Fear and loathing in Denver: Thoughts from a Trump rally
The Myanmar Times sent intrepid reporter Nick Baker to experience a Donald Trump campaign event in the swing state of Colorado. This is his story
LOCK her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”
They began yelling the chant – elderly couples, parents with small children, groups of Millennial teens – even before Donald Trump appeared at his November 5 rally in Denver.
There are many war cries at Trump events but this simple denouement against rival Hillary Clinton has become a favourite in the final days of the US election. The fervour and volume of thousands of angry supporters reflected Trump’s closing argument to voters in swing states – that Clinton is a criminal.
When Trump did appear, the subject of “Crooked Hillary’s” private email server was breached almost immediately: “[She is the] prime suspect in a far-reaching criminal investigation … It will be impossible for her to govern,” he said. “There will be a constitutional crisis.” “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” the crowd obliged. There was no nuance of Clinton’s misdeeds surrounding her emails – which the FBI has called “careless” not criminal – as the call-and-response became borderline hysterical. “Treason. It’s treason!” a middle-aged man shouted from the bleachers. “Let’s break something,” said another. An outlandish caricature of Clinton became more apparent throughout the night. While Trump riffed on stage, it was hard not to notice the slogans on T-shirts and signs around the venue. “Hillary for prison” featured several times. As did “Trump that bitch [sic]”. Others graphically (much too graphic to reprint in this newspaper) made lewd jokes about Clinton, drawing on imagery from the affair between her husband Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
The substance of Trump’s 50-minute speech had all the red meat topics from building a wall on the Mexico border to “ending” ISIS to the “disasters” of trade deals like NAFTA. “Politicians are stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid people,” Trump said. But other subjects were more perplexing. Trump went on a long diatribe against rapper Jay Z, who is supporting Hillary, calling his music “filthy”.
Time was spent lamenting the “energy” of Chinese workers before going on to say how “people don’t go to France any more” because of certain multicultural policies. Sadly, Syrian refugees received one of the largest, longest boos of the evening. The whole thing was at best confusing, at worst a tactical blunder. Colorado has become part of the Democrats’ “blue wall”. If its nine electoral votes go to Hillary – along with states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia – she wins.
This was apparent in 2012. At Barack Obama and Mitt Romney rallies during the final stretch here, much of their content was directed at pulling undecided voters. They drew grand narratives about America’s future and Colorado’s place within it. But on November 5, Trump arguably did little to attract anyone outside the Trump world base. His final message to a swing state that may help deliver the election to Clinton? “What do you have to lose?” Trump asked. “Really, what to you have to lose?” It was hardly the Gettysburg Address. After the rally wrapped, chants continued as the crowd streamed through the carpark and off into the night. “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” Again and again and again. “This is depressing,” said one young woman who attended out of curiosity as she walked past a giant model of Clinton in a mock cage.
A Hillary Clinton mannequin which featured at a November 5 Donald Trump rally.