Trump is the one who is dishonest about the size and makeup of his rallies
I went to a Trump rally this past weekend in Hagerstown, a struggling area on the Maryland border with Pennsylvania. I wanted to see how the real thing measured up against what I had seen portrayed in the media. It was exactly what I expected it would be.
My expectations were based purely on what I have learned from depictions in the mainstream media (network news, cable news, and reputable big name print news organizations). I thought I would see a makeup similar to the one represented in media reports: blue-collar, overwhelmingly white, and slightly older. I also expected voters to feel disenfranchised by today’s global economy and angry about immigration and trade policies.
Trump consistently rails against the media for their coverage of his rallies. At his Hagerstown rally, much like all his other rallies lately, Trump called out the “dishonest” media for their portrayal of his rallies and pointed to the back of the room, where a loud ring of boos came through the hangar.
Local media reports put the attendance for his Hagerstown rally around 5,000. Trump speculated during the event that he had around 18,000. When contacted about attendance numbers, an employee from the hangar said the event drew over 5,000.
So, just what did I see to confirm my assumptions? I saw rural America turning out in droves. I saw residents in Hagerstown adorn their lawns and porches with patriotic décor. I saw kids setting up lemonade stands to catch the business of what appeared to be one of the biggest events to come to this town in quite some time. And yes, his supporters were almost unanimously white. Jorts, mullets, and flip phones were common sights. These people were working class. And that’s why they were there. Hagerstown’s unemployment rate is about 1.5 points higher than the national average.
When Trump brought up Carrier Corporation’s decision to move most of its manufacturing jobs from Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico, he said, “Enjoy your trip to Mexico, I hope you build a wonderful plant and enjoy the heat…Because every unit you make, when it crosses the border — which will now be very strong — there will now be a 35 percent tax on that unit.” This got him arguably his largest applause of the rally. Trade — check.
Aside from a “Trump!” chant, the other chant — which was by far the most popular — was “Build that wall!” Immigration — check.
I didn’t hear or see anything overtly racist. However, much of the alleged “racist” rhetoric coming from Trump supporters has been reported when rallies have been infiltrated by a number of minority protestors. This particular rally did not have any protestors inside — or many minorities for that matter — so that may have been a factor. So, I can’t say what sort of language would have been used had there been protestors causing trouble.
I have often heard Trump brag about how he is popular with Hispanics and boast that he will get “100 percent” of the African-American vote. I surveyed the crowd often at this rally. I would guess — unscientifically — that there were fewer than 15 minorities at the rally.
All of my perceptions were confirmed. There wasn’t one aspect of the rally where I thought that the media had been misrepresenting the scene. It was almost creepily accurate how similar my experience was to what I was expecting it would be like.
From the numbers, to demographics, to which issues the voters care about, the media’s coverage proved to be spot on. Trump, on the other hand, appears to be the one who could learn a lesson in honesty when it comes to his rallies.