About the time Donald Trump was scheduled to start speaking Monday, an overweight man wearing a tucked in University of South Carolina football jersey, sunglasses and what I can only hope was a black wig tried to start the wave at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center.
Boy, did he try, furiously motioning at one end of the arena, then running to the other end, gesturing wildly. In the end, the wave made it maybe once around the arena, and even then it was nothing more than a trickle.
I trekked up to Concord to see Donald Trump speak Monday afternoon because … well, honestly, sheer curiosity. What’s it like to hear Trump speak? Who are the people that come to his rallies? Will something crazy happen with his hair? (Nope.) Will he talk about his hand size? (YEP.)
With so much being written and said about his following — “the movement” — as he called it, I guess I expected something different. I expected rock-show energy. I expected to be swept up in the emotion of the crowd of more than 4,000 people, regardless of whether I agreed with the sentiment.
And sure, there were some raucous cheers when Trump said things like:
– “We are going to protect people and our Second Amendment.”
– “We’re going to build the wall … about as high as this ceiling. That’s a pretty high ceiling.”
– “When was the last time we won anything in this country?” (Trump clearly doesn’t pay attention to international women’s soccer.)
But Trump showed up about 30 minutes late, people were trickling out well before the speech ended — presumably heading back to jobs or school — and the whole thing felt more like a trickle than a wave.
Some of the biggest cheers — and boos — came when officers escorted protestors out of the arena. It happened at least eight times: a couple groups before he started speaking, more during his rambling talk and even once after he’d finished.
When it happened, a hostility came over the room that hadn’t been there before. People were angry. Trump, naturally, fed it:
– “Get him out of here. … Nasty people. Disgusting people.”
– “Get out of here. … I didn’t think you had people like that in North Carolina.”
– After commenting on how short one male protestor was: “Go home to mommy. Tell her to tuck you in bed.”
Which brings me to the other reason I went to the rally: I wanted to talk to young people who support Trump.
More young people than I expected milled around on the floor of the arena before the event. Several wouldn’t talk to me. Many of the others, I later realized, came to protest. I watched them get escorted out in bunches.
Then I found Mark Peabody. He’s a 22-year-old student at UNC Charlotte. He stood near the back with a couple of friends, clutching a Trump sign.
What about Trump appeals to you?
“I like the fact that he’s not a politician. He just came out of nowhere as a successful businessman and made his career as a politician. I like the fact that he doesn’t have any large donors like a lot of these politicians do, so he doesn’t really have anybody to answer to other than himself.”
Why do you think some people our age are maybe turned off by him or don’t support him?
“I think a lot of people see negative things about candidates on social media and they don’t really do much of their own research on it, they just have like those predispositions to believe the first thing they see and kind of go off of that.”
When protesters interrupted the event for about the seventh time, Trump looked out to the crowd and said, “Aren’t Trump rallies fun?”
I mean … I don’t know. Maybe I missed something. Was anyone really having fun?
Photos: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer