I went to the circus last Friday night at Ladd-Peebles Stadium with the same questions running through my head, I think, as most Mobilians: Will there really be 40,000 people there? Are the folks planning to attend actual supporters, or are they just showing up for the greatest show on our little piece of the Earth? On this particular Friday night, anyway. Will Trump’s hair hold up in the heat? Will someone manage to work in a “Roll Tide”? Will Chuck Todd be there?
But most importantly, does this guy really have a shot of being the next president of the United States of America?
Some of the answers were easier to ascertain than others. Of course “Roll Tide” was reincorporated into “Roll, Trump, Roll.” Was there ever any doubt that would occur? I could have bet my firstborn on that one.
Signs were even made to showcase the sentiment, as were some thanking Jesus for the Donald’s second coming (his first trip to the Port City was apparently in the ‘90s). Chucky T. was a no show, but I heard a “Meet the Press” producer was there. Trump’s hair proved even billions can’t fight the effects of 98 percent relative humidity on one’s coif, as Mr. T proved when he lifted up his cap to show his flattened comb-over-dour.
There were certainly not 40,000 people there. Or 30,000, as the Trump campaign claimed. Not even close. Though you couldn’t tell it from some of the shots seen on television or splashed all over the web, more than half of the stadium was empty. Even the “official” total from the city of 20,000 seemed quite generous, which, don’t get me wrong, is still a lot, especially on the first night of high school football.
And sure, there were a good number of people who have sucked down the golden Trump Kool-Aid and will vote for him if he happens to be the Republican nominee or even if he runs as an independent. But for the most part, I think people showed up to see what the fuss was all about. And the showman didn’t disappoint, circling his fancy private jet over the field twice before landing at nearby Brookley Field, eliciting giggles even from the biggest liberals.
And yes, while I imagine there were certainly more people there who drove up in their F-150s with “Don’t Tread on Me” stickers plastered on the back, there were also folks who left in their Priuses, sporting their square-shaped “blue dot in a red state” decals. It was a major political event for our little burg, and people of all political persuasions were curious. Hence, the numbers.
But never let the facts get in the way of a good story. It’s much easier to write us off as the “40,000 worst people in America,” as one blogger called us, homogenizing the crowd into a bunch of racist hicks.
Hey, we’re used to it. Some of our more “outspoken” citizens make us easy targets. We’ve tried to keep them away from cameras, but they’re like magnets. And quoting someone who talks about putting a $50 bounty on every illegal immigrant’s head makes for a better story than quoting one of the thousands of thoughtful, reasonable human beings who did actually show up to see if this guy was the real deal.
I, like everyone else, thought it was a big joke when he announced his candidacy for president. We’ve been here and done this before. I hope “The Apprentice” does well next season, Donald, and you sell a lot of ties at Macy’s, but come on, don’t waste our time with this mess.
But then he started talking and talking and talking some more and people started listening. And the highly combustible (and arguably toxic) combination of his un-polished, un-sanitized, un-varnished, un-everything rhetoric and his celebrity catapulted him to Republican front-runner status, and we were told by everyone (except maybe the Huffington Post) we must take him seriously.
And it’s easy to see how he got to the top of the polls.
From Manhattan to Mobile, we are all sick to death of politicians and their carefully crafted speeches and positions and policy papers that have been run through focus groups and pollsters to make sure they simultaneously offend and don’t offend the maximum number of voters needed to get to Pennsylvania Avenue. It doesn’t matter if they actually believe what they are saying as long as it gets good numbers. They have mastered the art of saying something without saying anything at all.
And we are all absolutely starved for authenticity. We are so hungry for the authentic, in fact, we are eating up what we perceive as “genuine” even though it’s pure slop because somehow it tastes better — or at least different — than the same ol’ same ol’ bland, farm-raised, convention center chicken, political BS we have been fed for decades.
And Donald Trump has thrown some interesting new bones our way, giving us something to gnaw on, 24-hour news cycle after 24-hour news cycle. But when you really start examining what he is serving, you realize it is certainly not a sustainable diet, or even a desirable one.
His long, disjointed, braggadocious “speech,” if you can call it that, at Ladd was more akin to listening to your senile ol’ grandpa ramble on from his naugahyde recliner on a Sunday afternoon than someone actually laying out a thoughtful plan to “make America great again.”
And watching the thousands assembled listen to him, I don’t think he captured or inspired them one bit. In fact, if anything, he lost people he had. As he blathered on about Oreos and Billy Graham and Secretariat and self-aggrandized and self-aggrandized some more, by the end the crowd looked plain bored and like they had been at grandpa’s house a little too long. “Mom, is it time to go yet? PaPa is kind of funny when he says all of these inappropriate things, but now he just won’t shut up.”
And this is why Trump will ultimately fade away.
You can only go the circus so many times before even the most entertaining elephant starts making you yawn.