TrumpRally

A view from the upper deck of President Donald Trump's stump rally in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on November 4, 2019. Photo provided by Thomas Hart.  

Just a day before Kentucky’s general gubernatorial election on November 5, President Donald Trump visited Rupp Arena to encourage Kentuckians to vote straight republican and support Governor Bevin for reelection. My friend and I had never seen Trump in person, so we figured it would be a good experience. 

We were told to get there early. Trump wasn’t expected to arrive until 7 p.m., but people had camped overnight to get in right when the doors opened. We made our way to the arena three hours early, walked by numerous tables of “KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” paraphernalia, and managed to get our seats in time to dance the YMCA with the crowd. A woman from Korea sat next to me and explained why she liked Trump. Disappointed in seeing generations of immigrant families relying on Medicaid in the hospital where she worked, she felt Trump was our best hope for change.

At 7 p.m. the crowd was standing, ready for Trump’s arrival ...

But then the soundtrack switched to Italian music and I figured Trump would not make his grand entrance to “Con Te Partirò.” So, we waited. Twenty minutes later, country singer Lee Greenwood took the stage, singing his signature song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” and Trump emerged to the roar of the crowd.

What followed was a back and forth between Trump saying a lot of nice things about America, Kentucky, and the Republicans, and a lot of bad things about the Left and the “do nothing Democrats.” Trump told us the economy and the unemployment rates were better than ever and then said if the democrats were elected, there would be a “depression the likes of which you’ve never seen.” He said Matt Bevin loves his state, but his opponent Andy Beshear “rejects everything Kentucky stands for.”

I spent most of the rally wondering if anything Trump was saying was true, but I also think I understand the appeal of Trump rallies now. It was honestly kind of fun. I did the wave with the crowd, sang along with Lee Greenwood and cheered just like everyone else when Trump said fluffy things about how great the U.S. was.

But there was also this feeling that something was wrong. The recurrent chanting of “USA!” and “Four more years!” was kind of funny, but it also reeked of mob mentality. I felt the most uncomfortable during the rally when Trump addressed the “disgusting Washington Post,” pointed toward the media booth, and waited about 20 seconds while the crowd pointed and booed at the poor people standing there. This seemed to typify the us versus them sentiment professed throughout the rally.

I’m not the biggest Trump fan, but Trump rallies encourage people to vote, which I think is good whether you like the motives of the voters or not. And, like the woman I sat next to, people have sincere concerns that rallies like this can help them address. For me, though, one rally was enough.