If there is one word most people can agree on that describes President Donald Trump, it is indefatigable.
Last night, at 11:30—which felt more like 12:30 so soon after the seasonal time change—Air Force One, carrying Trump, his family, and campaign staff, touched down in Grand Rapids, Michigan to a roaring crowd of thousands and thousands of people. It was Campaign 2020’s last political rally heading into Election Day.
Grand Rapids was the last city Trump visited in 2016 the day before his stunning election victory against Hillary Clinton. Vice President Mike Pence, who landed a bit earlier last night, told the crowd he had just talked to the president and said, “You are not going to believe this,” referring to the number of people gathered to hear him and Trump speak.
It was hard to appreciate the size of the crowd, given the size of the airport area and the expanse of the night sky. But you could get a sense, simply by weaving in out and out of the endless crowd of people. It felt like a large sports tournament or a rock concert.
The “doors” officially opened at 7:30, but cars had arrived that afternoon, and by 7:30 the entire perimeter of the Grand Rapids airport was encircled by cars. Those who arrived later parked free in one of the remote airport lots to catch buses to take them to the site near the runway, which by this point looked more like a baseball stadium, filled with bleachers, crowd rails, bright lights, and yes, even more cars.
The night was brisk, and the ground was soggy, but the people trudged through it all, peacefully but excitedly.
It took buses an hour just to enter the site, no more than two miles away. People on the buses were from all walks of life, including some who were voting for the first time and had never attended a political rally. There were women and entire families with school-aged children. Many carried flags and wore MAGA hats.
There were counter-protesters near the airport, but not many. They waved signs, called Trump one name or another, and blurted “Dump Trump” through a megaphone. People have become used to these street protesters, many of whom looked like remnants from the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Again, it was all peaceful. Drivers on their way to the rally basically ignored them.
Once at the site, getting close to Trump was another affair. Lines were hours long because each entrant had to go through a security check, which, of course, was intensive. Cameras with fixed lenses were not allowed, for example. It was outdoors and windy, yet no one seemed to be too concerned about getting sick. Some people wore masks; others didn’t. Not everyone was keeping exactly six feet apart. People were happy and friendly and sort of self-regulated.
Recovering from Lockdowns
This was Michigan, after all, a state that endured one of the strictest lockdowns in the country. Several weeks ago, the state’s Supreme Court ruled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders had been violating the state constitution since April.
The attorney general, herself a member of Whitmer’s Democratic party, announced the fight was over, at least for executive orders. Now the Whitmer administration is restricting people and businesses through the public health code. This week, for example, restaurants (those that have stayed open) now have to take the names of all their patrons, for contact tracing, in the wake of a recent increase in people testing positive for the coronavirus.
This crowd wanted no more of that micromanaging of their lives. Hillary Clinton was no longer the subject of their wrath, but Whitmer. Perhaps this is what most drew people out this night before the election. This was not a crowd in the mood to “go along to get along.” They have been wearying of the top-down orders controlling the details of their lives.
The people gathered at the airport wanted to hear how President Trump was going to protect what is left of their liberty and help prevent government “experts” from running roughshod over people’s lives. Pence told the crowd the “swamp” is so big that it will take another four years to drain it.
When Trump arrived on stage, at midnight, he touched on all the sore spots for the next hour and 15 minutes. COVID, the lockdowns, the Russian collusion hoax, the failed impeachment effort.
But then he turned positive, talking about victories.
One victory didn’t need mentioning at all, because people were well aware of it and amazed. How does a 73-year old man who is recovering from a life-threatening virus have the stamina to speak as energetically as he did after a 14-hour day of campaigning, now in the middle of the night? Younger people in the crowd seemed more tired than this man. What drives the president?
Perhaps it is the victories. Trump listed them, to the crowd’s delight. The success at peace in the Middle East, the ending of American involvement in wars, the death of two of the world’s leading terrorists, the roaring stock market, the expanding job market and its comeback after the lockdowns, the Supreme Court and judicial appointments, enterprise zones, prison reform, school choice, protection of religious liberty and of the unborn, and protection of our Second Amendment rights.
Trump introduced and thanked his family. He singled out Republicans up for election, businessmen and combat veterans, John James for U.S. Senate, Peter Meijer for Congress to replace retiring Rep. Justin Amash, and, for reelection, Rep. Wayne Huizinga.
Trump also acknowledged the presence in the crowd of rocker Ted Nugent and rapper Lil Pump, inviting the latter onstage.
“I come here to stay. I appreciate all you have done for the country, bringing the troops home. MAGA 20-20-20! Don’t forget that!” said the musician. The crowd roared its assent.
The entire event was vintage Trump—Trump talking to the crowd with the intimacy of a fireside chat, engaging in ad-libs, and plenty of humor. He pointed to the “fake media” covering his campaign, and then after showing a video of Joe Biden bloopers, Trump stated it would be too embarrassing “to lose to that guy.”
Trump said he drew 40,000 people to a rally last weekend in Florida. At the 2016 rally in Grand Rapids, he brought in 20,000. This crowd seemed larger, but the size of the venue makes it difficult to confirm. What was measurable was the passion of his supporters. Joe Biden’s last visit to the area was on October 3, the weekend Trump was in the hospital with COVID-19. There was no crowd, and in fact, few people even realized he was in town.
Michigan will truly be a test. The polls close at 8 pm. Eastern time, and tens of thousands of ballots have already been sent in by mail. Trump won the state by 10,704 votes in 2016.
This time, Trump urged the crowd to give him a little more slack, and his supporters were primed to deliver. “Four more years! Four more years!” they roared.
(photo courtesy Isabelle Schieber)