LITITZ, Pennsylvania (AP) – They started arriving more than 40 hours before President Donald Trump took to this rural Pennsylvania stage, where a horse-drawn carriage was still a common sight. By 10:00 pm, a small group had set up camp overnight on grass benches when a cold drizzle came.
“I’m the crazy Trumper player,” Kyle Terry, 33. He was the first to arrive at the IMAX parking lot – at 8 p.m. Saturday for the Monday, Thursday afternoon rally of the fall. “I like it. I’m having the most fun in my life. And I really don’t want this to stop.”;
As President Donald Trump faces an uncertain future, so has the US political landscape over the past five years: Trump’s campaign rally, a phenomenon that has created friendships, businesses and a way of life for Trump’s most devoted supporters. His fans have traveled across the country to be part of what they describe as a movement that could outlast his time in office.
Some attended so many rallies that they lost numbers, stumbling from arena to arena like rock groups. They come for energy, a feeling of being surrounded by like-minded people, a feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Sociologists and historians see elements of religious practice.
They are the likes of Cynthia Reidler, 55, who has supported Trump since his candidacy. She has been to nearly 20 Trump events, from rallies to July 4 celebrations on the National Mall.
“Feeling – it feels like swarming you,” she said as she waited near the surrender on Monday morning, wearing a red poncho and glitter and the lights were no longer on because of the rain. “I always say it’s better than a rock concert. And it’s free. “
Reidler, who lives in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, arrived at Lancaster Airport at around 2:30 p.m. the day before the rally and camped overnight to be able to grab his favorite spot. Waiting games, for her, are part of the fun.
“It was just an excitement that I don’t think you can explain. It recalls a time when our country was so happy and so positive, ”she said, comparing her feelings to the time she paraded every two years as a Girl Scout when she was 11 years old.
And what is the threat from pandemic coronavirus?
“I know the statistics. It’s a risk, ”says Reidler, who works in the healthcare industry. But “the thought of not having him frightened me more than the replacement.”
Tears welled up in her eyes as she was entertained with the prospect.
It’s a similar story for Terry, the first Trump fan from northeast Philadelphia. He never got into politics until this year, when he signed up to vote for the first time. Now he’s fully committed: He spent three nights camping outside Walter Reed military hospital after Trump was hospitalized with the coronavirus.
Terry, who is unemployed, said he was fascinated after attending his first rally. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said. “What you see on TV and when you see him directly, are two different things. That is almost inexplicable ”.
For him, it’s about close friendship: “We’re all standing together, we’re all smiling, we’re all smiling.” Community: “There are three or four people sitting in my car that I know from other rallies.” And general purpose: “Just stand up for my country.”
That rhetoric was repeated by Bob Wardrop, 55, who arrived from Long Island around 9pm to become “part of the movement”. In his account, he and other Trump supporters are continuing the war of “their ancestors fought the British hundreds of years ago.”
“Right now we’re still fighting because they’re trying to overthrow us and take over our country,” he said.
By morning, the crowd was crowded. Thousands of people around the venue, with vans selling funnel cakes and cotton candy. A parking lot a few blocks away has turned into a Trump market, where business travelers sell shirts and buttons.
Those coming in the morning include Celeste March, 58, from Elverson, Pennsylvania, who met Trump once in 2016 and is determined to see him again before November 3.
“There is nothing like it. It’s on my bucket list, ”she said.
And while some dismissed the demonstrations as an ego project for a president infatuated with his crowd worship, campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager said the events were public. tools to energize volunteers, boost media coverage, and collect voter data.
Indeed, Trump’s campaign estimates that events generate tens of millions of dollars per week of free television coverage. While many protesters were loyal Trump supporters who didn’t need motivation, the campaign said 22% of Lititz’s rally attendees were not Republicans and 21% were do not vote in 2016.
George Gigicos, who runs Trump’s 2016 impulse operations, said the rallies were “critically important” to Trump’s campaigns and presidency.
Like his Twitter account, “it allows him to connect directly with people without the need for filtering by the media,” Gigicos said. “It is him with everyone. And it’s remarkable to see and to see how well he has made a splash. “
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, added: “There is a sort of populist feeling. “It’s about being part of a spectacle, other than a campaign demonstration, often a little more intellectual in presentation.”
This phenomenon is not unique in US history, he said.
He points to the 1840 election when William Henry Harrison distributes free wine at events nicknamed “drinking rallies” in a “frantic last-minute physical impulse like you’d see Trump. use.”
Brinkley attaches events to a long-standing religious tradition rooted in the Second Protestant renaissance in the early 1800s, when ministers traveled from city to city in service of events. The Crusade of Missionary Billy Graham.
“A religious fervor develops, and it’s like an atmosphere based on cult,” he said.
The sociologist Arlie Hochschild, who studied Trump’s supporters, agreed that he exploited a religious image that secular liberalists often miss.
Trump “was saying,” Oh, I am surrounded by the enemy and look how miserable I am. And I suffer for you. ‘So it has a religious metaphor it’s exploiting,’ she says, combined with elements of a love affair.
“He needs us. He’s eating away on us. So we have to be quite strong, ”she said, describing his supporters.
Trump, who is known for being superstitious, did not consider his future if he lost. But some have speculated that he could continue touring the country, regardless of the outcome.
“Did I see him go out there and gather the Americans behind his country? Sure. I think he should, ”said Gigicos, who believed Trump would win the election. “He loves America, and he’s Republican right now, so why isn’t he?”
Those who were once part of the consent movement.
“I think it will withstand. I think there will be people out there being caught in political conflict, ”said James Epley, who previously worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and is now selling at Trump rallies and online. under the label “Silent Majority”.
Reidler, who volunteered for the campaign this summer, said that if Trump loses, she plans to “see what I can do to get involved.”
“It’s a void that I haven’t filled in a long time,” she said. “And it just seems important.”