I went to a Trump rally. And it challenged my expectations.

Crowds line up outside Century II for the Trump rally on Saturday, March 5.

Crowds line up outside Century II for the Trump rally on Saturday, March 5.

Emily Dulohery, Design Editor

Every so often, a person comes into the public eye who is so unusual that we can’t help but stare. Sometimes, it’s for purposefully brazen statements, designed to draw attention (Lady Gaga comes to mind), and sometimes the spectacle is simply a way of life we cannot understand.

It seemed to me that the reason for Donald Trump’s continuing momentum in the presidential race was some combination of the two: his provocative proposals stand out amidst the (somewhat) carefully considered plans for gradual change that seem to constitute many campaign platforms, and his loudmouthed, flashy, frequently rude nature makes him a source of entertainment in the political arena. People watch him because they are shocked by him, because they do not understand him.

So, when I joined the line of thousands waiting to hear him speak in person, I was not surprised to see protesters in the dozens, wielding signs that read “Stop the Hate” and “No Racism, No Trump.” One girl among a group of Bernie Sanders supporters tirelessly asked every person in line why they were there — any response indicating support for Trump yielded a rapid volley of questions, most of which began with “Why?” I felt inclined to shout along with them, to call out the injustices I’d observed from debate clips and Twitter screenshots, even as I attempted to maintain an objective view of the events before me.

Still, I was stunned to see masses of people who genuinely support this man as a candidate for the highest office in the land. Poll numbers repeatedly show his popularity, and ten states have chosen him over the other Republican candidates, but no piece of evidence could have prepared me for the sight of such overwhelming support, and from such a wide demographic of people.

I’d pictured most Trump patrons as people very similar to him: people who speak their opinions loudly, without regard for what other people think; people who call to mind words such as “tacky”, “rude”, and “uneducated”; people who are, for the most part, older and white. But I was wrong. And I was guilty of the same stereotyping that makes so many people seethe with anger at Trump’s words.

There certainly wasn’t a shortage of those people I’d pictured — many sported t-shirts, hats, and buttons emblazoned with his grinning face and his directive to “Make America Great Again.” But what I hadn’t foreseen was the quiet old man who proudly showed a security guard a picture of him and his wife in front of their little blue house, and said that that very picture was what had gotten him a letter back from the “very busy man” he’d sent it to. I hadn’t imagined the young girl who eagerly tugged on her father’s arm and told him “We’re almost there! We’re gonna see Mr. Trump!” as the line inched closer to the door. The young couple dressed for church, the man holding a cardboard sign with “Vietnam Vets for Trump” sharpied on it, the Hispanic family waving and cheering as he came onstage — none of them were part of the mental construct I’d made of “Trump supporters.”

His words still grated on me, and quite apparently on the many others who’d attended the rally with the ulterior motive of shouting their disapproval at crucial moments in his speech. I took it somewhat personally when he asserted that the press are “the most dishonest people in the world, I tell ya!”, citing an incident when a station “beeped out” the end of a sentence even though he’d supposedly said nothing. And I was compelled to cringe and turn away when he boasted that his infamous wall on the U.S.-Mexico border would indeed be funded by the Mexican government, and that it would grow ten feet higher at every protest they’d make, drawing cheers throughout the crowded exhibition hall.

But the disbelief and even contempt I’d felt for his supporters has disappeared, replaced with a feeling of distant understanding. I get why so many people flock to this man who makes his impressions with displays of wealth and power. I get why people cheer at his radical proposals, the ideas that make conservatives and liberals alike stare in disbelief. He’s unashamed of speaking his mind, regardless of how people may receive his words, and people admire him for that.

I still think some of those people are blind to just how dangerous Trump is. I think his loud mouth and brash plans will put this nation in trouble if he gets elected, and his supporters don’t see that. Or maybe they don’t care. But they are free to support whoever they choose, and I see now that they’re not completely unjustified in putting their faith in the reality star-turned-politician. It’s not a smart move in my books, but it’s a move they have the right to make.