Trump and Bernie are basically just rock stars ... for now

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump hollers to supporters to get out and vote on Tuesday during his rally at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC on Monday, March 14, 2016.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump hollers to supporters to get out and vote on Tuesday during his rally at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC on Monday, March 14, 2016.

They should sell giant plastic cups of overpriced beer at these things.

These are basically rock concerts, after all. Monday’s headliners even had opening acts: Former “American Idol” contestant Haley Davis sang three songs as the crowd waited for Donald Trump in Hickory in the morning, while a five-piece jazz band warmed up those gathered to hear Bernie Sanders in Charlotte that afternoon.


(Hillary Clinton also showed up in Charlotte late Monday night. You can read a recap of that rally here.)

And just like at a concert, there were merch stands. T-shirts bearing Trump’s likeness were being sold outside Lenoir-Rhyne University’s P.E. Monroe Auditorium; Sanders tees were for sale near the entrances of PNC Music Pavilion.

Inside, you could see the usual rock-concert archetypes all over the place: pink hair, purple hair, green hair, mohawks, lip rings, Fall Out Boy T-shirts, Red Hot Chili Peppers T-shirts, man buns galore, tribal tattoos spilling down to the end of forearms. Inside of PNC, that is – yes, those would be the Bernie supporters.

Up north, the Trump crowd – sporting hair that remains faithful to a more traditional color palette – had its share of tattoos, too, but if you looked more closely, you’d have noticed that theirs were likelier to include the words “Airborne Division” or the letters “USMC.”

As for the set lists, both men stuck to their greatest hits, because the greatest hits of course elicit the greatest response.

At shows like these, you want the crowd on its feet. Or even better, you want people on their feet and chanting … for … something. “Free Bird”? Too much of a cliche, probably. “Trump! Trump! Trump!” or “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”? Too easy.

Well, how about “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”? Now that you have to earn.

Trump did it with this exchange: “I have great relationships with Mexico, with Hispanic people. I employ thousands of Hispanics. They’re great. But we have with Mexico a $58 billion trade deficit, and when I say we’re gonna build a wall – which we will, by the way. We’re gonna build a wall. … We love the wall. … Are you ready? Who’s going to pay for the wall?”

Crowd, in unison: “Mexico!”

Trump: “One hundred percent true – they’ll pay for it.”

Pandemonium ensues as several protesters pick this time to spring from their seats. After 50 seconds of shouting, as the protesters are being shown the exits, Trump supporters break into the “U-S-A” chant.

At PNC, here’s how Sanders earned that same response:

“This campaign is telling Donald Trump and others that we will not accept for one second their bigotry and xenophobia,” he said. “There are 11 million undocumented people in this country, and what our Latino brothers and sisters are telling me is they are tired of living in the shadows, tired of being exploited, they want comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship. And if Congress does not do its job and pass immigration reform, I would use the executive powers as the president.”

>Cue patriotic chant.<

So there you have it. Two rock stars – wait, strike that. Two political outsiders – wait, let me try this one more time. Two candidates for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who both earned that chant on Monday by hitting a similar note.

With completely different instruments.

That’s right. One of those two just might wind up being put in charge of the “U-S-A, U-S-A” later this year. If that isn’t enough of an incentive to get out the door and vote on Tuesday, I’m not sure what is.

Photos: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer; David T. Foster/Charlotte Observer