Welcome to Thunderdome: Editor Jim Lundstrom’s Take on the Trump Rally
“Those who fail to learn from the brutal stompings visited on them in the past are doomed to be brutally stomped in the future.”
Raoul Duke, Christmas Eve 1972
Why steal a line from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (1972) to start off a story about last week’s Trump-Pence rally in Green Bay?
Simple. Fear and loathing seems to be the modus operandi in this campaign.
In this story I am not going to recite the words uttered at the rally by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump or his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. It’s the same thing they said at the rally the day before and the day after. You can read that anywhere.
There was no policy insight or inspiring thoughts about leadership under Trump-Pence. Instead, it’s just constant negativity about Hillary, Obama, the media, the economy and world affairs in general. The Trump-Pence mantra is that we’ve been chumps led by weaklings. The world is a scary place and we need tough guys. We need Lord Humungus.
The most genial folks at the gathering of several thousand people on Aug. 5 at KI Convention Center were two guys with grim duties – the Secret Service agent who patted me and photographer Len Villano down and the Outagamie County cop with the beautiful black shepherd that sniffed our camera bags for explosives.
Any pretense of congeniality was gone once we stepped inside the big cement garage the Trump campaign had rented for the rally. The room seemed to reek of fear and loathing, and the rally hadn’t even begun. I felt I had left Wisconsin and entered the Thunderdome of a dystopian future.
We couldn’t help noticing as soon as we walked in that a metal pen had been erected at the back of the room to contain the media. I’ve covered other presidential rallies and was never herded into a pen like a wild animal. But shortly after Len and I entered the room, a woman walked up and told us all media had to be in the pen within 20 minutes. How did she pick us out among all those people, I wondered? Do we smell?
I wanted to be on the floor so I could talk to people like Mark Daniels of Springfield, Ill., who was attending what he guessed was his 10th presidential rally this year. He was wearing a yarmulke and holding a sign that read “Jews for Trump.” Then he flipped the sign to Hebrew lettering on the other side and assured us that it, too, said “Jews for Trump,” but for all I know could have said “Mel Brooks for President.”
I thought I had something great here – a Jew for Trump, a true golden nugget.
But, no, Mr. Daniels is a political opportunist who has had signs and yarmulkes for sale for many of the candidates.
“I have personally given Trump yarmulkes. I gave Tim Kaine a Hillary yarmulke today in Milwaukee. I gave Bernie yarmulkes, Ted Cruz yarmulkes,” Daniels said.
How’s it going over in Green Bay, I asked, thinking maybe people weren’t getting the joke.
“It’s an East Coast thing. It’s a California thing,” he said.
Then he mentioned being at an event in Washington, D.C., with a variety of the yarmulkes.
“I ran out of Trumps before all others,” he said. “I created a new polling method, the yarmulke poll. Orthodox Jews love this.”
Without asking him who he was going to vote for, the media savvy Daniels said, “I will vote for the candidate who extracts the first weed of hatred with me. It’s that simple.”
The weed of hatred is a complicated thing, but, basically, it involves assembling “100,000 Muslims, Christians, Jews, whites, blacks, Hispanics and maybe even a few Canadians, and ask them to root out symbolic weeds of hatred together.” In Central Park. The person who does that gets Daniels’ vote.
Will it be Mr. Trump?
“He’s really good at bringing out the hatred and bringing out the racists and the Islamophobic,” Daniels said. “If he’s such a master of reality TV, just imagine a deal in Central Park, New York City.”
It was now time to enter the media pen, but I wanted to stay out on the floor and talk to the old bald guy in the Brett Favre jersey who turned around to give the finger to the media animals, and the rotund fellow who kept raising his thumb and forefinger in the air like a gun when he liked something a speaker said, and the woman who had hastily written “FOCUS” on the back of a Trump-Pence t-shirt.
In fact, I wanted to talk to her so much that I reached out of the media pen and asked a woman close to the “FOCUS” woman to get her attention for me. The woman I bothered for my task looked like someone’s kindly mother and grandmother, and she was kind enough to get the attention of the “FOCUS” lady.
I asked her what she meant with the t-shirt.
“I’d like to use some cuss words but I can’t,” she said. “Focus! Stand up there and tell us about the economy, security and the Supreme Court justice and none of that other bullshit. Focus! Let them other guys do the complaining.”
That’s when the first lady I had bothered to get the “FOCUS” lady’s attention said, “I just don’t like the meanness. I wish somebody would stop it.”
Suddenly, for just a moment, that kindly woman’s words made me feel I was back in Wisconsin and not an expendable extra in a Mad Max movie. And that thought – that I do live in Wisconsin where people are essentially good by nature – made me realize Trump would be a terrible president, but he would make a great Lord Humungus.
The Trump Soundtrack
Early Rolling Stones dominated the official soundtrack to the Trump rally Green Bay, but both Pence and Trump entered to the sound of Free’s “All Right Now.”
Both the Stones and Paul Rodgers, who was lead singer of Free, have asked the Trump campaign to stop using their music, as has the widow of the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who said the campaign should stop using Pavarotti’s version of “Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep) from Turandot because Trump’s world vision is incompatible with the “values of brotherhood and solidarity that Luciano Pavarotti upheld throughout his artistic career.”
Despite the protestations from the artists, the Trump campaign continues to play them because they purchased the rights to play those songs.