Esquire has an article by Jeb Lund about Trump in Florida:
If people told you that MAGA hats come 25 percent off when you look peevish and 50 percent off when you're already wearing a sneer, the line snaking out of the airport hangar and a quarter mile down South Apollo Blvd. in Melbourne, Florida, and awaiting President Trump's first rally since his inauguration, would have made you believe them.Rico says it's gonna be a long four or (gag) eight years...
These are the wages of a campaign and an ideology of apocalyptic civilizational struggle: a pep rally that feels undergirded with dread, voters who dismiss leftists as "special snowflakes living in a bubble", gathering in an eighty-three percent white county that went for Trump by nearly twenty points, and pointing across the road at a few hundred protesters behind a net barrier, wondering whether an international Jewish financier has underwritten a special attack for Saturday afternoon.
Whitey Taylor— "it's not Blackie, it's Whitey," he clarified— hawked MAGA hats and Hillary For Prison shirts at fifty Trump rallies during the campaign and was unconcerned about the stakes. A customer asked if he was worried about protester violence; as Taylor turned his face to look at the man, a little smirk embedded in the off-white beard and deep lines framing his nose and mouth. "I've got a 9mm. I don't worry about any of these people."
The worry grew stronger down the road, where the line looked interminable and threatened to disappear into the gray that seems to swallow the horizon under the lowering sky of a Florida afternoon. Two retired women sat in folding canvas camping chairs, watching the line, waiting for the rest of their party to gather, certain the protesters across the road were paid by George Soros.
"I think there's a good share of them," said Francis Gilmore, who'd moved down to Florida in the last decade. They were here to advance the Soros agenda. "You can go anywhere you want, do anything you want, live the way you want, say anything you want. No sort of control. They will control us." Soros was the bad kind of billionaire, not like the ones in Trump's cabinet, who "don't have to rob the money from us because they've got enough of their own."
Her friend, who refused to give her name, agreed. "There are many others besides George Soros, but Soros is the biggie," she said. "All the braindeads suck in the false news, because they don't have the ability to read and get the proper information." The friend had gotten a lot of the hidden details from The Creature from Jekyll Island, a Federal Reserve conspiracy book written by an HIV/AIDS denialist who believes he knows the location of Noah's Ark and can cure cancer with a poisonous plant extract. When asked where else she gets her news, she replied, "Mostly radio."
Gilmore and The Nameless Friend agreed that the protesters represented a rejection of the office of the president and a historical breach of civility.
A man with dusty clothes, gap teeth, and a tan darker than his sandy blonde hair walked by with a four-year-old girl on his shoulders.
"Hey, who wants to kill an unborn baby?" he said, gesturing across the street. "All them are retards. That's some shit."
Matt —a Republican fifty-something ex-Manhattanite network security guy— was a unicorn in all this, possibly the last person in America civically engaged enough to attend a political rally without his thoughts already ossifying into full-throated allegiance or resistance. He smoked a cigarette and wrung out the ends of sentences with a sardonic twist, working through ideas in real time. He was there for the same reason we're all supposed to be there: to be convinced.
Matt wasn't sweating the fact that this was technically a Trump campaign event. Early fundraising— just money itself— didn't matter, he said, before ticking off accurate ballpark figures for the Clinton campaign war chest, the vote differentials in midwest battleground states, misbegotten ad buys, and Clinton's lack of personal appearances in states within "the blue wall". He didn't seem to know he wasn't supposed to be having a good time and was excited about getting close to the stage. "If I play my cards right, I'm leaving as the technology czar," he said, laughing. "I'm here for a job interview, is what I'm saying."
Just then, Air Force One buzzed the hangar. The crowd took out cell phones to record the moment. Matt captured it too, smiled, then melted through the security cordon. He was the last of his kind and didn't know it.
Outside of watching planes landing and ridiculing hippies, a sullenness permeated the Trump crowd, barks of laughter sending heads darting left and right in surprise. Families spoke with families, friends with friends, discreet clumps of humans waiting only to engage personally with the leader who embodied each fictive resentment and its only resolution. This is a movement that flows only upward toward the one— Steve Bannon's ideology of atomized victims besieged by a much vaster humanity written on each individual, until the idea of something as energetic as a "rally" starts to seem like a cruel joke. Stamp out the sparse laughter and the jeering and conversations about soccer practice and what to eat when everyone got home, and the line in Melbourne could have been a cortège.
The only other people who seemed to be enjoying themselves when planes weren't landing were the leftists. Maria Telesca-Whipple, a self-described "old anti-war horse," local native-plant landscaper, and former organizer, was excited by the possibilities for local action that the Trump administration was bringing.
Outside of watching planes landing and ridiculing hippies, a sullenness permeated the Trump crowd.
"It's been maybe fifteen years since we could generate five thousand people for a rally in this county. This is empowering." A few minutes she later found herself holding up her placard in front of her face so she didn't have to look at the man passing by who stopped and began yelling at her about fetuses and blood.
Her fellow leftist, Franco Velasquez, a naturalized citizen and orthotist born in Colombia and educated at Columbia tried to ignore the sanguinary tirade. "I think the Trump phenomenon is bringing new people into an awakening of social consciousness," he said. "I think it is. I've never done this before." Velasquez noted the stream of people in MAGA hats walking out of the hangar and off to their cars. Trump's speech was still going, broadcast on two giant video boards and coming out of the same loudspeakers that had been blaring My Way an hour before, but the faithful were going home, heads down. Nearby, a twenty-something woman protester in a hijab faced a volley of snarling valedictory comments from the exiting Trumpers.
"I think the crowd is a little bit sad compared to during the campaign," Velasquez said, underlining how elusive joy can be when victory promises only a single actor confronting a constantly escalating and embroidered threat of social collapse. "They look kind of somber, kind of depressed, trying to hold onto something that is leaving them. Just by looking at their faces, they don't look very enthusiastic."
One early departer was Dr. Alex Moses, a black Trump supporter. Moses wore a MAGA hat and spoke with a hard-to-place accent that he declined to identify because, "wherever anybody comes from, that doesn't matter".
"We came all the way from Jacksonville," he said, explaining his sneaking out early. It was for his kids, he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at two young children who were a dozen paces behind and in danger of fading into the crowd. "The kids just wanted to see his face."
Moses would vote for Trump again if the election was tomorrow. The first month had been an unqualified victory. "During Obama, for eight years, I suffered, was unemployed, dependent on my wife's income," he said. Trump got him a job. He is still unemployed now, but he just enrolled in Liberty University to study divinity. It's just a matter of time. He stopped his furious pace and commenced yelling every reply, pointing angrily across the street at protesters who were going to "obstruct everything". "All those losers there better shut up or put up, 'cause I put up for the past eight years. That's what democracy's all about: you vote, and the person who wins, everybody supports him. Nobody protested Obama."
Night had fallen, and protesters finally walked across the street and engaged the remaining Trump supporters in a group, perhaps a few dozen chanting and waving placards at the stragglers still emerging from the hangar. Police lights flickered on cruisers that had been parked on the lawn. Voices raised, but no one was throwing punches.
"America was going down the tubes," said Bill Moro, a raspy-voiced and stubbly fifty-something who voted for the first time ever for Trump. "They said our constitution was unconstitutional. That's what Obama said. And Clinton."
"Trump needs to drain the swamp of judges, too," he said. "I don't care what he does. I'm behind him a hundred percent. Put it this way: if he became a dictator, and they said, 'We want him in forever,' he's my man. He's in. I'll never vote against him ... I love his power ... It's the power that does something to me."
By now, Trump supporters were trying to engineer the confrontation they were certain George Soros had funded. A man with a Resist Liberalism sign held a small amp atop his head and played the world's shittiest sample of a baby crying to somehow lampoon the leftists in front of him. A trio of college-aged boys not yet old enough to drink took in the moment. "I'm just here for the memes," one said. "I'm just here for the memes."
Trump's speech was long forgotten now, the plug-and-play inanities of the campaign rolled out again even though he was already President, vague promises of what he will do coming one after the other, as if to obfuscate the fact that he is the only one to blame for not taking on what he can do. What remained was the glower— the resentment-as-lifeblood, that special animating energy that comes from conjuring what you wish, anointing it as fact, and wedding it forever to conspiratorial denial.
It got through to one immigrant. Glennis Barber, an older woman from England who married an American and understood that George Soros isn't the only obstacle. "I came to the rally because everything you see on television— we have reporters like you— down him. They don't listen to what he's saying," she said. She'd already heard from her sister back in England what Muslims do. No-go zones, making England a Muslim country. "The Muslims are a big bad thing in Europe, they're absolutely disgusting, and they need to be shoved out. I don't want them in here. A Muslim, their religion is not a religion, it's their life. You might like sharia law, but I don't," she explained. "It's their way of life, is to take over the whole of America, and you people are so dumb you don't see it."
Traffic was still backed up as people passed by the scrum of protesters and supporters and walked off through the flickering lights. The young Muslim girl in a hijab was still there. She was from Orlando, Florida and had protested circa Occupy, and she conceded she wasn't prepared for the reception she'd gotten that afternoon, one that darkened as the day faded and made her want to withhold her name, for fear the night would stretch on forever online.
During the speech, she'd stood among the Trump supporters who watched on the big screen and listened through the loudspeaker. Afterwards, she'd moved together with the bloc of protesters who converged to greet the Trump supporters leaving the speech. Her head covering was noticeable, even in the crowd.
Later that night, she texted me a video of people walking in parallel to her, yelling, just a few blocks away outside Keiser University. She said they'd followed her from the rally, and their clothes and conversation suggest as much. The people looked familiar, in the same way that a composite does, in that way that all white people yelling racist things have a sneer that verges on archetype.
"Leave," a woman shouted on the video, flipping her off. "You don't like America, get the fuck out ... You are a disgrace to America," the man walking next to her said.
They mocked her camera. "You can jack off to that later, the man drawled. "I've got a big ol' white American redneck dick."
The woman in the hijab told him where to stick it. "I can put it up your little tight ass," he countered, "and I won't be hittin' that clit, 'cause it already got removed."