By Eve McInerney
INDIANA — Friday, Oct. 21, was the beginning of a weekend which saw both presidential candidates visit Pennsylvania. This is one of the most important swing states in the election, and they came to fight for undecided voters. It was on this day that I traveled to Johnstown, to attend a rally for Donald Trump.
On my journey into Johnstown I was struck by the human landscape, dominated as it was by derelict factories, and by artifacts showing the mining history of this fascinating city. It felt like taking a step into a museum of America’s proud industrial past. It also felt like a city which was stuck in time, still trying to find its place in the 21st century economy.
Johnstown was in many ways the perfect place to witness Donald Trump, a man who has undoubtedly appealed to the victims of American deindustrialization and of globalization. His appeals to forestall the export of American industrial jobs must have been music to the ears of the people of Flood City.
I joined a line of thousands of devoted Trump supporters outside the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. After queuing for around a half hour, I made my way through security and into the arena to take my seat.
The people in the crowd were welcoming. Many of those I spoke to inside the stadium were remarkably friendly in their interactions. The atmosphere was relaxed at first. But as the next hour would show, this was the calm before the storm.
After several warm-up speakers shared personal stories relating to Johnstown and made their case for a Trump presidency, all members of the crowd placed their right hands over their hearts and pledged allegiance to the American flag.
As Trump made his way onto the podium, the crowd was lifted from their seats in a state of rapture at the appearance of the man who they seemed to see as the answer to all the problems in their lives.
TRUMP LAUNCHED INTO his customary tirade against U.S foreign policy, the presidency of Barack Obama, Mexican immigrants and the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Every person in my vicinity joined in for the chorus of chants — “Lock her up,” “Build the wall,” “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
An atmosphere of hostility, anger, and (I think it’s fair to say) hatred had infiltrated the arena from the moment of Trump’s introduction. But the targets of Trump’s next attack were a little closer to the physical action than Obama and Clinton. It was at this point that all of the built up anger in the arena of more than 6,000 people was directed at the traveling press, who were situated in the center of the room.
This incident demonstrated, more than any other, the ability of this demagogue to mobilize his crowd. They booed and screamed at the relatively small group of journalists and members of the media – young professionals were only there doing their job, which is to protect the public from misinformation and to hold politicians accountable.
In his closing remarks, Trump stated, “We will win, we will shock the world, this is going to be Brexit plus, Brexit plus.”
SHOULD TRUMP manage to pull off a remarkable victory on Nov. 8, the world will be truly shocked. The United States has led the world for more than 100 years, providing an example of a stable democracy and of a nation fighting for progress and for protection of countries around the world. The result of a Trump victory will surely mark an end to the United States as we know it, and the instability which will result from this will likely shock the international world to its core.
Witnessing the transformation of seemingly kind and civil members of society into impassioned and hysterical followers of a cult-like leader was a fascinating experience. While we should not characterise his supporters as fundamentally immoral, this rally has shown me that the political methods Trump employs bring out the worst in his followers.
Eve McInerney, a junior political science major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is an exchange student from Canterbury, England.