Donald Trump was refused space at the Long Center For the Performing Arts in downtown Austin for his rally because it was Food Truck Tuesday at the center, or at least that was their excuse to not host the GOP presidential candidate and his fans. Instead, Trump and his gang would have to hold their event at the Travis County Expo Center, a metal barn in the country known for gun shows and rodeos. There, the Republican nominee touched on several familiar topics associated with his brand of heavy promises, but light ideas and details.
There was a military presence at the barn, with police on horseback, blocking the #blacklivesmatter protesters. I was invited to attend the rally with Corey Dargel, a composer and lyricist known for his work with New Amsterdam Records, a New York City based label that pride themselves on promoting classically trained musicians who fall in between traditional genre boundaries. “I’m starting to get a little nervous. I’ll bring some Clonazepam in case we need it”, Dargel texted me before we went. Dargel, by no means a fan of Trump, was interested to see the pageantry, observing the math and science of the candidate and his performance. I was interested in the long division.
Donald Trump is about the new nationalism, a nationalism that longs for a past that never was. There are two camps in his arithmetic: you are either with us, or against them. His followers, and there are millions, are the people who listen to BOB FM and lament to why they just don’t make good music anymore, and Trump knows how to play the notes they want to hear. The emphases of the night were on safety and fear. Chants about walls and war were the norm throughout the evening, and as the night grew longer the crowd became more hostile. His “Make America Great Again” slogan concerns me, with an emphasis on the word again. Exactly what time and place does Trump want to return to? Will women still be allowed to vote? Will certain people no longer be welcome on golf courses? I like the Internet and penicillin. When we reach “again” can we keep that stuff? “We are going to turn it all around. Give Donald Trump a chance”, he said. A young man next to me with a “Don’t Tread On Me” pin cried.
This summer I began to think Trump was not interested in becoming president. With the addition of key media figures he seemed to be strategizing and creating a new media outlet, an empire, that could have a rabid audience base for the next four years with a built in antagonist in Hilary Clinton, and he did nothing at this rally to change my mind. Trump seemed disinterested as six different people were thrown out of the rally, most of them on the standing room floor in front of the speaker. When Trump supporters learned there was a traitor in their midst they would collectively point and yell. This group behavior was reminiscent of the 1976 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland, when alien infected people slide their mouths open, pointed, and screeched when a non-assimilated person was discovered. The original Snatchers was an allegory for communism. Ironic behavior for a people claiming their freedom is being stolen.
Trump will lose the election, but he isn’t going anywhere. He can keep his act going, a narcissism disguised as freedom, for years while stoking the fires of paranoia. As Dargel and I exited towards the concession stand a girl with purple hair looked bored as hell, and I can’t imagine she came there by herself, but the woman sitting behind her was watching me like a hawk. She saw me taking pictures and writing on my phone, and most importantly, she saw I wasn’t chanting with the crowd. I can only imagine she was moments away from pointing her finger and screaming at me. In that minute I was glad the police horses where only a few steps away.
“They’re out of condiments” Dargel said sadly, eating a dry, ketchupless hotdog. Now I understand the “Make America Great Again” slogan. We need to return to a time and place with more ketchup. This never would have happened at Food Truck Tuesday.
Note: We are having issues loading pictures to Huffingtonpost’s new platform this morning. Pictures of the event, from the girl with the purple hair, to Dargel eating a dry hotdog and more, can be seen on my Instagram feed here. This is a beta version of the platform. Please bear with us as we fix bugs and make general improvements. At the moment the platform only supports the latest version of Google Chrome browser.