In the Belly of the Beast: I Went To a Trump Rally in “Oaklahoma”

It has only been eight days since I started this blog, but honestly it seems like months. I have spent an enormous amount of time thinking and writing about Donald Trump, and the political climate in general. So it seemed fortuitous that in the first week of this blog’s life our star came to my hometown. On Wednesday I heard that Trump would be holding a rally at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Friday the 26th, and immediately decided to go. I promised my wife that I would keep my head down; if my cover was blown, surely they would only rough me up a bit, right?

I arrived in Bricktown a little before 5pm, as Trump was scheduled to speak at 6pm. As I approached the Convention Center there were many Trump supporters walking toward the venue, a few halfhearted protesters and even a few people passing out anti-Catholic literature from Tony Alamo. Despite the fact that there was a fairly rigorous security screening, with stand up and handheld metal detectors, there was not much of a line. I’m not entirely sure if my Second Amendment rights were abused, but I wisely remembered to leave my pocket knife in the car.

The Cox Center is large, though it has seen better days, having been built in 1972. The capacity is around 15000 if the floor is utilized, as it was tonight. I estimate that it was 40% full plus the floor. Later Trump would estimate 7-8000 attendees. That may be a bit high, but not far off.

While the Trump fan in front of me read the Drudge Report on his phone, six songs were on repeat on the overhead before the first speaker. Rolling Stones, Billy Joel and two Elton John songs were in the mix. Considering the anti-gay marriage rhetoric expressed later, I was surprised at the choice of Mr. Dwight. The crowd was subdued and waiting, with only the occasional TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! chant breaking out, or the murmur punctuated by a BOOMER! from time to time.

The rally began with a reverend who came out to the cheers of the anticipatory crowd. A fiery speaker, he made sure to let the crowd know that this was going to be a Christian rally, repeatedly making mention not of a vague god, but specifically of the Christian God. Early on he stated that “Christianity is under attack in this country, and Christians will have a friend in the White House” with Donald Trump. The pastor chosen to speak was African-American, one of the scant handful in the room of 6000+. It struck me as tokenism, but perhaps Trump just liked his oratory style or wanted to battle the constant accusations of racism. The reverend ended his short speech with a long prayer, sprinkling his appeal to God with political talking points and pleading for the election of the good Christian, Mr. Donald Trump.

After the reverend left,  we all stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A young girl, perhaps 10 years old, sang the National Anthem (and nailed it). It was the best rendition of the song I’ve heard in a while, and it was the only time that I clapped at the rally.

The big election news today was the unexpected announcement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lending his endorsement to Trump. To a group of surprised reporters at a news conference earlier in the day, the governor offered to “lend my support between now and November in any way for Donald.”  It seemed a distinct possibility that Christie might show up at tonight’s rally, as his endorsement was announced in Fort Worth, TX only hours earlier.

Christie came out swinging. The first sentence out of his mouth described President Obama as “hand-wringing” and “a weakling.” He took a few shots at Rubio as well, before exhorting the crowd to get out and vote, and give Trump a “Trump sized win” on Super Tuesday.

The man of the hour sauntered out waving and cheering to the crowd, smiling and confident. He didn’t really waste time with pleasantries, going right into his recent victories in primaries. As for the debate he stated that “every single poll” has him “winning – by a lot.” He took a few more shots at Rubio, accusing him of “defrauding” Florida and that “they hate him down there.” Trump seemed to be getting a lot of mileage of how much Rubio was sweating, calling him “disgusting.” The pastor earlier was no better, making fun of Rubio’s dampness even as the man was himself pouring sweat on that stage. Trump stated that Rubio “isn’t very Presidential.” This is a grown man that is running for President mocking another man for sweating too much, then claiming that Rubio is the one that isn’t “Presidential.” Recognizing irony is not one of Donald Trump’s strong suits.

Trump reminded us that his campaign is self funded, even though it most definitely is not. He refuted the claim that he inherited $200 million from his father, though his father’s company that he was working for at the time of the elder Trump’s death in 1982 was worth about $200 million.

Many of the talking points in the speech had been used in earlier speeches, and I had seen many of the “spontaneous” moments in YouTube videos. I was still a little shocked however when he pointed to the press pit, filled with dozens of cameramen and reporters not 100 feet away, and said “these people back here? The media? These are the most dishonest people I’ve ever seen.” The crowd roared, and I was left scratching my head. The media spends hours every day talking about him, and covering his childish rantings. He’s topping the polls. What is he complaining about?

Not surprisingly, the first real order of business was immigration. He bragged about his recent endorsement from Joe Arpaio, the notoriously tough Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. He mentioned the wall, and again told us to believe that Mexico is going to pay for it. Then he compared immigrants to the terrorists in Southern California and Paris. You’ll have to watch the YouTube video to find out what happened for the next few minutes, as I was compelled to cover my eyes in shame.

Continuing to roast Rubio, Trump says that he is weak on immigration. A look at Rubio’s platform on immigration looks very similar to both Trump’s plan and Ted Cruz’s plan. Do these attacks on very similar immigration plans stem from the Cuban-American heritage of both Cruz and Rubio?

He mentioned something new that I haven’t heard him say before about the Syrian refugee crisis. He proposed a “safe zone” in Syria, paid for by the Gulf States, but obviously didn’t elaborate on where the land was coming from or how he would get a failed state like Syria to pay for this. It actually seems like a plausible idea, but Trump’s planning and follow through in foreign policy is basically nonexistent.

It was about this time that people started getting kicked out. There were some kids in my section that had a delightfully colorful sign that said “HEIL TRUMPLER” and they were the first to go. Some yahoo with a “KKK Endorses Trump” t-shirt stood behind the podium (you can see him in the YouTube video at the 13:00 mark). Wishing that security had “ripped him out of that seat” faster, Trump railed against political correctness, and apparently the right to free speech and peaceful dissent. I would like to point out here that former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke has endorsed Donald Trump.

Trump’s stance on torture was on display tonight, as he downplayed the horror of waterboarding and said “I think it’s just fine.” He then doubled down saying “in fact, if you want to go a step above, or two or three steps above, that OK too.” Apparently nearly drowning a human being is not enough, Donald Trump wants what? The rack? An iron maiden? Thumb screws? Showing his true colors on open discussion and free speech, he said that even having a dialogue on waterboarding is seen as “weak and stupid” by ISIS. To him it doesn’t matter that we’re supposed to be the good guys, and good guys aren’t supposed to torture people.

In one of the more chilling revelations in his speech, he said we have to build up our military and “we have got to knock out ISIS, and knock them out soundly and fast.” That sounds like a promise for war, and Trump seemed to brush right over it. It didn’t seem as though he even understood that this was a call to war, it was as if he was promising war just to get a cheer. This was perhaps the most terrifying moment of the night for me.

Later on he briefly talked about education in America. He swore to get rid of Common Core, but as usual proposed nothing to replace it. Then came one of the biggest falsehoods of the night. Trump said that the US spends the most per student on education in the world. Not true, the US is fifth in spending behind Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland. In the same breath he said that the US is ranked 30th in education, “behind countries you never even heard of.” According to Learning Curve, US ranks 14th in the world in education. For the record, I had heard of all of the countries that were ahead of the US.

Trump spoke at length about the US’s relationship with China. He blasted the unfair tariffs imposed by China, saying that China was paying 0% on their imports here, and the US pays 100% on our exports there. The US recently imposed a 236% tariff on Chinese steel, so that is utter nonsense. Today he said he wanted a 35% flat tariff on all goods from China, but in the past he has said 25% and 45%. Many products coming in from China have tariffs currently.

Almost in the same breath as lambasting China for imposing tariffs on the US, he proposed imposing a tariff on Carrier Air Conditioners, because they had recently moved a factory to Mexico. He again suggested a flat 35% tariff. He has threatened to do this in the past to Ford Motor Company after they moved jobs to Mexico.

It should be noted that according to the Constitution the President cannot impose tariffs, only Congress can. It’s in the long part before the Second Amendment, if he’s interested in reading it.

Donald Trump boasted that he will “be the greatest jobs President that God ever created.” He threw out a current “adjusted” unemployment number of 25%, if you count people who have stopped looking for a job. In earlier speeches he has claimed that number is as high as 42%! The only place that I could find these “real” unemployment numbers was from, a thoroughly discredit repository for made up statistics. The official unemployment number is 4.9%, and the beyond reputable puts the “real” unemployment number at below 6%.

This rally was an interesting experience to say the least, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I’ve never attended a political rally before. A few protesters got kicked out. I didn’t get beat up. The liberal lady I was sitting next to didn’t blow my cover as we laughed about the most outrageous lies. It occurred to me that with all the blow hard rhetoric in this speech, Trump has actually toned it down. It feels like he knows he has the nomination in the bag, and he’s beginning to move toward the center to take a run at the general election.

The thunderous applause as Trump finished followed me out in to the streets of Bricktown. The merch vendors called out to me as I walked by: “Last chance for Trump buttons!” I wish you were right, button vendor, I wish you were right.


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