By Olivia Van Arsdale, ’17

Why Trump’s Radical Fanbase is the Rise and Fall of His Campaign

To the professional cameras in the back, Trump’s empty podium is flanked by five neat columns of well-dressed spectators, restlessly checking their phones and looking around aimlessly. However, on the other side of the podium is a gigantic mob of people. They chatter excitedly about foreign policy, national security, and their favorite presidential candidate: the one, the only, Donald J. Trump.  At Trump’s campaign rally on Nov. 23, all are welcome. (Unless you are Mexican. Or Muslim. Or poor. Or educated.)

The Dublin mother and son duo in front of me expressed their avid love for Trump in the front row of this throng. They’ve read both his books and think Trump is true to his campaign promise of “Waking Up America,” and they praise him for “saying it like it is.”

In fact, that was a constant among everyone I talked to at the rally (with the exception of UAHS junior Charlotte Orr, who nearly got thrown out for wearing a Bernie Sanders sticker). All of Trump’s supporters admire him for his candor, his off-the-cuff speeches and blustery bedside manner. In the case of the Dublin mother and son, they counted down the days to this rally, then the hours.

trumpThe second group I interviewed, two older women and a police officer, was less sure about Trump (but still on the hardline Republican side) but there for the same reason: “He’s funny!” one of the women said. “Sure, he sometimes puts his foot in his mouth, but he’s got a real candor to him and I like that.” Even the closet Democrat next to me was just there to witness the magic.

Make no mistake, Trump was plenty entertaining (after being 21 minutes late to the podium). The centerpiece to his campaign, building a wall on the Mexican border, resulted in a resounding cry through the echoey convention center: “BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL!”  Trump fueled the fire with his rhetoric – “It’s so easy to do! What’s expense? I’ll build that wall, and it’ll be a beautiful wall, it’ll be a big wall!”

I would have pointed out the flaws in the argument. For instance, that immigrants have been shown to be less likely to commit crimes than American natives, or that an immigrant has as much chance of doing something great in this country as they do of becoming a serial rapist. Or I could have pointed out that Mexico literally cannot finance this wall, and extorting them into trying to do so is like demanding a few billion dollars from Greece in cash. But all around me were people much larger than I am, offering up racist shouts to their toupee’d god, the Trumpster.

Then, of course, Trump had to go on about Muslims.

It’s one thing to discuss something about which you’re obviously ignorant. It’s quite another to discuss something about which you are ignorant to hundreds of people that will believe you. Make no mistake, when Trump began preaching about needing to register Muslims and put surveillance in mosques, people started screaming as if nobody remembered the last time the world decided it was a good idea to brand, monitor, and limit the freedoms of a specific religious minority group.

But here’s the interesting thing: Trump bragged up on that podium that he had the “most loyal supporters” of all his competitors. Trump, buddy, they were booing you 20 minutes ago! Your soundtrack guy played “Hey Jude” for the third time and people sounded like they wanted to hunt you down with their own second-amendment-sanctioned guns! One of the official signs boldly stated, “The Silent Majority Stands With TRUMP,” but there is nothing silent about Trump’s fanbase, especially when they’re displeased. After walking out of that rally, it didn’t take a political expert to guess that Trump’s loyal supporters had an expiration date.

Now, nearly two months later, Trump’s numbers are dwindling, especially in New Hampshire. Polls by the Huffington Post show Trump plateauing, and Cruz rising almost as fast as Trump did this past summer. Cruz even said to the New York Times that he “[doesn’t] believe Donald is going to be the nominee. And I think, in time, the lion’s share of his supporters end up with me.”

The Iowa caucuses are now over, and Cruz is true to his word – he overtook Trump by 3.3%.

In terms of IQ, I don’t think Cruz is any better than Trump. But if it’s about choosing between the lesser of two morons, I’ll take Cruz’s blatant idiocy over Trump’s blatant disregard for personal and religious freedom.