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What’s a Trump Rally Really Like? Geytsman Finds Out.

Visiting a Trump rally in nearby Pennsylvania, because New Jersey is not a swing state, one observes the crowd, the experience, and the historic nature of this campaign.

A screen thing announcing the rally at the arena.

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New Jersey is not a fun state to live in if you are interested in politics, because it is not a swing state. States like Iowa, New Hampshire, and many others are often competitive in Presidential elections, but New Jersey is so solidly blue that neither the Democratic nor Republican candidates ever campaign here. After all, New Jersey hasn’t changed party hands since 1988, and has voted consistently Democratic ever since. New Jersey isn’t even a swing state on a Congressional level. Many states considered solid states, such as Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois sometimes have competitive, swingy elections between Senators. It’s no fun here at all.

So when a Presidential election comes around, once every four years, you can’t stay in New Jersey if you want to even look firsthand at any of the proceedings or see any candidates or their surrogates. Which is why, to be a part of what is likely to be an historic election, I attended a Donald Trump rally in nearby Pennsylvania on Columbus Day.

You don’t have to take everything said there to heart or believe everything to enjoy the experience. A lot of the experience was observation, not just of the candidate for whom crowds assembled, but observation of those crowds and their constituents themselves. For the first time I could remember, out of the woodwork came the people who, living in New Jersey, you didn’t think actually existed. Out in the open was a teenager wearing a sweatshirt boldly announcing a confederate flag, and military boots and pants. In the parking lot, a truck rolled by hoisting a parade of flags, including, again, the Confederate flag, this time with a skull in the center, the Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread on Me”), a flag declaring “MOLON LABE” (“Come and take them”, referring to guns) in Greek, a warcry of the defenders of the Second Amendment. Gathered in their support for Trump were bikers and elderly women. In the same parking lot, a detached truck trailer proclaimed simplistic slogans in support of Trump as well as a similar trailer with simple slogans condemning the Clintons. People stood by taking photographs.

People are fond of saying that the Trump campaign is a “movement,” not merely a campaign for national office. It certainly draws ominous parallels with the ill-fated campaign of Bernie Sanders, who, despite drawing massive crowds, ended up losing both the popular vote and the delegate battle to the Clinton turnout machine. The crowd was certainly huge. Mohegan Sun Arena, built to house 12,000, had only several hundred empty seats. Clinton’s biggest rally of her campaign in Ohio recently had about 18k people, which is just more than half of Trump’s record of 30k. The amount of people and parked cars were staggering, but also staggering was the number of license plates from New Jersey. I must have counted 6 or 7 looking at one side of a row of parked cars as I walked to the arena. The fact that many people made the drive to see Trump’s rally a state away is a bittersweet indicator: many people are excited to see him, but not all the people in the Pennsylvania rally were Pennsylvania voters, slightly inflating his support.

Outside, in line, I might have gotten on the Daily Show. One of the correspondents for the show, a guy by the name of Jordan Klepper, was there in person, standing what must have been a couple feet away from me. They were filming a stunt where a Trump supporter whipped him with a towel, and by the end of the shot I was looking into the middle of the camera, so look for a youth in a green sweatshirt if you happen to be watching the Daily Show.

Inside, I was first to witness the viral stunt in which a child not more than five years old was hoisted onto the stage, dressed up to look like a baby Trump, complete with suit, tie, and hairstyle. Donald asked the child whether he wanted to go back to his parents, or stay with Trump, and the child seemed to give it a moment of thought and leaned in to the mic and decisively said “Twump” with an adorable inability to say the “r” sound and the crowd exploded. Before the rally began, a man came out to check the mics and the subtly placed teleprompters; the crowd began cheering for the “tech guy”.

The most boring part of the rally was the speech of Donald Trump and his surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani and Senator Jeff Sessions. They stuck with his core message, and most of the rally was rhetoric, indistinguishable of that of any other politician’s speech. But it’s the moments in the event which make his campaign a reality show you can’t miss. Reading off his notes on paper, after finishing a particular paper, Trump would toss it into the crowd, an entertaining and comical gesture. At one point, he asked someone to come out to give him “the polls” about the debates. He introduced Dan Scavino, his director of social media, commended him, lauded him, and took the guy’s phone to read the poll numbers; when he was done he handed the phone back. “Get the hell outta here, Dan,” he said. The crowd loved it.

There came a time when he said something of actual substance, disconnected from policy completely. He said, “You will remember this rally for the rest of your life. You will remember this day. This is once in a lifetime, folks. You’re never going to see this again.” It’s remarkably true. A campaign like Trump’s had absolutely no historical precedent, and it is unlikely for anything to ever happen that’s like this again in our lifetimes. Looking back for, say, 70 years, in all of American politics since World War II, no political movement like Trump’s has occurred. The monumental nature of his victorious campaign for the nomination and indefatigable quest for the Presidency is, in fact, once in a lifetime, love it or hate it. Being at a rally of a candidate who will go down in history as one of the most infamous and stunning people seeking office felt like being a part of history.

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Gabe Geytsman, Assistant Senior Editor

This senior somehow ended up being Assistant Senior Editor. Gabe formerly held the post of Political Analyst in his junior and sophomore years. He enjoys...

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What’s a Trump Rally Really Like? Geytsman Finds Out.