Donald Trump’s Spell Hasn’t Worn Off—And It Might Never
His rapturous show kept fans enthralled on Saturday night as the populist hero came to speak to his people.
HARRISBURG, PA—Towards the end of a nearly hour-long speech on Saturday night, the President of the United States read a 266-word sonnet by Al Wilson called “The Snake.”
It was a callback for the truest believers to a simpler time—the day-in, day-out grind of the 2016 presidential campaign where Donald Trump beat the pundits and the lying, rotten fake news media and appeared in front of hordes of fans desperate to chant the token mantras: “build that wall!” and “lock her up!”
“‘Take me in tender woman, take me in, for heaven's sake,’” the president yelled at the Pennsylvania Farm Complex and Expo Center. “‘Take me in, tender woman,’ sighed the vicious snake.”
This iteration of the campaign-show favorite was dedicated, as Trump put it, to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. If the subtext wasn’t evident enough, it’s about the deceptive nature of immigrants and the risk that they pose to the security of the United States. And if you’re inclined to believe so, it could be about the president himself.
Donald Trump has been president now for 100 days, and in that time he has had two travel bans blocked by the court system, failed to deliver on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and not started building the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s a short timeframe, but until recently, it was the one upon which Trump was basing his successes.
But none of this was particularly relevant, because the fake news media had done a bad job accurately portraying the freshman politician’s methods of running a country and Trump was there to preach the message on the mountain—straight from his lips so it wouldn’t be twisted by CNN and MSNBC.
“Let’s rate the media’s 100 days,” Trump said at one point, and the greek chorus yelled to the rafters with chants of “CNN sucks!” (Of course, during the course of this past week, Trump granted interviews to a horde of major news outlets to discuss the first few months of his presidency).
“Their priorities are not my priorities, and not your priorities,” Trump said. “If the media’s job is to be honest and tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade.”
But if you’re in Harrisburg on a Saturday night to see the president you voted for, you already know that. The writing was literally on the wall—emblazoned on a blue curtain from which Trump emerged like the Wizard of Oz was the declaration “PROMISES MADE. PROMISES KEPT.”
Trump cleverly chose to appear in one of the states that clinched him the election on the night of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The point was not lost on him, or the crowd, that the elites were mocking him and partying in the swamp of D.C. while he was here with the adoring masses.
“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom,” Trump gleefully described the event at which he was embarrassed, perhaps enough into running for president, during Obama’s first term. It was a masterful pitch, effective in reinvigorating the made-for-TV brand of populism that keeps Trump’s supporters enthralled.
As a metric of its success, a man in a cowboy hat and jorts patrolled the grounds before Trump arrived with an effective summation of the night’s proceedings to come. “My President Skipped the Dinner To Give Us Our Dessert,” the sign, which was being signed in marker by anyone who was interested, read.
And everyone was eating it up.
The phenomenon of a Trump rally is its collapsing of the space-time continuum. It’s timeless and timely with the recitations of the old themes—“does anyone remember who our opponent was?”—and the introduction of the new material—“Senator Schumer is a bad leader.”
Within these spaces, Trump is largely impervious to criticism. His failures are the faults of the Democrats and Republicans who won’t cooperate with him, and his successes are the result of a unique businessman’s approach to the presidency.
“What Donald Trump really is is an independent president, if you will, for lack of a better term hijacking the Republican Party,” Michael Avila, a Trump voter from New York City, told The Daily Beast. “Which I think is a good thing.”
“I think he needs to get rid of Paul Ryan somehow, someway,” Avila added. “I think he’s a big issue.”
For Edward X. Young, a 57-year-old actor from New Jersey, sporting an assortment of buttons including pictures of the president and his wife, Trump achieved a great deal in the first 100 days considering the “quasi-Marxist Democratic party” he had to work with.
His one major issue was that Trump didn’t fulfill the campaign promise of putting Hillary Clinton in jail.
“She’s behind the Resistance,” Young told The Daily Beast, referring to Clinton. Trump “should prosecute her and put her and her lousy husband behind bars, and her daughter too.”
Everything else was mostly peachy to Young—especially the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
“The last time a new Supreme Court Justice was confirmed, in the first 100 days, was 136 years ago in 1881,” Trump proudly proclaimed at one point. “And I was devastated to hear that because I thought I’d be the only one to have done that.”
He’s right on the numbers and the significance (Chester Arthur was the last to do it in that timeframe), but it’s one of those Trumpian anecdotes that misconstrues a rare opportunity that few presidents get as a massive single-handed achievement.
Yet it plays for the cameras and it plays for the audience that hates the cameras. And on the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency on a balmy night in Harrisburg, more than 100 miles away from the grind of his daily job, that’s all that really mattered.
“It is truly great to be back in the wonderful, beautiful state of Pennsylvania,” Trump said to the fans. They all seemed to agree—the mothers of active service members, actors, bikers and even a few skinheads who came down to celebrate the fact that they had taken the country back from the clutches of the elites who had failed them.
It was a country now where you could wear a Pepe the Frog mask and wave a flag representing the fictitious 4chan-generated Kekistan on the lawn where a president just spoke.
And it’s never going to be the same. Even after police on horseback chased Pepe off the lawn and into the night.