By Logan Rader, Political Columnist—
The “Make America Great Again” rally held on Nov. 4 in McKenzie Arena centered around garnering support for Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were joined by several other public officials on Sunday to vocalize the importance of the Midterm elections this year, as well as emphasize that a vote for Republicans is a vote for “results,” as Pence exclaimed to thousands of supporters.
Not only were Republican supporters in attendance, but the rally also warranted protests, national and local media coverage, and the intrigue of left-leaning constituents. That gnawing civic interest led to my attendance.
As someone who has voted in favor of Democrats for every election I have been an eligible voter, my goal was not to fester in disdain or search for positions to oppose. My hope was to attain a firsthand experience of the current state of our politics as an observer.
The line to gain access to the arena was filled with innumerable excited supporters, and it stretched to the intersection of East 5th and Douglas when I took my place in it. As the line moved, one would pass numerous vendors selling Trump merchandise, including MAGA hats – which sold at $5, $10, or $15 depending on who was selling them.
Other items of interest were shirts on which the name “Donald Trump,” interrupted with an enthusiastic profanity too colorful for print, was inscribed. “Kicking ass and taking names” was written on the back. This shirt was sold by two African-American individuals who spoke of being proud to be black and supporters of President Trump.
While this sentiment was well received by those who attended, the overwhelming majority of the crowd consisted of Trump’s base: older whites.
The protestors at the rally were in close-quarters with the line for the rally, organized behind barricades a mere street’s width away. Their chants and talking points, including pro-choice rhetoric and accusations of overt racism in the Republican Party, were met with pushback from Trump supporters in line.
“You kill babies, you kill babies,” shouted an elderly woman in front of me.
Among the rhetoric appeared multiple known conspiracies that have made headway in the political mainstream. “Soros is funding this,” speculated one attendee, referring to a widely shared theory that Democratic super-donor George Soros is providing financial resources to insurgent acts and even the caravan, which was over 800 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border at the time of the rally.
As the day went on, the rally progressed as expected. Backers of Donald Trump gathered to show their level of civic support for both the President and Republicans in general while also seizing the special opportunity to see President Trump. Supporters and opposition from all around the region were politically engaged on that day.
For those that lament the present state of American politics, let it be noted that the rally was civil. From my perspective, there were no unusually outrageous altercations or events that garnered my attention away from the rally as a whole. Anyone I had the pleasure of directly speaking to did so with respect and dignity.
The meaning of the word “civil,” however, has changed.
If you viewed any social media platform in the months leading to the Midterms, it is certain that there was widespread coverage of the extraordinary statements made at these rallies. The discussion surrounding politics in the country has shifted dramatically.
Anything from suggestions to deny criminal offenders due process, to mocking disabled veterans and female reporters on live television have taken the reins of discourse in America. All of this is amplified on the world stage.
Along with Trump came an unabashed and unapologetic political attitude which can be summed up in two words: anything goes. After daily remarks that would have been deemed inappropriate before Donald Trump’s election, the ideological wiggle room has widened for claims such as this.
Republicans have remained incredibly silent on the president’s statements, and Democrats are more vocal than they have been in a long time. The latter’s resistance has constantly drawn criticism from both the former and the president alike, whereas anything goes for the current Republican Party’s tactics, and any critique from the so-called “Radical Left” is met with chants and cheers of “fake news.”
As hard as it might be to believe, this is not a rebuke of President Trump, his supporters, or the entire Republican Party. The motive of this article is hope.
There is respect to be rediscovered in the political realm, and each American has a responsibility to ensure it is manifested, regardless of partisan ties. While one might disagree with the Trump agenda, it is a mistake to act as if he and his party are not legitimate legislators and policymakers. Supporters of his, and Trump himself, might have legislative advantage, but disregarding opposing viewpoints as “fake” solely due to party affiliation is deconstructive and antithetical to civil progress, especially when doing so contains no basis in reality.
One can hope that a positive change in political discussion will come from the top, but civility starts with grass roots.