Twitter page for more pics.)
Take this guy, for example. I didn't get to talk to him, but he was all too eager to have his picture taken. He looks reasonable enough, but what's his message, send Hillary Clinton to jail? (I saw this sentiment a lot on the Trump side.) For what? The tragedy of Benghazi? Really? Are they still on that? The email "scandal"? Again, really? Does the right wing really believe that was a criminal act?
And I really wish I had gotten a full shot of his t-shirt. As you can see, it shows President Obama in a Mao cap with some caption about his being a "Marxist." Really? I see a guy who's governed from the center-left and done his very best to try to work with a scorched-earth, obstructionist Republican Congress.
(It was actually kind of an odd choice for a Trump rally. The Near West Side, and UIC in particular, is very diverse. We have a couple of young guys who work for our non-profit -- one who grew up partly in Mexico and one whose family I think is from Nigeria -- who both told us, in no uncertain terms, that they didn't want to be anywhere near Donald Trump. Did the Donald plan on speaking in hostile territory, or was the Pavilion just available? I don't know, but I would have thought somewhere like the Allstate Arena in the northwest suburbs would have been a more logical choice.)
I've known several Republicans over the years (some who are actually related to me) who can't for the life of them understand why anyone would think the GOP is a racist party. I had one friend in particular tell me there was "absolutely no evidence, no evidence at all" for the charge. He even pointed to a couple of African American friends who were Republicans.
And what I try to tell my Republican friends is that it doesn't matter whether or not they think their party is racist. Because the fact is that overwhelming numbers of blacks and Hispanics suspect it is and vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
(I told somebody once that if you think someone doesn't like you, you're probably right. People are good at that.)
As for the actual tick-tock on Friday, I walked my dog, Stewart, over to the UIC Pavilion on my lunch break. (It's only a few blocks from my house.) The first people I encountered were a small group of protesters on the southwest corner of Racine and Harrison. I talked to them briefly and then walked over to the line for admission which was already beginning to form at around noon. (The rally was scheduled for six o'clock; doors wouldn't open until three.)
I realized at that point that I probably wouldn't get into the rally. The Trump campaign, I had been told, had issued about 40,000 tickets for an arena that seats 9,500. I think the reason is three-fold. First, Trump can brag that there are "thousands of people outside who want to get in." Second, the campaign gets your email address. (They've already reminded me to vote; how long before they ask for a contribution?) And, third, someone told me they issue so many tickets because protesters have been taking them and not showing up.
But I knew I wasn't going to wait in line for hours and hours to hear a speech I've already heard on TV many times. I'd love to get a first-hand look at the crowd, but not at any price.
So I walked Stewart around for a while, and, I have to say, both the Trump supporters and the protesters were pleasant people to talk to.
I repeated this exercise after work, at about one-thirty or so, and had pretty much the same experience, but the crowd was still small. At about four-thirty my wife asked what we should do and we decided to walk over and check it out again.
The crowd was much larger by then, of course, and the line for admission stretched well around the block. Julie suggested I get in line, and I walked and walked -- and walked -- around the block until I found the end. At that point, at the corner of Morgan and Harrison (if you can picture where that is), I walked past some cops to find the end of the line.
But then it hit me.
I now found myself walking a gauntlet between the protesters to my left and the Trump supporters in line on my right. And I looked to my left and thought, No, I'm not one of these people. The thought of them thinking I was a Trump supporter (and therefore a racist) was just too much for me. And so I stopped, turned around, and went back and joined the side of the protesters. I just thought to myself that there are certain times in your life when you are called upon to stand up and be counted. And I didn't want to be counted on the side of Trump. I wanted to be seen as on the side of America that says we all belong here and we all have to get along somehow and make this thing work for everyone.
I found my wife and we tried to take in the spectacle around us. It was hard, though, at ground level, to see exactly what the heck was going on. (Although I will say the cops were great -- no complaints there.) In hindsight, I wish I had climbed up to the top floor of the parking garage for a better view. Oh, well, like I said, there was a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, a lot of anger on both sides Friday night. And I thought, there are essentially four groups in this election: the Trump supporters, the #NeverTrump Republicans, the Hillary supporters (like me) and those Feeling the Bern. And, come November, there are going to be three groups that are really unhappy that they lost. What happens then? I don't know.
At around six o'clock we were both starting to get a little cold, hungry and tired. Just then, like a deus ex machina, Julie received a text from a friend telling us to meet him at Tufano's. Before you could say "eggplant parm" we were sitting in the front room eating calamari and nursing a couple of beers. Our friends joined us and we learned the rally had been called off. Thank God I hadn't waited in line hours and hours for nothing!
Dinner was good, though.