Night On Trump Mountain: Scenes From A West Virginia Rally
This is Joseph Cohen, American hero and executive director of the West Virginia ACLU.
So I nearly died for this story because a deer jumped in front of my car and I had to hit the brakes so hard I now have to replace a rotor. But it was totally worth it, to meet the WVACLU and watch Democracy happen in West Virginia. The actual reason I wasn't home getting slowly drunk and watching TV, you ask? Well. I went to a Trump rally. That's right, a Trump rally. In West Virginia. At which, I should say, I was actually kind of impressed with the sign game.
The rally was oversold, which meant that there were a lot of disappointed Trump fans outside the venue listening to the speeches. It was fucking hot - like, at least one woman passed out kind of hot - which made them cranky. This was not what they came to see. Plus it was hard to hear, because across the street there were protesters chanting things like "We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter" and "Black lives matter" and "And justice for all" very, very loudly.
Like anything involving Trump, at least two things happened that you could not write into a farce because it would seem unbelievable: storm clouds gathered over the arena where Trump was speaking while a rainbow formed behind the protesters.
At any Trump rally, there are merch stalls. I can't say that none of the vendors are actual Trump supporters, though I couldn't seem to find one - they all told me that they just liked money, and selling cheap shit to Trump supporters was a reasonable way to get some. But the Trump folk were aggressively happy to see them. You see, they were black. Black guys, in Trump shirts. In Trump hats. In TRUMP BUTTONS MAGAMAGAMAGAMAGA!!!!!1! I actually saw someone try to hug a vendor, so grateful was she for his support of her President.
On the other side of the street, there was the Obligatory Jesus Dude, who seemed a bit adrift because nobody was arguing with him. He just read the Bible for a while and then kind of gave up yelling. It must be disheartening to show up for a fight and have people thank you for reminding them of Romans instead.
Behind him was the militia, doing their sworn duty of protecting the civilians from each other via superior firepower, though since they each only had one sidearm and there were at least two SWAT teams on site, their efforts might have been superfluous. In any case, they gave me water and I liked that about them. I thought maybe it was special water that would make me want a firearm, but it was just plain ol' ordinary hydration.
The ACLU of West Virginia was on hand with legal observers, though it must have been hard for them to do their jobs given that everyone who saw an ACLU vest thanked them for their service in filing a brief in support of John Oliver, who is currently being sued by coal baron Robert Murray for making fun of him. I don't think that West Virginia lawyers are used to being the rock stars in most situations, and I can only hope that we made enough of a deal about them that they understood the depth of America's appreciation for them.
The interesting thing about rallies and counterprotests is: usually very little. They're quite exciting your first few go-rounds but after you've covered a few dozen or so you get to understand the rhythm of it all. People show up, move to their appointed spots, and yell at each other. When they're tired of yelling, they watch the other side yelling and wonder what drives them. As the hours stretch on and people get tired, everyone starts to wonder if/when something dramatic might happen. If it does, the police shut it down fairly quickly and eventually everyone goes home.
This rally had more wrinkles than most, because inside the arena the Governor of West Virginia was swearing allegiance to Trump and announcing he was switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. He said this was partially because Eric Trump has helped him change a tire, and also because he hunts with Don Jr. (Hunting in West Virginia is considered by many to be a legitimate reason to support someone.)
I went because I wanted to see what it is West Virginians are getting from Donald Trump and I think I figured it out: he shows up. That is the bar. The loudest applause lines, from the people standing for hours in 94-degree heat, were the ones about how West Virginia exists. About how it's got a future that you might even want to live in, how it's important that "common everyday Americans," as the Governor called us all, are recognized as people just as much as the sort of Americans who live in swing states or high-income ZIP codes. "You didn't see Bush or Obama coming out here like this to see us," I heard a woman telling her husband.
Inside the rally, at least one protester was arrested for disrupting the event. Trump got the cheering crowds that he needs to survive, and the cheering crowds got to be in the same room as the President of the United States of America. When the rally was over, I went for a beer with a Wonkette reader who was awesome, and then I went home.
Democracy was saved again.