McQuiston: Trump Attraction

Jan 18, 2016

Yes. I had a ticket to the Trump event at the Flynn. I wanted a close look at the candidate who’s led the Republican presidential hopefuls in polling pretty much since he entered the race.

But the line was very long, and I needed not only a ticket, but to pledge allegiance to Mr. Trump as well. Several people prevaricated just to get in and some of them were forced to leave after voicing their disapproval of the candidate.

The vast majority of those in line, in my casual canvassing, were pro-Trump, but there was no jousting among them, their opponents or the merely curious who were also in line. Even those who’d been waiting hours were civil. The crowds standing and chanting in opposition to him across from the Flynn were pretty well mannered too, considering the robustness of their political proclivities.

I could follow the television feed from inside the Flynn on my iPhone. Those inside enjoyed songs like “Memory” from the musical “Cats” and “Hey Jude” from the Beatles.

Even after Trump began speaking in his now familiar style, his supporters outside were still clearly happy to get in.

Bernie Sanders supporters were also out in force and offered a different message and different music. There was significant police presence, but the crowds were much smaller than officials had feared.

Curiously, I didn’t see any people of color on either side of the ropes. This is Vermont, of course, but the apparent absence of blacks, Asians or Latinos felt odd – like this was mostly a fight for the hearts and souls of white people – and while there were many young men in line for Trump there were very few young women.

It's interesting that just a few hours before Trump came to town there’d been another political event in Vermont: Governor Shumlin's state of the state address. State House security was tighter than at any time in my memory and perhaps at any time in the state’s history.

Last year, remember, Shumlin's inauguration was disrupted by protesters and since then the world has otherwise become a more fearful place.

But Shumlin's speech received its biggest applause and two standing ovations when he spoke about his and Vermont's support for Syrian refugees, while Trump has become a conservative populist hero by taking the completely opposite view.

And if Trump’s anti-refugee rhetoric has found an ear even here, one not to be shouted down or laughed off, perhaps we’d better try to understand why it’s become so meaningful to so many.