Keep an eye on Donald Trump Jr. He’s much savvier than his dad. I know that doesn’t set the bar very high but Junior speaks in complete sentences, isn’t quite as vitriolic, he connected with his audience and isn’t bad looking. Some of the younger women in the crowd were definitely swooning.
That’s one takeaway from my afternoon in Hamilton, where Junior stumped for congressional candidate Greg Gianforte. Sen. Steve Daines was there, too, but he was just the warm-up act.
It appears Junior has been bitten by the political bug and why not? Watching his entirely unqualified father get elected to the highest office in the world could prove mighty tempting to this political neophyte. A Trump dynasty in the making?
Here are few things Junior talked about:
He took swipes at Gianforte’s opponent, Rob Quist. Quist, he said, is going to turn Montana into a “Sanctuary State.”
“Boo, boo,” roared the crowd.
I don’t recall Quist ever promoting Montana as a Sanctuary State. Must be that the “liberal media elites” who produce the “fake news” — Junior referred to both in his speech — haven’t reported on this factoid.
Junior was also shocked that Montana would run an “anti-gun” candidate against Gianforte.
Again, “Boo, boo.”
(Gianforte had primed the audience earlier, saying Quist wanted to register guns and “registration was the first step to confiscation.”)
Junior also alluded to big, New York money supporting the Quist campaign — money from the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and from the supporters of Nancy Pelosi; two of the most hated people in Rightwing World, after Barack Obama.
He went on to praise all the accomplishments his father had achieved while in office, although he only mentioned two: getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and lobbing fifty-some missiles into Syria.
“America’s back!” he said, and although he wasn’t opposed to helping other nations, “We need to take care of our own people first!”
The crowd ate it up and, I have to say, Junior played them like a finely-tuned Stradivarius. He mentioned his love of fishing, hunting and the outdoors. He talked about the “real, rural America” and how it was “great to be here” and if given the choice of attending a rally in New York or one in Montana, he’d choose Montana every time.
It was “real Americans” who were at this event and they related to his father because “he says what all of you are thinking.”
On to Gianforte’s speech. It was much shorter than Junior’s and received a tepid response in comparison. Obviously, folks were there to see Junior and not Gianforte.
As mentioned, the Second Amendment ruled the day. He trotted out remnants from a line I remember Brian Schweitzer using in his campaign for governor. Responding to a question from some reporter “back East” who asked about how many guns Gianforte had: “never enough” and though he counted “a dozen,” he was “still shopping.”
Gianforte borrowed another line from the Democrats: “Keep public lands in public hands,” and brought up the prairie dog hunt scheduled for Junior and himself: “It’s a lot of fun.”
A couple other recurring themes were “draining the swamp” and “repeal and replace.”
“Draining the swamp” is a particularly entertaining line considering this recent story from ABC news:
A record-breaking $107 million poured in for President Trump’s inauguration celebration from corporate giants, business titans and a roster of NFL owners, raising new questions about the influence of money in politics.
That, and the fact the Trump cabinet has a net worth of somewhere between $6 and $13 billion, or greater than the world’s 70 smallest countries. Oh, and Trump’s gift to Wall Street yesterday in the form of executive orders gutting Dodd-Frank financial regulations.
As to the “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, so far the Republicans seem to be spinning their wheels. Gianforte did say his opponent wanted “100 percent government funded health care,” which got one of the stronger reactions during his speech.
Daines was the vestigial organ when it came to the rally. His speech lasted maybe five minutes with the only memorable line being, “I’m thankful everyday for President Donald J. Trump.”
Which was the other leitmotif: singing the praises of Trump Sr. One would expect that from Junior but Daines’ and Gianforte’s fawning is a reversal from last year’s campaign season. I’m guessing that Trump’s 20 point win over Hillary Clinton in Montana last November might have something to do with this change of heart.
Some other observations:
The crowd at the rally numbered maybe 600, although it was hard to get a total at this particular venue. About 150 protesters were at the gates of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.
The rally began with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, which I’ve also seen at Democratic Party functions, although never with the end of the prayer thanking the Lord for putting “a Godly family in the White House.”
All-in-all, it was a civil affair and for that, I thank Montanans of all stripes. Having viewed some of the Trump pre-election rallies, I feared the worst. But Junior isn’t quite as polemic as his father and Montana Trump supporters seem less belligerent than their counterparts around the country.
Things could have gotten out of hand at the close of the rally as Trump supporters, en masse, filed out in very close proximity to the protesters. Law enforcement, not being used to a protest this size in Hamilton, ever, failed to set up any kind of buffer.
Sure, there were a few middle fingers waving out of vehicle windows as they passed by the protesters but that was about it. One or two of the protesters were getting in the faces of folks filing out, shouting and shoving their signs uncomfortably close to people. (Note: this does not advance your cause!)
Most of the interactions between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces were pleasant enough, though. I had a nice conversation after the event with one of the rally attendees on the merits of diesel versus gas engines in various Dodge pickups.
What’s disappointing, though, is that rally goers really believe Gianforte is going to “drain the swamp” or “keep public lands in public hands,” that Republicans have a solution to the health care crisis, that Rob Quist is going to take away their guns or Trump is really a Godly man. I don’t believe that those in attendance were white supremacists, or even anti-gay or anti-woman — women made up about 40 percent of the crowd — but the cheap sound bites and the message of fear can be motivating. And because of that, unless there were a lot of millionaires in the audience, they’re going to vote against their own self interest.