The Trump rally in the heart of still wealthy Connecticut -- Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, in Connecticut’s uber-rich “Gold Coast” – was hot in both the literal and metaphorical sense.
Five thousand supporters of Donald Trump braving the heat, 100 degrees and climbing, were packed like sardines at the university awaiting the saving word. Trump rallies are political Chautauqua events. What’s a Chautauqua rally without steaming hot crowds, eh? A flop, that’s what.
It is Trump, not the recently defanged Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders, who evokes a William Jennings Bryan excitement in crowds. Dismissed from the Democratic race following an amusingly uneventful Democratic National Convention, Mr. Sanders on cue sheepishly endorsed Hillary Clinton – the Bonnie of the Bonnie and Clyde Clinton Foundation and ambled off. His will be a pleasant exile: Salon will move on; the phone will not ring.
The national media, chronically unable to step in front of its own prejudices, hasn’t quite figured Trump out yet.
Mr. Trump connects with the political “everyman” – the unwashed masses who have not yet succumbed to the irresistible editorials of Eastern Seaboard progressives -- adopting his thought patterns and speech codes that need it be said, are not the thought patterns and speech codes of 99 percent of the editorial boards of major newspapers in the dis-United States. Mr. Trump’s opposite is not, as has been supposed, the boring pin-striped Republican of yore, but the universally disdained “mainstream media” and, of course, incumbent establishment politicians, both Republican and Democrat, who have made a ruin of domestic and foreign policy. Lately, Mr. Trump has identified President Obama as the founder of ISIS, scattering the wits of the usual political TV commentators.
When Mr. Trump paused several times in his stock stump sermon to castigate the establishment media – “Honestly, I’m not running against Crooked Hillary. I’m running against the crooked media” – electric applause rumbled through the crowd. The anti-media rhetoric was red meat thrown to lions.
But what really resonated was the notion that inherent and creaky incumbent power structures are by definition the cause and not the solution to our problems. This is a flag stolen from the iron grip of the journalistic ancien regime.
One “white male” in the crowd was carrying a sign announcing he was an “intelligent college graduate,” – take that New York Times! -- a disappointment no doubt to those who insist Mr. Trump’s support comes from redneck rubes clinging to their Christian God and guns. Another celebrant, Mitch Beck, a 54-year-old executive recruiter from Monroe, summed up the long “winter of our discontent” with remarkable precision: “If Bush [the younger] put the economy in the grave, Obama put the dirt on top of it. I hope Trump has a shovel,” presumably to dig the rest of us out from under the rubble.
The furry and primitive notion of Mr. Trump is that he represents some sort of viral reaction – but to what and for what no one knows. Comparisons with the recently exiled Mr. Sanders persist: Mr. Trump is a populist of rare vintage; he is a herculean outsider come to clean the Augean Stables in Washington DC; like all Caesars, he likes walls; he is either the spear-point of some unknowable advance in human nature, or an imbecile. He stirs ancient prejudices in the governing class. He is a political Pan piping a new tune. He is a future full of frankencense and myrrh. He is Attila at the gates.
Mr. Trump’s overreached: Mr. Obama is not literally the founder of ISIS. But what about Gilbert Chagoury, aLebanese billionaire who contributed $1 billion to the Clinton Foundation? He found that his business endeavors in Nigeria were being hampered by the U.S. State Department’s designation of Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The designation, some think, may have been delayed following Mr. Chagoury’s generous contribution. At best, the politically toxic contribution points to an invitation to corruption that lies at the center of the Clinton Foundation, a private slush fund connecting former Secretary of State Clinton with her own campaign fundraising.
Trump supporters are not imbecilic: They understand perfectly well the difference between a wedding invitation and a wedding, but they also understand that a wedding invitation is a strong indicator that a wedding is at hand.
Mr. Trump speaks their language and shouts in the public arena what politicians whisper in closets – which is why he has a larger and more attentive audience than the editorial board of The New York Times.
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.