One-Ring Circus: Trump’s Theatrics
Let me be frank: I don’t like Donald Trump. I think his xenophobic rhetoric is a danger not only to the millions of Muslims living in this country but also to American interests abroad. I think he is dumbing down the level of discourse in the race to a point that he essentially removes the possibility of voters making rational choices. And I think he is setting a bad precedent in having a candidate make such gains almost exclusively through fear-mongering, thinly veiled hate speech, and negative campaigning. But damn, does he put on a show.
I attended his rally at the Varied Industries building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Friday. The cavernous building was surprisingly empty, but the room was still abuzz with energy. The 1,500 or so attendees represented an interesting mosaic of Iowa voters ranging from the old veteran to the disgruntled youth. What stood out to me most was not the crowd or really even anything Trump said. Instead, it was the theatricality of it all, something that comes naturally to Trump as a celebrity and reality TV star.
Before the event started, the crowd was greeted by a recording detailing what to do in the event of the all-too-common protests. Rather than asking the crowd not to protest, the recording had to instruct the everyone not to beat the protester, too which the crowd responded with painfully genuine laughter. The recoding went on, informing those in attendance that the proper response was to join together in chanting “Trump” until the police escort the protester away. Low and behold, roughly halfway through the event, the protestor rose and began chanting something along the lines of “Trump is a racist.” While the protest did not surprise me, the fact that the protester was seated in the Trump selected seating did make it seem at least potentially staged. Naturally, the crowd went wild.
Later on, during the question-and-answer segment, an audience member had difficulty getting his question out. While it was somewhat hard to listen to, it was not surprising that an average joe would get a little stage fright. Right? Not according to Trump and Tana Goertz, Trump’s Iowa co-chair. Together, they began mocking the man for his struggles, drawing jeers from the crowd. Shortly after, Trump began calling out for Sam Clovis, his other Iowa co-chair, asking Tana where “Big Sam” was. Trump and Goertz worked almost like Jimmy Fallon and Steve Higgins, using one another to set up the next joke. While it’s always good to have a sense of humor, the whole event really seemed set up to keep attention away from policies on a scale I’ve never seen at a political event. Rather than answering questions directly, Trump would point at the camera section and make jokes about how horrible all media is (which drew quite the applause); mock the person asking the question or another candidate; make some weird inside joke with staffer; or, if all else fails, perhaps put someone’s safety in danger by asking them to protest for him. I’m used to politicians trying to dodge questions, but Trump’s theatrics really brings it to a whole new level.
Tunink is a sophomore political science and law, politics, and society major from Waukee, Iowa. He enjoys running on the Drake cross country team and binging on Netflix. Follow him on Twitter.