Trump takes Texas

How often do any of us have the opportunity to hear a Republican or Democratic presidential candidate in person? For most it’s a lifetime experience. So on a Wednesday evening, when we heard that Donald Trump was to speak in The Woodlands, Texas on Friday, June 17, we hit the internet running, looking for information. Amazingly we were allocated tickets to attend the rally at the Marriott Hotel Conference Center in The Woodlands.

So Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the 90 degree plus heat (add in a bit of Texas humidity) we joined the spirited and enthusiastic crowd of people waiting to get inside. The lines were already thick with families and friends: the mood excited and politically-charged. Hawkers with posters, buttons, hats and bottled water pushed their carts by us adding to the charged atmosphere. Police on motorcycles and in cars drove by in intervals, a few escorting couple of limousines. Now that’s political clout.

At first those standing around us seemed hesitant to express political views, but that changed quickly. They were here to see Trump, support him. A group of grad students, pre law, stood behind us. They told me that Trump had excited the political process and they wanted to be part of this historical movement. Their former high school friends and fraternity brothers were on board too. Behind them was a couple, he a former union contractor and she an accountant; they had moved from Chicago to Texas for a better life in Texas (not just to leave the snow). He couldn’t stop talking about Trump’s virtues.

A couple moved from Virginia with their grandchildren. “These are historic times. Our grandchildren need to be part of this. We have to turn our nation around, otherwise we’re going to lose it.” A woman moved from Michigan agreed. Heads nodded in unison.

The doors opened at 4 p.m. for the 7 p.m. speech. Slowly the line began moving. No hecklers, around, just Trump supporters and lots of police presence. When we finally passed through security, we entered a huge room and quickly realized the absence of chairs. We blended into a crowd of waiting supporters and found our floor seats. Amazingly, I didn’t see anyone leave or complain. We found out later, that the addition of chairs or bleachers reduces the number of people by 40 percent. Without chairs the organizers were able to allow somewhere between 5,000-6,000 people inside, and still many were turned away.

So with stiff legs and sore backs, we waited for Trump. I noticed signs around me, The Silent Majority, Chinese-Americans for Trump, Gays for Trump, Women for Trump, Hispanics for Trump and of course Veterans for Trump. Every once in a while a Trump-Trump-Trump chant broke out. The mix of people was surprising given what main-stream media has been promoting. This wasn’t an uneducated crowd. Here were youth, those in their twenties and thirties, veterans, families with children, grandchildren, every cross-section of Americana. I was impressed.

An hour late, Trump arrived finally and immediately began stirring the crowd with his words and promise to make America Great Again. He spoke with a confidence and conviction that was reassuring, tapping into a seam of America consciousness that I’ve never heard before. He addressed the issues that make up his platform and did so with passion (I won’t attempt to summarize them here) and the crowd was with him all the way.

“We can make America Great Again.”

The lights brighten, signaling the end of the rally and I have to admit, I would have liked to have heard more, but it was time to leave. Most of the crowd dispersed quickly through the front entrances. We passed by a barricaded section of protesters, some waving signs (many with misspelled words) but without verbal confrontation. They seemed rather docile, not what I expected. Later we learned that one man had been arrested at a parking garage supposedly carrying a pistol but he was released. We saw the reporters internet interview later with the young, African-American man, who sported a trump t-shirt and said, “Trump for president. He’ll make America great again.” So much for misleading head-lines.

We headed for an Irish bar in this up-scale neighborhood, ordered a couple of cold ones and discussed what we had heard and seen. We felt part of something, witnesses to a movement. Whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, his message, his style has unnerved the status quo. The Trump phenomenon might be the new normal.