“Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

3 Things I Learned at a Trump Rally

Previously this year, I made my way down to Idaho Falls, ID for a Bernie Sanders rally. It was the first political rally I had tried to go to, and even though I didn’t get in, I learned a lot.

I moved back to my home state of Maryland a week before a Donald Trump rally 30 miles from where I live. When I found out, I decided to use what I learned from the Sanders rally and go super early (especially since this is an area of the same political affiliation as the candidate).

I actually made it inside this one, and I learned some really interesting things.

Mob mentality is a real thing

When I first got there, there was no official line. People weren’t allowed onto school property until school let out, so we stood waiting on the other side of the street by a traffic light. A police officer told us that eventually there would be officers to help us cross, but that it would most likely not be where we were since it was so close to an intersection (without crosswalks).When we heard that, the group of people here, some of them the very first to arrive, made sure to make their way down to a designated crosswalk area, in hopes to remain first in line.

Well it only took a few of us to start moving to get everyone else to start moving — and then running — down the shoulder to get to “no one knows where.” Then, despite the officers telling us that we couldn’t get onto school property yet, someone must have started crossing the road, so we all followed suit. In my mind (and even out loud), I was saying “no, no, no, this isn’t right. We’re not supposed to be here yet.” But my feet kept moving, I guess because of the fear of losing my spot in line, and for fear of being separated from my stepmom.

Once across, the officers told us to get back across the road again. So naturally, we didn’t. Instead, whoever was in front led us around to the back of the school, where we were stopped again by officers. I can’t say that all of us knew the rules, but I know that at least some of us did; I did. But I went along with them anyway. Why? I don’t think it’s because I’m an idiot. The term “mob mentality” exists for a reason. It’s hard to think for yourself when you have a big group of people all doing the same thing. We follow just like sheep. There’s loads of scientific research and theories that support this behavior. It was fascinating to experience it firsthand.

We didn’t go for Trump, we went for ourselves

Contrary to what some believe, I don’t think the main reason people went to this Trump rally was for Trump. He’s just the one who united a bunch of people who agree on some things and told us to all show up at the same time and the same place.

But we didn’t go for him. We could watch him on TV if we wanted. He didn’t say anything totally different from what he’s said hundreds of times before. We knew that going in (at least I did). So why did we go? We went because we believed in something. We went because we wanted our friends, our families, our community, and our nation to see that we have a voice. We went to show the news that over 20k people on Maryland’s Eastern Shore agree with some (if not all) of Trump’s positions.

We also wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I think that’s natural. I didn’t expect to be on TV. I didn’t expect for Trump to notice me, or to hear my voice, or to shake my hand. Some did maybe, but most didn’t. The coolest part of going was that we made that rally. In other words, the rally existed only because we were there. We were the rally. We became something big, something loud, and something real. We didn’t go for Trump; we went for what he stands for; we went for ourselves. Those who were at the Sanders rally in Idaho came six hours from Wyoming for the very same reason.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this idea (I’m definitely not the one who came up with it). This was just the first time I had experienced it for myself. Simon Sinek delivered a TED Talk in September of 2009 where he explained this same phenomenon as it related to people waiting in line for brand-new technology like TVs and iPhones and those who showed up to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the mall in Washington to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations, and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. In fact, some of his ideas were bad. But he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause, and they made it their own, and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day at the right time to hear him speak.
How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. (From Simon Sinek — How Great Leaders Inspire Action)

Immaturity is immature

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it seems to merit repeating.

As I stood in line at a Bernie Sanders rally, I was impressed by how many young kids were there. I know many Republicans would say “they’re just dumb kids who don’t know anything about how Sanders can realistically accomplish the things he says he can.” Well, as I stood in line at a Trump rally, I saw a lot of young kids too. I know many Democrats would say the exact same phrase aimed in the opposite direction. The bottom line is, kids are kids.It’s easy to get a kid to believe anything if you’re the person they want to listen to. Parents have an incredibly strong influence on kids, unless they end up hating their parents, in which case whoever opposes their parents assumes the position of leadership. So when you watch videos of kids at college campuses willing to sign a petition to get rid of the first amendment, or when you see that they can’t name the vice president, that says nothing of them and everything of the people who let them get there.

It’s not embarrassing for the kids, it’s embarrassing for the parents when the kids in line behind me make fun of a fat kid, or when the kids in line in front of me are cussing left and right in public. And there doesn’t seem to be any difference to me between Sanders kids and Trump kids. They’re all exactly the same actually. They’re doing what they’re being told to do, which is fine for now, as long as we understand why they’re so vehemently passionate before they’re even old enough to vote.

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