Despite satirizing bankers and Reagan-loving bros on Twitter, and writing a book about corruption on Wall Street and the pervasive deviance of the 1%, I’m not terribly political.
But considering how spicy this election cycle has been, when I found out a Trump rally was coming to my city, I had to check it out.
Although traditionally Cruz Country, The Woodlands, Texas (home of ExxonMobil) is a fairly safe space for Trump. Across the street from the rally venue is a Tommy Bahama, Tiffany & Co., Brooks Brothers, and Vineyard Vines, among other aspirational brands -- stores that middle class people think rich people shop at.
Despite a heat advisory, the line started forming at 7 a.m., a solid twelve hours before Trump was due to speak. The atmosphere was upbeat and convivial. One woman had ordered pizzas for the people in line around her.
The law enforcement presence was strong, but not at all tense. Any time a group of officers walked by a crowd of people, they would break out in applause. Other supporters were handing out water to cops, EMTs, and support staff.
There were at least a dozen pop-up vendors. And despite what they say on MSNBC, I didn't see a single Confederate flag.
Morton's Grille (a block away) was like the dining car of the Trump Train -- filled with supporters in 'Make America Great Again' hats and golf shirts.
This kid got a rousing applause when he unveiled his shirt to the crowd.
Despite ignoring numerous traffic laws, these bikers went over and shook the hands of a large group of Texas state troopers nearby
This kid spent hours leading the crowd in various chants, my favourite being, 'Who's gonna pay for the wall?' The crowd yelled back 'Mexico!'
This is probably why the Clinton team has art students in Brooklyn manufacture 'homemade' signs for their supporters
This Bernie supporter made the switch to Trump because 'the system is rigged.'
One woman at the bar told me she didn't have to wait in line because she was 'with the Huntsman's.'
Without any prior arrangements, after a quick introduction to the media team, I was given a press pass and priority access.
The doors opened three hours before the main event. Again, the atmosphere was calm and welcoming. Staffers were looking out for the elderly and infirm, ushering them through the media entrance (along with veterans).
Most people entering the ballroom had the look of an 8-year-old kid going to their first baseball game.
Notwithstanding what I've read about Trump supporters being angry and disenfranchised, there was no anger here. Still, no real sign of protesters.
This woman brought multiple signs that she had made herself to augment the presence of fellow agitators. They seemed to congregate around the TV cameras.
This woman was asked to substantiate her racism claim. It appeared that her talking points consisted primarily of Huffington Post headlines.
What's the correlation coefficient between making great coffee and having ear gauges?
The discourse was mostly civil. Here, a young woman is being challenged on Hillary's foreign policy record.
It's quite rare to see Reddit memes in the wild, especially in Texas.
The crowd was chanting 'U-S-A, U-S-A' or singing along to classics like 'Deep in the Heart of Texas.' Although, at one point, they got confused when Andrea Bocelli came on over the speakers.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick gave one of the introductory speeches. The highlight for me was when he referred to Antonin Scalia as Anthony.
Trump, as expected, gave the crowd exactly what they came for.
Even as Trump was winding down, people were still lining up outside. They knew they weren't getting in, but were just happy to be there.
This woman was selling Trump #45 jerseys. She said she came with 300 and sold out. At $60 apiece, that's $18,000.
Politics aside, I had a lot of fun. It really was inspiring, and I think even a person who doesn't support Trump would have come away with a similar experience.
I met a lot of good, hard-working people of all ages, colours, and tax brackets. The energy level, patriotism, and enthusiasm was far greater than what I had expected or seen from other rallies on TV.
After the rally, Morton's felt like a family dinner. Strangers were mingling, buying each other drinks, and sharing stories. Well, everybody except for this adorable Pentecostal man standing outside condemning Trump and Hillary supporters alike. He said he'll be voting for Jesus.
John LeFevre is the creator of @GSElevator and the author of the New York Times bestselling book and Amazon Book of the Month “
Straight To Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals,” out now in paperback.
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