth of the people milling around were reporters; another tenth were middle aged women supporting Trump, another tenth were College Republican types supporting Trump, another tenth were disturbing middle aged conspiracy theorist-type men supporting Trump, and the remainder were college kids who appeared to have just come out because a celebrity was on campus. Most of the reporters were wandering around corralling identical college bros in baseball caps holding Trump signs for instaquotes. The unfortunate beat reporters who had their official credentials were surrounded by a set of police barriers in the very middle of the space, an oasis of liberal nerdiness in a much larger oasis of Republican nerdiness.
Outside, button salesmen had set up every 20 yards or so: “Bomb the Hell Out of ISIS.” “Hillary For Prison.” Trump’s signature hats were going for $25, too expensive for a novelty gift. Inside, though, a significant number of young people had somehow come to own Trump-branded beanies, which they were wearing. Photographers flocked around identifiable Trump fans like buzzards around a wildebeest carcass.
Before Trump took the stage, an announcement came over the loudspeaker instructing everyone not to touch or harm any protesters, but instead to surround them and chant “Trump! Trump!” until the police showed up. There did not turn out to be any very significant protests except for one young man who stripped off his shirt and began squawking loudly and acting like a chicken. He made his way out voluntarily, clucking like mad the whole time.
About 15 minutes late, Trump appeared. He immediately allowed to us all that he had won last night’s debate. “Pundits that hate me said, ‘he won the debate, I hate it!’” he said. When watching Donald Trump speak it is important to remember that most of the things he says are completely concocted inside of the mind of Donald Trump. They may or may not have any grounding in reality, and his fans do not particularly care either way.
Trump’s speech, which very obviously is freestyled rather than written, consists of long and often pointless disquisitions on things that have floated to the mind of Donald Trump. Often they are business topics, as if everyone had showed up to watch a dress rehearsal of a CNBC show that was bound to get cancelled soon. Trump talked about drug prices, and trade, and deals with China, and deals with Iran, and deals that he made in business, and at one point told a lengthy story about a friend of his who had managed to buy a private jet at a discount from a Chinese seller. These are the issues on the minds of average New Hampshireites.
Trump endorsed local education. “The children, they have their parents, they have the board, it’s beautiful,” he explained.
Trump derided environmentalism, imagining aloud what would happen if General Patton met someone talking about the carbon footprint. “George Patton would have slapped the hell out of that environmentalist!” he said, adding “And by the way, I’ve received so many environmental awards.”
Trump endorsed the return of waterboarding. “Waterboarding is peanuts,” he said.
Trump endorsed a big wall on the southern border. “A wall?” he scoffed. “I build buildings that are 94 stories tall. It’ll be a beautiful wall and we’ll name it Trump, one day.”
“We’re gonna have the greatest stuff ever created,” Trump said.
A lot of people began leaving after the first half hour of his hourlong talk. To be fair, he was just talking and talking about fairly boring business topics. Trump is not so different from listening to Jim Cramer, if he spoke less coherently and with even more self-regard.
This is what fascism looks like: a half-bored group of 20-something hockey dudes listening to “Tiny Dancer” and waiting to hear a man talk about his own poll numbers. Some nations explode. Others are ground into submission.