Behind Frenemy Lines: My Day at the Pro-Trump Rally

This is a repost of an essay from last summer that appeared on another blog. I decided to pull it off of there and leave it here.


behind frenemy lines

 

Let me begin by saying that I am not really Pro-Trump or Anti-Trump per se. At the start of this primary season, I was interested in other candidates- Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, etc. That comes out of my “little l” libertarian inclinations, my self-identification as a Paleo-Conservative, my profession in finance and economics (I am more supply-side oriented as a consequence), and my long-time association with more mainstream Conservative/GOP politics. That said, I dislike how exaggerated much of the rhetoric against Trump has become. I don’t think that he’s as bad as they predict. So there’s tension there with Trumpists and myself, but also common ground (hence the name of this article).

Now, to the heart of the matter:

It was a Saturday. I decided to take a long walk, as we’ve had a long, rainy winter and it was a warm and sunny day in South Portland. I walked all the way from the Waterfront (where I live) to the PSU area of town. I was being aimless and leisurely until I stepped onto a square where I like to sit and read my kindle. As I stepped onto the square, I was accosted by a woman within seconds of coming around the corner.

I had no idea what was going on, but this young woman (she happened to be African American) was screaming full-tilt. I had no idea what she was talking about, but it was high-octane: before I knew what was going on, she was screaming “F*** your white tears!” over and over. I wasn’t crying. But it did start to freak me out. A number of young men who looked like they thought they were real Black Panthers (military fatigues, berets, the whole deal) came up behind her and started shouting similar hostile slogans at me.

I said “wait, what?” One of the young men stepped up and challenged me to meet him across the street. I knew what he had in mind, and I wanted no part of that. I’m a Christian, and I don’t seek physical confrontations.

Just at that moment, I saw a few men standing across the square with pictures of guns on their shirts and pro-2nd Amendment signs. They looked tough, with military patches on biker-esque vests. I decided I was safest with those guys- I turned my head down and hurried towards them around the guys shouting at me.

When I asked the guys with the 2A signs what was going on, they told me it was a pro-1st Amendment/Free Speech rally. I decided that worked for me, and I stood around and chatted with them. We had a lot of common ground- they were concerned, like myself, about gun ownership rights, economic freedom, excessive political correctness, etc. It dawned on me that the bright red knit tie I was wearing with my suit may have misidentified me to the anti-Trump folks and set them off.

After a moment of gaining my bearings, I noticed that most of the younger folks in the non-Bernie/Black Lives Matter/Lefty crowd were wearing Trump paraphernalia and the like. This wasn’t just a “Free Speech” rally, this was a Trump rally and its counter-protest.

In the crowd, I noticed a couple of guys from Infowars, and I decided this was my moment to interface with them. I’ve always been interested in them as a media empire. I’m not a conspiracy theory believer, but I am interested in how they’ve popularized Paleo-Con culture with new generations of conservatives and ex-liberals.

The crowd started to march after a scuffle between people with signs and the anti-Trump crowd heated up. In the mayhem, I had a chance to ask a number of scattering people why they had come to the rally. I was just starting to learn about the crowd when I was asked to hold a huge banner. I didn’t know what it said, but I decided to acquiesce anyway.

Behind the sign, I was screamed at by the Leftists- called a racist, a xenophobe, a Nazi, etc. Whatever thing they disliked, they felt comfortable projecting it onto me. The infowars guys got on a bullhorn and gave a very stirring speech about freedom and liberty. The pro-Trump crowd was very inspired all of the sudden, and it felt like everyone got on the same page. Further, a number of extra people joined the Trump crowd, and as the ranks swelled, they began to confront the anti-Trumpers in unison. Suddenly, the counter-protest broke ranks, and they scurried off in different directions, much to my surprise. The radio-host Alex Jones phoned in on a megaphone (!), and gave another speech that the crowd enjoyed. The organizers of the protest followed with relatively mellow statements on Free Speech- they were campus Republicans from PSU.

A few minutes after the anti-Trump crowd dispersed, a young man assaulted a young woman in the front-lines of the pro-Trump crowd. He tried to run, but a dozen or so (including myself) of the Trump crowd chased him down. The first guy that caught up with him made a citizen’s arrest, and I and my fellow banner carriers detained the culprit and his captor until the police showed up to arrest him. It was high-drama.

At this point, some intense confrontations occurred, but the protest started to really wind-down after maybe 20 minutes. I saw this as my moment to pursue the die-hards in the crowd and really get to know what they were about. I followed a merry band of 25 or so to a park next to the Museum.

The infowars crew was the center of focus for this after-party of sorts. This is where I learned the most about the Trumpians. We discussed the decline of Christendom, the debasement of the field of Theology in the mainline churches, the difficulties of navigating currency and trade wars with the developing markets, etc. I asked a small crowd what they’d thought about Ross Perot back in 1996- everyone had a positive impression of the man and the older fellows said they voted for him (except one man who claimed he voted for Buchanan in the primaries and sat out the generals).

One of the more interesting aspects of these conversations was the number of ex-Left wingers that I spoke with. I was once a Socialist myself (SP-USA), and it was fascinating how many of the younger people in the group had once been hard-core Liberals. This reinforced an idea I’ve been toying with among my friends and colleagues about a Second Coming of the Neo-Con impetus- that is, the moment when the human-liberty inclined among the Marxian and Marx-informed Left break with the more authoritarian majority of the Hard-Left and shift towards a more conservative point of view. I want to explore that more, as I see it as one of the most dynamic and under-reported facets of our current Demographic alignment (and realignment).

I gained a great deal of respect for the infowars crew at this rally. We spoke for a moment, and I found them to be incredibly genuine about what they stand for. They, like myself, truly are interested into the hidden-hand that moves the “establishment” (as I call it, Majoritarians) toward human-skeptic, society degrading aims of centralization and command-and-control polity/economics. There’s plenty I don’t agree with them about, but I realized there’s far more I agree with them than not.

Now, I’m still skeptical about Trump after this experience: I’m not sure about the broader scope of his Middle East immigration freeze (I agree with him on some specific regions, but not a religious basis for the ban), his interest in building a wall (I think enforcing the current law is better than the wall, but I wouldn’t protest the wall either), etc. That said, I feel much more comfortable that we’ll come back together after this bruising primary. I would pull the lever for Trump, even if I would have preferred a more libertarian candidate at the outset. And I’ll probably seek out another rally in the future- it was far more welcoming than I could have imagined for someone luke-warm on the Donald.

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