By Anne Marie Spidahl, Special Correspondent
In the sweltering heat of the Red River Valley, thousands of supporters of the president Donald Trump waited June 27.
The seemingly miles-long line—peppered with the enigmatic, fire-engine-red hats—snaked through and around the trucks and cars packing the Scheel’s Arena parking lot, and the impressive row of port-a-potties set up before it.
The line was made up of many patient, mostly white, and very hot adults sweating and chatting for hours, some who had even camped out overnight. All this for the chance to hear the 45th president speak in his preferred form of in-person public address, and to hear his endorsement of Republican Kevin Cramer for the US Senate seat in a race against incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.
According to police, the crowd was calm, making their work easy. There were, however several ambulances—sirens screaming as they wove through the heavy traffic—called to aid people suffering from heat exhaustion.
While calm, the crowd was also massive: more than one thousand ticket holders were turned away, not able to enter Scheels Arena, which seats over 5,000. Many supporters, who drove in from all over the region, said they had made the trek “to show support for the president.”
A group of friends, who travelled from northwest of Minot, North Dakota identified a few specific reasons for their support including that they find the 45th president to be a “very sharp individual.” As they went on to say: “Nobody’s been able to talk to the Rocket Man for 60 years.”
Another supporter, an elementary school principal and motorcycle enthusiast, shared that he has always been an independent voter, and that he had voted for Obama because of his hopes for a national healthcare solution. He chose to vote for Trump with the belief that he would be able to bring change to the federal government, since, as he put it: “congress is not getting things done.”
Though I identified myself as a resident of nearby Pelican Rapids and shared that I was there reporting on the event for our small weekly paper and immediate community, I did experience some coldness and suspicion at times, including those young men who would not speak to me.
I couldn’t help but wonder if my experience of this attitude might be connected to an infamous element of President Trump’s rallies: his virulent attacks on the honesty and usefulness of popular media for our society and our democracy.
While the crowd of supporters was mostly white, the majority of vendors were African American. I was struck by this contrast, and set out to ask the vendors about their involvement with the event. Those I spoke with were business owners from North and South Carolina, whose screen printing shops produce merchandise promoting the 45th president. Members of their teams travel to each rally to sell their wares, donating a percentage of profits to one of the president’s campaign funds.
One vendor in particular gave me much to be hopeful about. As he put it, the experience with thousands of Americans at rallies in many states is “making me respect America more.” That’s because of the many demonstrations of kindness for one another—and for him—that he’s seen.
Perhaps, then, beyond and despite the rhetoric of any politician, party, class, race or religion, there truly does remain the possibility that we, the citizens of the United States, can share with one another the respect, kindness, and shared freedoms that the constitution aims to protect.