From Mount Trumpmore to $5 mini-fridge cookies: On understanding Trump Nation

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Good morning Austin:

Before the festivities at last night’s Ted Cruz election night event in Columbia, a young woman was distributing copies of The Trump Coloring Book (Post Hill Press)

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I wouldn’t say it’s better than the Ted Cruz coloring book. But it’s bigger, fatter, huger.

 

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I’m not sure why there was a woman distributing a Donald Trump coloring book at the Cruz party.

While the Cruz comic book is genuinely reverential, the Trump comic book more mocks Trump than glorifies him, as in this depiction of Mount Trumpmore.

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As with everything Trump, the line between parody and reality is thin to non-existent.

But as the results rolled in last night, the prospect that we may soon be living in Trump Nation improved considerably.

Trump has now won big in New Hampshire and Iowa and, if history is any guide, that means he will be the Republican nominee. And if he is the Republican nominee, well, it’s certainly conceivable that he might defeat either a Jewish socialist or a woman who embodies the status quo, and maybe even the status quo ante, more than perhaps any person in America at a moment when America is very restless.

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The argument last night at the Cruz event – the spin if you will, but it may also be the truth – is that, as Cruz put it, “Only one candidate has demonstrated that he can beat Donald Trump, nobody else has gotten close.”

South Carolina was a disappointment for the Cruz campaign insofar as they had to explain why they came in third in a state as conservative and evangelical as he’s going to find.

From the CNN exit poll.

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How is this possible?

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Last night, Cruz laid out what he contended were three consecutive performances where he defied expectations.

Well, I don’t think he actually defied expectations in any of the three, except to the extent that he was expected to finish second in South Carolina and instead finished third. But putting that aside, Cruz pointed to his victory in Iowa; to the fact that, as a “Bible-believing Christian,” he still placed third in unchurched New Hampshire, and to the fact that he essentially tied for second in South Carolina, even though Trump and Rubio beat up on him mercilessly and Rubio had top-flight backing in South Carolina from Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.

For the Cruz camp, Rubio’s edging them out for second, albeit by a relative handful of votes, complicates that task of explaining why this is now a two-person and not a three-person race (with apologies to John Kasich). Their argument is that only they have the money, the organization, the calendar and the political record to take it to Trump and defeat him.

“You cannot beat Donald Trump from the left,” Cruz said last night, referring to Rubio.

Perhaps. But it is not at all clear you can beat him from the right. From yesterday’s results:

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Yes, Cruz can point out that on abortion, health care and issue after issue, Trump has not been a “consistent, courageous conservative,” that he has consorted with and contributed to Democrats, including the Clintons. But to the many voters, who are not punctilious about ideological labels or purity, it’s going to be hard to paint Trump as a liberal. He is, after all, the guy who called for temporarily banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country, which,  according to the ABC exit poll, was a position supported by nearly three-quarters of GOP voters in South Carolina yesterday.

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And then there was this from the Public Policy Polling pre-election South Carolina poll.

 

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Cruz is depending on doing very well on Super Tuesday, March 1, in Texas and a slew of other states including friendly turf in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

But Saturday’s results in South Carolina suggest that Trump is going to give Cruz a run for his money with evangelicals, conservatives, neo-Confederates and Islamaphobes – and do that while also being the preferred candidate among those Republican voters who do not think of themselves as very conservative.

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Cruz may prevail.

But in the meantime, it’s time to get used to the idea of Trump Nation.

The good new is that Trump Nation is already readily accessible because they gather with one another in the thousands with great regularity.

The further good news is that, for all the anger and frustration that undergirds his populist nationalism, Trump Nation – at least when it gets together to hear from the man – seems like a pretty happy, even rollicking place.

A Donald Trump rally is an “immersive experience.”

That was how Grant Pezikian, 18, a senior at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C., put it to me Friday  after a massive Trump rally in his hometown on the last day of campaigning before the South Carolina primary.

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He and his friend, Christy Salinari, were both wearing T-shirts he had made at his families Fric ‘n Frac, which is where one goes to make such things.

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Pezikian appreciates how “bold and outright” Trump is in the way he expresses himself. At his high school, he said, a lot of classmates think Trump is “too extreme.”

Moreso than for other politicians, folks tend to dress up for Trump rallies, or at any way dress in a manner that makes clear they are at a Trump rally.

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This is John Mancini. He is from Westfield, N.J. He made this T-shirt that I especially liked because it is done as if Trump were a character on Beavis and Butthead, and I think it’s safe to say that both Beavis and Butthead would be huge Trump fans.

I mean really.

He said pussy – at a political rally.

Beavis and Butthead and South Park and the Simpsons have done more to challenge and puncture political correctness than TrumpCruzRubioCarson, and to challenge PC of both the right and left. If political correctness means that there are certain things you can’t say, the Republican right is in as smothering a place as anywhere on the left.

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And here Trump has an advantage because, way more than any of his rivals, he is willing to shred the shibboleths of the left, right or center. He is the first Republican presidential candidate I know of to pick a fight with Fox and the Pope (though maybe it was the Pope who picked the fight).

 

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Mancini loves Trump. But that does not mean he does not also love Ted Cruz.

“I dig Cruz,” he said. “He’s good stuff.”

“I hope Trump and Cruz stop pissing on one another,” Mancini said.

Mancini also digs Gretta Van Sustern, who was at the rally.

“You’re the best, Greta,” Mancini yelled at Van Sustern. She smiled and they exchanged a quick bit o banter about her devotion to the Green Bay Packers.

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A Trump rally does have its set pieces.

There’s the call-and-response on The Wall.

Trump: We’re going to build a wall.

Trump Nation: Yay!!!!

Trump: And who’s going to pay for it?

Trump Nation: Mexico!!!!

And there is sort of a purification ritual in which a protester – there always seems to be one – is escorted and hooted out.

At the Myrtle Beach rally on Friday, a man with a smooth radio voice announced before the rally began that there was a protected protest site outside, but that this as a private event paid for by Trump and that if anyone should spot a protester, they should not engage with or harm them, but simply raise their hand or a sign and start chanting, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.

Very good, if a little Invasion of the Body Snatchers creepy.

 


The cult of Trump has drawn quite a few camp followers.

Among the most engaging, even endearing, is Zach Dodson, the 13-year-old, seventh-grader at Hill Middle School in Fort Mill, S.C., who is in the video at the top of the page.

Zach, his mother in tow, has been to 15 Trump rallies.

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To understand the dynamics of Trump Nation and a Trump rally, one could do worse than talking to Zach. In fact, I’m not sure one could do better.

Here is my exclusive First Reading interview with Zach.

FR: You’ve been to 15 Trump rallies. Do they get boring after a while?

ZACH: No. At one of the rallies he mentioned that the problem with having all these rallies is that he has to say something different every time. But I think he does a really good job of that, so it doesn’t get too boring.

FR: So he keeps it interesting?

ZACH: Yes. Like first, The Wall, then after a while it starts to fade way, get boring. Ban on Muslims, and he’s back up there and now he stays up there. So it’s never really getting boring.

FR: What do you like most about Trump?

ZACH: He’s different. He’s not a politician. He’s got proven success. He has different ideas and not the same ideas with just slightly different rhetoric or campaign scheme. He’s got his own campaign scheme. I mean it’s really different than everyone else.

I think he’s the only one that puts the American people first. He says if any ideas don’t benefit the American people, I don’t like that idea. Like illegal immigration. He wants to stop it but the Democrats will never want to stop it because that’s where their votes come from.

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FR: You’re 13. Have you been interested in politics for a long time?

ZACH: Not really in politics. But I was in business because I loved money. I first found out about Trump when I was five-years-old and I went to Vegas and we were going to stay in one hotel and I told my parents, `No, let’s stay in the tower made of gold that says Trump on it.’ And Trump, in the room, had the little mini –refrigerator filled with cookies that he charged five bucks a cookie for, and I ate the whole fridge.

FR: What was your best moment at a Trump rally?

ZACH: The best moment was the first time I got a picture with him. We asked for a picture but then something was wrong with my mom’s camera, so she tried to switch to her phone and Trump stood there for like two minutes waiting for my mom to figure out what was wrong and then take a picture. Eventually Trump said, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and then my mom finally gets the picture.

FR: Are you going to be plunged into depression with the South Carolina election ending?

Zach: No. There’s North Carolina.

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Then there is Bill Waters.

As folks waiting on a long line to get into Friday’s rally, a man with a booming voice kept chanting:
Vote for Cruz, you’re going to lose. So get off your rump and vote for Trump.

It was Waters, who was dressed like a construction worker and had a sign that said, “Ready to work on the wall.”

He caught Trump’s eye during the rally, with Trump saying that at first he thought it said that he was ready to work on Wall Street, but that would be fine too, Trump said. There are some good people who work on Wall Street.

Here is a link to Waters, recreating his chant, after the rally.

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Water’s day job is dressing up as the Statue of Liberty to drum up business for a tax service office.

He really enjoys it.

Here is some more on that.

From Stephanie Robusto at WMBF:

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – You may barely see him as you speed by the busy intersection, but once you spot Bill Waters, you will never forget him.

Many people complain about the potholes and other road repairs needed on Glenns Bay Road. As crews begin work on the Riding on a Penny Project, Waters maneuvers past the potholes and traffic congesting the road on his bicycle, glad to have a road to get to a job he loves.

He pops his bike into the back room of Liberty Tax Service in the Food Lion plaza and gears up to change into his uniform. In this case, it’s a green velvety gown, complete with a headpiece. He transforms himself into a human version of the Statue of Liberty, ready to get your attention and business for the tax service company.
His positive attitude is infectious, as he makes a round around the parking lot before heading to his spot by the street. Whether the workers know it, he first waves to each individual business storefront in the plaza, shouting out greetings to customers walking out of them.

“It’s not work! It is play! I love making people smile,” he said to a man walking out of the Food Lion grocery store.

Waters talks a mile a minute, and seems to walk even faster.

Using a small piece of land between a drainage ditch and construction cones, Waters dances over to access his ‘office.’

However, the view from his office is changing. With construction on every corner, you can barely see his crown from the roadway. So, he hops up on an electrical box and transforms it into his stage. The construction may slow down traffic, but it doesn’t slow down Bill Waters.

“It’s great because it slows people down and they can see me longer,” said Waters between shouting out greetings to cars. When a driver beeps his or her horn, Waters lights up. “Some people take pictures, I must be famous on Facebook by now,” he added.

While commuters groan about the added construction, Waters revels in it.

“Growing up as a kid I loved construction vehicles,” Waters said while pointing out his favorite vehicles digging up the area across the street from his office view.

Finally, here is Waters with five local girls who got to Scholars Academy, a public school in Myrtle Beach, and who, when they stand in the right order, spell, T-R-U-M-P.

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Michelle Cox, a mother of one of the girls, explained:

This is an assignment from their AP Government and Politics class – Mr. McDowell – to see who could get closest to the candidate and get a picture.

They didn’t get their man.

We got to the corner but he’d already gone. Didn’t quite get him. But if we got in the paper that might get them some points.

OK, Mr. McDowell. Here they are. They tried.

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They are:

T: Ingram Cox, 15.

R: Lily Gibson, 15.

U: Sydny Stegall, 14.

M: Alexandra Simons, 15.

P: Jade Crooks. 15.

I’m not sure whether Mr. McDowell’s assignment was more Government and Politics or Celebrity Stalking, but I guess it admirably achieved its objective of getting his students engaged, of making them first-hand witnesses to politics, and maybe even, history in the making.

Maybe, in the age of Trump, Mr. McDowell’s assignment was right on target.

“While they can’t vote in this election they will be your second-term voters,” said Michelle Cox.

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