At just after midnight on Tuesday, Donald Trump embarked on his final raucous rally of his unprecedented presidential campaign — and pleaded with voters to make the day the US’ “independence day.”
Hitting on many of the themes common throughout the hundreds of prior Trump rallies, the Republican nominee bellowed to a packed, late-night audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan, early Tuesday morning — Election Day — that “today is our Independence Day.”
“Today the American working class is going to strike back,” he said, adding disbelief throughout the rally that the day had arrived, at last. “The election is now, the election is now. Can you believe it? It’s today.”
The Manhattan billionaire said there was “no place” he’d rather be for his grand finalè of a rally than Michigan. He guaranteed a win later Tuesday night, outlining the next step for his historic political movement.
“It’s going to be the very beginning of a new adventure,” he said. “The new adventure is making America great again. We’re going to do it.”
The final rally was the culmination of what became the hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign — the free-flowing, off-the-cuff rallies in front of thousands of supporters.
Perhaps no element of the Trump candidacy sparked more news, more controversy, and more fandom for Trump than his wild rallies. For much of the primary season, he would simply go on stage and speak with little or no script, often for more than an hour. Even after adding a teleprompter, he still frequently went off script, making statements that overshadowed his speech.
It was at his rallies that he labelled Sen. Marco Rubio as “Liddle Marco,” Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted,” former Gov. Jeb Bush as “low energy,” and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary.”
He pulled stunts such as spraying a water bottle to mock Rubio, pretending to shoot a belt buckle in referencing the backstory of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, and he even giving out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number out on stage.
During his late-night Michigan speech, he made sure to give a hat tip to all of those he savaged along his way to his party’s nomination and throughout his subsequent quest toward the Oval Office.
“It’s hard to believe,” Trump said. “We started a year and a half ago. We started with 17 people. Very talented. Senators. Governors. Dr. Ben Carson … And now we have one flawed candidate left to beat.”
It was during his rallies that he would make his most pointed statements on his chief policy items. He painted them in as extreme a light as he possibly could, riling up the massive crowds in the process.
He called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a landmark free-trade agreement supported by the Obama administration, the continuing “rape of our country.” He proclaimed that “Mexico will pay for the wall” he will build along the southern border of the US. And he announced in December one of the most controversial proposals of his campaign — one to bar Muslims from entering the country “until we can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Tuesday was no exception.
“I just want to ask you one question here at 1 a.m.,” Trump said. “Who is going to pay for the wall?”
“Mexico!” the crowd roared back.
“100%,” Trump said in response. “They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay.”
Chants of “build that wall” had already broken out.
“We will suspend the Syrian refugee program,” Trump continued. “And we will keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country. 100%. We have no choice. We have no choice. But we all have big hearts, and we’ll build safe havens in Syria.”
And he torched trade, too, in the Rust Belt state, blasting NAFTA and the TPP. He promised to come back to Michigan during his presidency “every time we open up a new factory or automobile plant.”
I’ll “stop the jobs from leaving the US, and stop the jobs from leaving Michigan,” he promised. “That I can tell you, 100%.”
“Now the cars are made in Mexico, and you can’t drink the damn water in Flint,” Trump continued. “What the hell?!”
Another all-too-common theme of the Trump rally was his frequent lambasting of the press, whether it was calling them “dishonest,” “scum,” or “low-lifes” — or calling reporters out by name.
There were too many examples to rehash, but he once mocked them for claiming that he “loves” deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Last month, he promised to sue all of the women who went to the press he deemed as “disgusting” to accuse him of making unwanted sexual advances. On cue, he saved some vitriol for his final rally.
“The world’s most dishonest people,” he said of the media, adding “they’re not happy” with his success.
“They’re saying, ‘What is going on?” he said.
Often hand-in-hand with his commonly used lines about the media were his complaints that they did not show the size of the crowds at his rally.
“Isn’t it too bad that the corrupt media doesn’t show the crowds!” he said, adding that the press will “say ‘Donald Trump is speaking before a crowd of people.’ Ugh, these people are the worst.”
And the crowd booed the media as Trump painted them as the enemy. At previous recent rallies, attendees have responded with chants that “CNN sucks,” which joined the more common “build that wall” and “lock her up” chants.
Tuesday, they joined in unison with Trump in his latest rally cry: “Drain the swamp.”
Draining the swamp, as Trump describes it, is lock-step with his claims of a “rigged” system, such as when he felt the primary was being taken from him, the general election would be “stolen,” or when he believed the FBI and Justice Department were “protecting” Clinton amid the investigation surrounding her use of a private email server.
And on that final note, he doubled down again early Tuesday morning.
“She is being protected by a totally rigged system,” he said. “She’s been protected by a rigged system for so long.”
There are seemingly countless other themes and tropes from Trump’s events that were continuing news stories in and of themselves. The wild opening acts. The fights that broke out. Even the playlist that preceded and followed Trump. Top Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich even suggested to Politico recently that the rallies could continue if Trump doesn’t win on Tuesday night.
That thought was not present in the convention hall in the early hours of the morning.
“Let me just tell you, if we don’t win, this will be the single greatest waste of time energy and money in my life,” he said, a line he’s repeated many times before. “We have to win. To do what we want to do, we have to win. We can’t just have something that looks good in the history books in 30 years.”
Then, at just after 1 a.m., he made his last appeal to America.
“To all Americans tonight in all of our cities and all of our towns, I pledge to you one more time, together, we will make America wealthy again. We will make America strong again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again,” he said.
Then he added a new instruction.
“Go to bed!” he insisted of his audience, his final words from a presidential campaign rally. “Go to bed right now! Get up and vote!”
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