This was originally posted on Facebook on September 22nd, 2018, the day after Trump visited Springfield, Missouri.
Things I learned while standing in line for three hours to see Donald Trump:
Three shirts gets hot, even on a cloudy day in September. My plan was to wear a protest shirt in, under a flannel, and reveal my shirt inside. My shirt read “ASHAMED OF THIS AMERICA” and on the back “TRUMP MUST GO”. If they played the anthem while I was inside, I intended to kneel. This plan made standing in line (three shirts – tank top, t-shirt, flannel buttoned up) quite hot.
Tickets mean nothing. I reserved two tickets a week in advance, as soon as the link went up. I ended up going with my dad, who agreed to kneel during the anthem with me if we got inside. (He was also one of the only folks I know from experience can keep non-violent in the thick of it, nose to nose with actual nazis.) The tickets said that doors would open at 4:00. I got there at 4:10, the earliest I could arrive with the childcare handoff. We waited until 7:10, when they stopped letting folks in.
People in Missouri really love President Trump. When we arrived the line was about twelve blocks long, winding around campus. We walked past the front of the line, where people were riled and enthusiastic. A group was chanting “Lock Her Up”. A man with a Hawley sign on a long piece of Bamboo was yelling about how Clinton sold 20% of the enriched uranium that belonged to the United States to Russia.
The protesters were invisible to most of the line. In the entire time I was waiting in line I saw only a handful of protesters. The anarchist kids who broke off from the protest zone and went through the line, and a fella with a bullhorn singing “You Eat Ass” to those in line. A couple dorm rooms that put “FUCK TRUMP” and “TRUMP SUX” up in their windows. But mostly, in line, there was a cocoon of white enthusiastic patriotism. I kept wondering if maybe anyone near us was also trying to get in to disrupt, but in every conversation it became apparent quickly that these folks all were excited to see their President.
Trump supporters are boring middle class white people. Most of the conversation I overheard in line was mundane bullshit. What college courses folks were taking, or what their kids were taking. Who’s daughter had dropped out of middle school basketball because of a spat with a friend. What buildings on campus folks remembered. It was an affluent crowd. More affluent than Springfield averages. The women had on nice shoes and nice purses. The men were all clean cut. They were average and uninteresting. We could have been in line for a Drury game or a Black Friday sale at Macys.
Their numbers are real. The capacity of the arena was 11,000. When they closed the doors there were still minimum a dense five blocks of folks waiting to get in. In front of us, a family with four young children walked away from the line. Each child wore an oversized red shirt with white lettering on the front. “Make”, “America”, “Great”, “Again”. The youngest child was sobbing, and the older three looked so disappointed that they were not going to get to see their President. Most people were not even angry, tho. What a great turn out. They didn’t like being excluded, but how could they be mad. They had filled the largest venue in town.
Enthusiasm is contagious and folks are genuinely happy this world is unfolding. There were a few like Pops and I, who stood silent in the occasional USA chants, who were not wearing MAGA hats, who didn’t clap when the kid with a speaker played the anthem out the dorm room window as we passed. I choose to believe those other folks were also there to disrupt or even just watch in horror. But there were smiles, red hats, and Trump shirts everywhere.
There are monsters among us. I have never felt how real this growing fascism is until standing in this line. I have had interactions with literal nazis. I have had plenty of interactions with homophobic and racist and misogynistic shitbags. But there were THOUSANDS of folks who were enthusiastically supporting a President who is blatantly racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic. He has upheld and normalized sexual assault. He has normalized violence towards protesters. He has repeatedly amplified racist views. And I don’t think that everyone in that line actually holds all of those views. But I think every enthusiastic supporter in that line is willing to throw people of color, lgbtq folks, and women aside in order to feel the reassurance of an authoritarian leader.
If something doesn’t change, Trump will be a two term President. I have already been considering this, but watching this crowd yesterday, I am more sure than ever. This is going to be a hard movement to overcome. Not because they have the actual majority, but because they are enthusiastic, willing to show up, and are organized. They are willing to put aside concerns to elect a candidate. They are willing to put aside their own best interest to elect a candidate that feeds their fear, whatever that is. The islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny. Whatever they need to know is being upheld, they will shed all other values. We are in real trouble folks.