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A Tale of Two Rallies

FWR looks back at May 2016, when the political world cared about Indiana

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2016-05-05


Let’s imagine that in May 2015 you’re going about your daily, daily, when someone approaches you and says: “I’m from the future. May 2016, to be exact. A year from now, Indiana will not only be a major player in the presidential primaries, but we’ll actually be the deciding contest for a major political party. The two candidates we’ll vote for have not been a part of any political speculation you may have read so far. Oh, and one more thing: one of them describes himself as a democratic socialist.”

We’re betting time travel would not have been the least plausible part of that scenario.

Yet that’s what happened. After 2008, most Hoosiers probably thought it would be another several decades before a presidential primary in Indiana garnered so much attention. But it’s been a strange, unpredictable, and exciting election cycle in 2016, and it’ll probably get a little stranger before it’s all over.

So, the ballots have been cast, decisions made, and the candidates have moved on. But just by coincidence, FWR happened to have people at the Sanders and Trump rallies in the run up to the primaries. One writer is down with the cause; the other went for the phenomenon. We just happened to pick the winners — both, in their own way, highly unlikely winners — and thought impressions of the event might offer… well, something. It seems pretentious to say “insight,” so we won’t.

Before we go, one last thing we find kind of interesting. As wildly divergent as Sanders and Trump (and their supporters) may seem, Indiana has unfortunately provided both candidates with a case study of an issue they have made center points of their campaign — the loss of manufacturing jobs. Both Sanders and Trump talked frequently about Indy-based Carrier’s recent decision to move jobs to Mexico, and in a way that suggested something more than just politicians paying lip-service to a local problem. They sounded, in their own particular ways, like they actually gave a damn. If you’re looking for an explanation to the unlikely longevity and success of both campaigns, you might start there…

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Gloria Feels the Bern

By Gloria Diaz

I’ve been pretty quiet this election season. Of course, I have an opinion and a candidate I’m leaning toward. But the cynic in me pretty much wonders if it’s all hopeless. The candidates tell us what we want to hear, they get elected, and sometimes they come through, sometimes not. It depends on who they owe favors to and which way congress is leaning. I am not sure if I can really get fired up over one particular candidate, but of the folks running, I’d have to say Sanders gets my support.

The stars and planets aligned, and I was able to attend the Sanders’ rally on May 2. It would be a good people watching event and it’s not every day you see a potential presidential candidate show up at your school.

The security wasn’t surprising, but I realized why we had to show up at 11:30 a.m. for a rally that didn’t start until 3 p.m. I showed up at 9:45. I invited a colleague who invited a friend (I RSVPed for four) and the three of us were able to find seats. Good thing, too. It ended up being standing room only.

Sanders spoke about issues that mattered to me: health care, equal pay for women, infrastructure, free trade and its complications, free college education, and immigration. He spoke of putting people to work fixing our nation’s infrastructure. At least it was an idea that seemed viable to me.

I’m not an economist either, but I felt that NAFTA was a huge mistake. I suck at math, but even I know that if you are paying someone $1 an hour to make a toy, but someone else will make it for a minimum of $7.25 an hour, you are saving $6.25 to have the first person make it. I pulled this from the Trump website:

Reclaim millions of American jobs and reviving American manufacturing by putting an end to China’s illegal export subsidies and lax labor and environmental standards. No more sweatshops or pollution havens stealing jobs from American workers.

Um, sounds good, but what about the part about Chinese workers making less than American workers? I found an article on theeconomist.com (“A Tightening Grip” from March 14, 2015) that listed the average Chinese worker’s pay at $27.50 per day. That figures to nearly $3.44 per hour for an eight-hour day, or $2.29 an hour for a twelve-hour day—significantly less than the minimum wage here of $7.25 an hour. Trump didn’t mention that, but yeah, combine the export subsidies and lax labor/environmental standards with dirt-cheap labor, and that’s why American manufacturing moved its jobs. There probably aren’t any pesky unions to deal with over there either, however, in the same article, Chinese wages have increased 12% per year since 2001. Some of that manufacturing will move to the poorer parts of China, but the article mentioned Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia as the next likely spots for people to be making stuff—for less than $7.25 an hour, I’m thinking.

When it came to healthcare, Trump mentioned on his site that no one should HAVE to buy health insurance. Okay, but why do I HAVE to buy car insurance?

It would have been interesting to attend the Trump rally, if nothing more than to compare that atmosphere with the Sanders rally. At IPFW, people generally seemed nice and polite. Sanders wasn’t name calling or bashing, but pointed Clinton’s vote on the Iraq War (for it) and Sanders’ vote (against it.)

He sounded good--I’ll admit that. But that’s what politicians do—they tell us what we want to hear. But Sanders seemed positive. No mudslinging. I didn’t see any Trump protesters there before, during or after the event.

And despite what a few assumed, it wasn’t all patchouli and Birkenstock sandals, young kids and hippies. There were plenty of millennials there, sure, but there were parents with young kids, middle-aged folks, and the elderly. The pre-event music was probably picked with this sort of crowd in mind—there was a mixture of Janelle Monae, Buckwheat Zydeco, John Lennon, Muse, Simon and Garfunkel, The Supremes, David Bowie, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Flogging Molly, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, and late 70s disco group The Trammps, with their no-brainer Sanders anthem, “Disco Inferno” and its tailor-made chorus: (Burn Baby Burn).

I even saw an honest-to-God libertarian at this event. Of course, he shook his head at the free college tuition, $15-an-hour minimum wage, and the healthcare, but I expected that. A quick check to the libertarian’s website showed some reasonable ideas, but he also proposed eliminating the Federal Department of Education. Not one mention of college, but I guess we can all join the military and pay for school that way. And of course, no Social Security for old people. Instead of SS tax, we would be forced to open up an IRA, with half of the former money going into the account, the other half to the worker, which would probably be spent by said worker on PS2 and Xbox consoles, games, Doritos, Coach bags (me) guns and other stuff. I wonder how much of the workers would actually SAVE that money?

And in case you’re disgusted with both parties, there are 17 potential presidential candidates the Libertarians offer for your perusal. The party will pick one at the end of May, leaving a whopping five months for the nominee to get support before the—oh, who am I kidding? I know the Libertarians feel spending money is the absolute worst thing in the world, but maybe if they spent a few bucks and nominated their candidate about a year and a half before the presidential election, they might actually generate some interest.
Or not.

They might also gain some credibility if self-proclaimed Libertarians (I’ve known a few) weren’t living off Social Security Disability, or didn’t spend 39 years working for the government. If you truly hate the government THAT MUCH, don’t depend on it— for anything.


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Summers Gets Trumped

By Michael Summers

With each rally that Donald Trump holds during his campaign for president, there’s a sort of nervous, giddy anticipation that maybe this time, he’ll utter an enormity so outrageous and offensive that the whole circus train will finally careen off the rails, scattering dead elephants and clowns (mostly elephants) across the political landscape. Even some of his most ardent supporters probably hope on some level that he’ll cross the line in a perfect storm of bigotry and braggadocio, unleashing a tsunami of sound bites that will finally sink this bizarre, sometimes disturbing, and (let’s admit it) sorta entertaining campaign.

That’s sure as heck why I lined up outside the Allen County Memorial Coliseum on May 1. I don’t necessarily want the campaign to derail (though I am not a Trump supporter), but if it does, I’d like to be there to see it.

In short, I’m here for the show, the phenomenon, to see the unlikely candidate who single-handedly turned the GOP’s 2016 class of Next Big Things into Yesterday’s News.

And I’m also here to get an impression of the kind of folks who made Donald Trump a serious contender for the Republican ticket for president. In two days, these people and hundreds of thousands like them would make Trump more than just a contender.

Considering the fact that every ugly, divisive pronouncement Trump makes seems to increase his popularity, I’m not really sure what to expect from the crowd. Most pundits tell you Trump is tapping into anger and disaffection (I’m putting this politely), particularly among white middle and working class folks, and it’s probably true. The crowd — and it’s a big crowd — at the Memorial Coliseum rally is largely white, but not entirely. Besides that, it looks like a pretty broad swath of Allen County. I sit behind two young tattooed guys, who are sitting next to a couple men in late middle-age, decked out in the traditional dress of their people — khaki pants and brightly colored shirts. Behind me sits what looks like three generations of a family…

Granted, looks can be deceiving — for instance, I’ve been told I look like the kind of guy who enjoys jazz — but if under the surface all these Trump supporters are seething with barely concealed prejudice and a massive resentment at having to press 1 for English, that’s not in evidence here.

A generous soul can take that as a sign that maybe part of Trump’s appeal lies less in pandering to baser instincts and more in being outside the realm of politics as usual. Trump has said a lot of things that are inexcusable; he’s also said some things that were anathema in Republican circles just a few years ago, and it hasn’t hurt him. He’s called the invasion of Iraq a disaster, for instance. And, as Trump will point out later this afternoon, he’s financing his own campaign — when the GOP presidential hopefuls lined up for potential donors at the Koch brothers biannual conference last August, Trump, in a tweet, called them “puppets.”

Before Trump comes on, we’re treated to someone who looks and sounds like state senator Bob Morris making an introduction. Like the hugest rock shows with the hugest performers, the opener has the charisma of a jello mold and serves less to rile up the crowd than remind it why they paid big bucks for the headliners (tickets were free, but you know what I mean).

The opener is brief, but it’s still several minutes before Trump makes his appearance, a spotlight following him as he strides down the catwalk to the strains of “Start Me Up.” I came here hoping for a spectacle akin to an arena match in ancient Rome, with a rabid crowd howling for blood. Instead, this is more like a rock concert; Trump himself makes the same comparison a few minutes into his talk. And when Trump delivers the greatest hits— Lyin' Ted; Crooked Hilary; China is raping us; build a wall; repeal Obamacare — the crowd responds with rafter-rattling enthusiasm.

Some of the biggest cheers happen when he mentions Carrier and the Indy company’s recent decision to start moving its jobs to Mexico. If you’re desperately trying to find a silver lining in the prospect of a Trump presidency, maybe the fact that Trump is aware of the decision and seems (seems, mind you) genuinely peeved about it will help you out.

Trump talks for about an hour. Apparently he has friends everywhere — Fort Wayne, Terre Haute, China, Mexico. Bobby Knight is a smart guy. Karl Rove is the dumbest man in American. Trump loves the Chinese — he’s made great deals with the Chinese and made lots of money. Trump loves the Mexicans — he’s made great deals with the Mexicans and made lots of money. He’s going to do the same for America…

I should probably say at this point that if you’re looking for trenchant analysis of Donald Trump’s policies on how to Make America Great Again, you’re going to have to go elsewhere. And when you’ve gone elsewhere, please come back and tell us what you’ve discovered, because the only real coherent message that emerges from Trump’s free association is “I’m awesome.” Trump has gotten this far without demonstrating a serious grasp of the Byzantine workings of trade, economics, domestic and foreign policy. There’s no need to start now. You want that wonky stuff? I’m sure Jeb Bush would have obliged you. Nerd.

Around the 20 minute mark, I find myself in almost complete agreement with Trump’s supporters about one thing — the media is painting a distorted picture of the candidate. Those clips of Trump saying something outrageous and offensive that have dominated the news for months? You’re seeing about six seconds of perhaps an hour-long talk. The rest of it is all about Trump.

So while the rally resembles a rock show in some aspects, in others it’s akin to being on a long plane flight stuck next to some guy who won’t stop telling you how great he is.

Basically, Trump is not only a boor, he’s a bore, too. From a candidate who got big chunks of America to vote with their middle finger, it’s more than a little disappointing. I slip out a few minutes early with the other people who brought me on this Trumpscapade in order to avoid traffic. Interestingly enough, we’re not the only ones with that idea.

A couple days later, Trump will win a huge victory in the GOP primary in Indiana, Ted Cruz and John Kasich will drop out of the race, and Trump will become the Republican’s de facto candidate for president. As I write this, the media is running countless clips of Republican notables — former candidates, advisors, officials, pundits, etc. — earlier in the campaign, all stating that they are certain Donald Trump would not win the party’s nomination. It makes you wonder what the GOP will take from this election year — assuming, of course, they don’t get a president out of it.

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