Wake the Vote has had a very busy past couple of days. Our election travel this week took us to the Granite State AKA New Hampshire with a quick stop in NYC beforehand. In NYC we visited MSNBC and sat in on Professor Harris-Perry’s show. A few Wake the Voters were even interviewed live! We also toured CNN and after a day roaming the city still had time to watch the Super Bowl. Once, in NH we headed to a Kasich town hall. Wake the Vote had front row seats in the small venue and Kasich directly asked us what we were doing there and where we were from. We clearly did not fit the mold of the typical Kasich supporter and really stood out in the crowd. This theme of standing out really held true throughout the trip.
Later that day we split into groups. My group went to a rally for Donald J. Trump. As we walked towards the venue (a huge sports arena) we saw numerous protestors holding anti-Trump signs and yelling. They were standing outside during a blizzard passing out flyers and chanting. Our group was clearly different demographically than the people in line around us. As we walked towards the door I saw two small boys posing with their mother for a quick photo. They were holding a sign that said “We will build a Wall” and grinning broadly. In that moment I really questioned my choice to attend the event. While going through security I was told two apples I had in my tote and my reusable water bottle were not allowed inside. The security for Jeb was much less strenuous, we simply walked in. I found this difference surprising considering Bush belongs to a political dynasty. So, after passing through a metal detector and a handheld scanner of some sort I was in.
The Trump experience was markedly different from other events I had been too. For one there were concessions, dippin dots, chicken fingers, fries, and sodas. This struck me as a bit odd and the event felt much more like a performance than the intimate town hall I had attended that morning. I also felt really out of place and truly uncomfortable for the first time. I had been to events and campaigned for candidates who did not hold my views but this was the first time I felt afraid. Our group of diverse college students stuck out markedly. We all sat together and for the entire time we were there we were flanked by a secret service man whose eyes never left us. He was literally blocking the aisle so to leave the row we had to pass him. Every move we made was carefully watched. Another departure from the norm, before the event began a speaker announced that while Mr. Trump is a big believer in the 2nd amendment protesters would not be tolerated. We were encouraged to stand up, wave our signs, and yell “Trump” if we spotted a protester nearby and NOT to touch them. This protocol was employed a number of times during his speech as protesters stood up and revealed themselves. The reaction to these protesters was truly hateful as they left they were heckled, booed and even verbally attacked for their appearances. Another strange aspect was that multiple audience members who were standing near the stage fainted and had to be aided. Security and emergency crews rushed around the entire venue. The whole event was incredibly bizarre. Protesters taken away, wheel chairs being wheeled out, and the ever watchful gaze of the security personnel on our group. When the event was finally over we asked the guard why we had been singled out. He claimed that one of our members had been “twitching”. When another girl and I went to the bathroom a female security guard followed us in and asked if we needed anything. Being profiled was a new experience and one I have not had before. If it has happened it has never been so blatant. Hispanic women tend to be overlooked, not singled out. However, Trump’s anti-Mexican message somehow made me a likely protester. The fact that whole groups of people could feel so strongly about a candidate so as to pose some kind of danger is really interesting. The two protesters at the Jeb event were really just joking and not actually angry. Donald J. Trump has clearly angered a lot of people. He is also clearly very popular in New Hampshire. A lot of my fellow Wake students recently discussed how they had never met an actual Trump supporter. I had also not until this event where I was fascinated by the many very enthusiastic fans. They were not as friendly as my Jeb compatriots but they were very vocal.
The common thread of rhetoric I found them responding to was this idea of “Going back”. The slogan “Make America Great Again” really encapsulates this. The speakers leading up to Trump and Trump himself all hold this common ideal. They want to go backwards not forwards. They find President Obama’s message and administration focused on “Change” abhorrent. They liked the America of our past. They miss the “Old glory days” of our country. One speaker even referenced the American Revolution and Battle of Bunker Hill as a standard to strive towards. At the end of the day this is the clear difference between Trump and many other candidates. He promises something we once had and this is what appeals to so many. They long for their white privilege, their male privilege, and the days before immigration changed the face of our country. They want to send people like me “back” and build a wall. They want to go back in time and that is exactly where Trump promises to take them. This “wall” (That Mexico is apparently paying for btw) is much more than a hypothetical pile of concrete and barbed wire it is a symbol of what Mr. Trump stands for. He stands for the past and for what once was. There are always those who will hold onto the past and resist change. That is who Trump supporters are. I don’t regret attending the event. I learned a lot and truly began to understand the logic behind the other side but it was definitely not something I would do again. I found it deeply upsetting and hard to sit through quietly. A lot more happened in New Hampshire than this one rally. I also had the opportunity to canvas for my preferred candidate and speak with many Granite Staters. However, this image of those two little boys- a future generation of Americans- and that sign will not leave my head. Whatever else may change in our country, and whatever issues we may one day encounter, as the world moves forward there will always be those who will look back. How our country deals with the tension will figure prominently in this election and in the years to come. It is still early days in American history and who we will be depends greatly on which way we choose to move.
Sophia Rossell Romo