Two days ago on Friday, May 27, 2016 I attended a Donald Trump presidential rally in San Diego, California at the Convention Center. It was a big deal for me because although this will be the fourth presidential election I’ll have had the opportunity to vote in, this is the first time I have ever done something remotely political aside from express my views online. None of the other elections really mattered to me like this one does, and I was surprised to find out that in this regard, I was not alone.
I’m 29 going on 30 this October, and almost none of my friends had ever been to a presidential rally, or political rally or protest, including my friend Brett who invited me and is the same age as me. That’s not so shocking. But I was shocked that people twice my age had never been to one. A guy I spoke to at the trolley station was in his mid 50’s and this Trump rally was the first time he’d ever ‘gotten involved’ in politics if you would call it that. A dozen or so other people I chitchatted with while I was in line shared a similar experience. Something about this election has awoken a sleeping populace of people who normally would be content to stay in the bleachers, but this time around felt inclined to get on the field.
The media narrative is that republicans are all white, racist, straight men. This is the narrative I’ve been told for years and even thought I always considered it bull, it’s been drilled into me for so long that I can’t help but admit I’ve come to believe the lies the media propagates, even the one’s they’ve said about me. So I will again admit I was surprised at the diversity of the crowd at and around the Trump rally and people donning Trump gear. I saw signs depicting Veterans for Trump, Hispanics for Trump, Women for Trump, Gays for Trump, Chinese Americans (heart) Trump. I knew I should have brought my “Secular Jews for Trump” sign, damnit! I saw (what my bigot eyes believed to be where) a lot of Hispanics, Asians, Filipinos, whites, women, young adults, and seniors. Admittedly not a lot of black people but there were some. Granted, San Diego is only like 6% black.
Security was super tight. SDPD and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department had one hell of a show of force outside the convention center. We had to show our tickets to, and go through three levels of security before even being let into the building. Once inside the building we had to wait in line once more, this time going through a metal detector, with security being performed by the Secret Service and TSA.
Side note here, and please excuse my French: Here’s a big FUCK YOU to the mustached, douchebag, fat shit of a TSA agent who was a total asshole to me when I was emptying my pockets before going through the metal detector.
While I was waiting in line and once we got into the main event I got the tail end of Sarah Palin giving some speech about who knows what. I am not a huge Sarah Palin fan. She kind of reminds me of a 4 year old dressing in their parents clothes pretending to be a grown up, and her speech was no better. I had no idea what she was talking about. Something about snakes and lions and boots up asses. She kind of sounded like a seagull. Listen to her screech of a speech here.
There were A LOT of people inside. About 15,000. There were a couple rabble rousers but they were quickly ousted. Most of Trump’s speech was pretty on beat with his normal stuff, except for about 30 minutes where he droned on and on about some lawsuit he’s involved with right now concerning Trump University. I started to doze off. But aside from that I really enjoyed his speech. I can see how it’s a little easier for Trump to wander off topic than past presidential candidates. One has to remember that he is really the only big ticket candidate in decades who has a great deal of business going on outside the world of politics. Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, John McCain, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, these are all people who at the time of running were pretty much, solely politicians. When all you do is eat, drink, breath, and bleed politics it’s probably pretty easy to keep the conversation to politics. But remember, Trump isn’t a politician and other aspects of his professional life are bound to occasionally seep through in his speeches.
One of the things I liked about Trump’s speech is despite that fact that he might not have the favor of everyone in the country I get the vibe he legitimately wants to help everyone in the country, not simply his constituency. I feel like the typical left pander tactic is “vote for me and I’ll tax the shit out people who voted for the other guy and use their money to fund things my constituents care about”, whereas Trump plays more to the tune that our nation as a whole – and everyone in it – is getting taken advantage of on a global scale, with the exception of the political elite on both sides who have rigged the system.
Trump was quick to call attention to the media booth and rally scorn and boos in their direction. Which I kind of liked. He called out a federal judge by name. He called out other politicians and wheels of the system. He doesn’t allow people to hide behind their position, or their title, or the party, or their affiliations or status or prestige or privilege. He is not afraid to point fingers and name names. I loved it, but others consider it un-presidential. The irony is that for years and years the same people have done nothing but complain about how Washington politics are corrupt, how both political parties are in cahoots and playing the American public for fools, how we’re tired of these career politicians who have been in office for decades. And America got what it asked for. Someone with no political experience, who isn’t beholden to any political party and low and behold, he isn’t particularly presidential. Unlike most of us he has actually changed his registered political party several times over the past couple of decades showing that he votes according to issues, not according to party.
Once the event was over, organizers purposefully had the Trump attendees exit from the north end of the convention center to direct them away from the group of Anti Trump protestors at the south end, in an attempt to curtail any inter-group commotion.
I will admit that I was a little curious about the prospect of there being a counter rally. For months now I’ve heard of anti-Trump groups creating disturbance and inciting violence at or around Trump rallies. Just a few days prior to the San Diego rally, things got pretty out of control in Anaheim, another Southern California city just a hopscotch a way from San Diego. Just as I had never been to a political rally before, I also had never firsthand seen a riot or protest, and certainly never seen civil unrest. It definitely crossed my mind that something might go down.
Local law enforcement had different plans. Unlike me they had no interest in seeing any uncivil commotion and pretty much had the area surrounding the convention center on lock down well in advance of the event itself. Law enforcement closed all roads immediately in front of the convention center as well as several trolley tracks. This was coupled with hundreds of those portable event fences that link together, and those large orange traffic barricades. There were members of the San Diego Police Department as well as the Sheriff’s Department. In terms of actual manpower, I think there were in the neighborhood of 150 SDPD, and another 50-70 from the Sheriff’s department.
The SDPD were wearing their signature all black uniforms. While some were in street attire with modest equipment like batons, others were in riot gear, with the riot helmets, riot vest, shin guards, zip-tie cuffs, and the occasional AR-type rifle. The Sheriff’s department in their version of OD green was almost entirely decked out in full battle rattle. A couple of them had those paintball guns with the chili powder balls.
I’ll admit I was kiiiiinda looking forward to seeing some crazed protestor hop the fence and get pelted just for the novelty of the experience. I suppose if I want to see that I need to go to LA County.
The next day when I read the news online, there were reports saying there were 1,000+ violent protestors. Uhhhh. The most I spotted were like 120 people crammed into an area the size of my 1400 square foot house, right before the event started, and they were totally outnumbered by the pro-Trump people. Perhaps we missed some action while we were inside the event itself. It was actually pretty pathetic and a bit of a let down. I wanted to see some action!
The authorities had the place on lock down from the get go – the really nipped any plans for violent protest in the bud. There were still a couple dozen or so protestors but at least while I was street side it was pretty harmless. They were so severely outnumbered by the pro-Trump rally members that even their chants were drowned out by the opposing pedestrians. Proving what we already knew, that San Diego is still America’s finest city.
All in all it was a fun experience. I am glad I did it. I can certainly see how going to these types of things is energizing. You can feel the excitement in the air as people waited to see him. The organizers did a fantastic job with security and herding the crowds around the event. Law enforcement did an amazing job keeping the peace. Trump’s performance was routine, and as expected. If Trump gets elected this will be the first time I ever saw a U.S. president. I’ve never seen Obama in person, or Bush, or anyone else for that matter so this might turn out to be quite the experience.