Written by Victoria Ferguson
My younger sister and I dragged ourselves out of bed at six in the morning and slumped into car seats. We plugged in the address of Wright Bros. Aero (what is that anyway?) in Vandalia and were on our way. “Starts at 10:00, doors open at 7:00.” Never in my life did I think I would wake up at 6 a.m. — for Donald Trump, no less — but here we were.
The sun was rising as we drove towards Dayton International Airport, casting golden shadows over Interstate 75. As we reached the airport exit, we speculated over whether or not there would be a line of cars leading into the venue. There wasn’t.
We parked next to the airplane hangar where the rally was to take place. A jacked-up monster truck pulled in next to us, and this was around the time we realized we were arriving early with the most die-hard Trump supporters.
Up until this point, as far as I was concerned, Trump supporters were mythical creatures — heard about, but never seen. Now I would find out exactly what sort of people were supporting Donald Trump, or “The Annoying Orange,” as my sister insisted on calling him throughout the entire experience. We got out of the car and made our way to the venue. About twenty feet away, a man was selling Trump hats and buttons.
“NO POCKET BOOKS!” He yelled in our direction.
Thinking he was saying he didn’t accept checks, we continued walking.
“HEY, NO POCKET BOOKS!” He yelled again, and pointed at my purse.
I sighed, jogged back to the car, and rejoined my sister purseless. We were ready to join the line of people that was snaking from the entrance of the hangar towards the back of the parking lot. We take our place in the back of the line and a shirtless man with an American flag tied around his neck passes us.
I comment on how I’ll be able to blend into the crowd of red “Make America Great Again” campaign hats with my Miami hat, and the woman in line in front of me turns around to glare. Shortly after, the man in line behind us began to complain about how “politicians think they’re smarter,” and said Trump doesn’t act like that. This would be my first insight into the mind of a Trump supporter.
After about twenty minutes, the line begins to move slowly towards the door. We pass tables of people selling various Trump paraphernalia — buttons encouraging people to “Get Obama fired!” and “Bomb the shit out of ISIS,” shirts with Trump’s face on them, even Trump bathrobes. We were wondering where all the protestors were with their picket signs.
As we reached the door, a sign declaring “The Silent Majority Stands with Trump” was shoved into my sister’s hand. We walked through the entrance to the hangar and were greeted by metal detectors.
A decent crowd had already accumulated around the podium stage, and we rushed to find a spot that would grant us a good view. We settled into the side area, which had significantly less people and allowed us to get closer to the stage. Now, the waiting began.
To pass the time, we talked and listened to the people around us. Most of them seemed to be hardcore Trump supporters. One woman held up an American flag and yelled, “It’s like we’re still fighting! This is war in the homeland!” The most unlikely supporter there was an older transgender woman, who offered to use her height to get some pictures for me.
A bit later, the same woman with the flag got into a discussion with another man in the crowd about why exactly they were so jazzed about Trump’s campaign.
“There might be a better man,” the woman said, “but there’s nobody that’s been able to do what he’s been able to do.”
The man agreed, “Right, yeah, and he doesn’t even have any government experience.”
The woman replied, “Yes! Exactly, that’s why we’re voting for him! We just need to watch out for those dumb liberal protestors.”
My sister and I exchanged glances and remained silent observers for the most part. At this point it was almost 10 a.m. and people were getting excited. The Donald would be arriving soon. The same Elton John song was blasted over and over again through a set of speakers, and random cheers and chants of “Build the wall!” and “Let’s get ISIS!” broke out periodically through the crowd.
It was 10:35 when dramatic music that made us feel more like we were at a basketball game than a political rally began to play. Donald Trump’s plane was landing. It pulled up right in front of the hangar, and The Annoying Orange himself walked off like a rockstar to a cheering and screaming crowd. This was the sort of spectacle that his rallies have become known for. He walked through a part in the crowd and up onstage to take the podium. Being relatively close to Donald, I feel comfortable saying that hair only looks worse in person.
The hour or so that Trump spoke felt pretty familiar to me to be honest. Like a broken record, he began repeating everything I’d been hearing him say in the media for the past few months — calling President Obama “the Great Divider,” saying Bernie Sanders was a “communist.” He gestured towards the media — the very institution he has used to gain popularity — on their platform in the back and referred to them as “those dishonest people back there,” blaming their portrayal for any negative reactions to his campaign.
The reactions of the crowd were another story. Up until this, I had only experienced the exasperated reactions of people who were against the controversial things Trump has been spouting out of his mouth. Now I was in the belly of the beast. The crowd was absolutely eating everything up. People were taking the things he was saying to the next level. When the topic of ISIS was brought up, a man screamed, “Bomb the hell out of ‘em!” About the EPA, another supporter yelled, “EPA sucks, get rid of ‘em!” One woman seemed to annoy even other Trump supporters, yelling out in agreement after every single thing Trump said.
After about an hour of this, everything got very repetitive, my sister was tired, and I had pretty much had enough. We decided it was time to leave. We carefully scooted our way back through the crowd. We hung out towards the back for a few more minutes, and saw a small group of five protesters. They started chanting. When they got no reaction, they all looked at each other, shrugged and fell silent. Several people turned around and waved their Trump campaign signs in the air.
On our way back to the parking lot, a woman in front of us was talking to two high school-aged Trump supporters.
“Are you guys old enough to vote from Donald Trump?” She asked.
“No, not yet,” they answered, “We wish!”
“Well go to school and tell all your friends who they should be voting for!”
Then, up ahead in the distance, we finally saw one solitary protester with a sign. We told him we liked his sign, asked for a picture, and exchanged comments about how we felt like the only sane people there. He asked how it was, and we commented on the relative tameness of the rally compared to the depictions we had seen on the news. Wishing him luck, we made our way back to the car just as Trump finished and the rest of the rally-goers came pouring out the doors toward the parking lot.
I wasn’t sure what I thought I was going to get out of this experience, but driving away I felt a tinge of disappointment. Where were the demonstrations and racially-charged fist fights?
If I can say one thing, for me it definitely put a face to the thousands of voters who are fueling Trump’s run through the primaries. All those people around me were in vehement agreement with Mr. Trump and his ideas.
One thing is for sure: With this much support, Trump’s campaign is now far from being a joke.