Journey to The Event:
It was a cold December night as I and my fellow journalism partner, Matt, sat in traffic going eastbound on I-94 in Wisconsin. Both of us were anxious, not knowing what to expect because we were on our way to cover President-Elect Donald Trump’s “Thank You Tour” rally in West Allis on December 13. As we approached the Wisconsin State Expo Center, where the event was taking place, the traffic got heavier and more chaotic.
After attempting to take a shortcut that only made our wait longer, we approached the gate and told the woman guarding it that we were media. She looked very confused and asked, “Media?” After explaining for about a minute what we or the media were, Matt yelled out, “the news!” and she told us next gate. After realizing the line to the next gate was too long as we were running out of time, we made the democratic decision to park in a nearby gas station and walk across the street to the Expo Center. In all, it took about an hour to find a place to park.
The Great Outdoors:
We crossed the street in the frigid cold and right at the gate there was a huge group of protesters. Notable chants done by the protesters included, “Can’t build the wall, hands too small,” and “Hey Trump, you bum, go away you Nazi scum.” People attending the rally walked by laughing and yelling “get a job” and “build the wall.” After my phone died and Matt was done filming, we decided to head inside.
We got to the table where the media checks in, and the two women working there could not find our names. In a panic, we told them that we knew the media relations person working there and then were instructed to wait a couple minutes for her to come back. While we were waiting, the two Secret Service men standing guard were getting semi-hostile towards us angrily telling that if we weren’t on the list we couldn’t get in. The two women working the table on the contrary were very kind, trying to help us out and even filling out our press passes but were stopped by the Secret Service men who went on to yell at them because we weren’t on the list.
Eventually the table closed and the two kind, helpful women had to leave, so we were left with the two Secret Service men, and I had to beg them for us to stay so we can wait and get approved by this media relations person. After 10 minutes of this and not a minute to spare, she finally came and approved us. We were then frisked and had a dog search our stuff until we were finally let in. Now it was 6:45, 15 minutes before the event started.
The Expo Center was full of people wearing Trump merchandise, holding signs and overall extremely happy because their candidate won. The crowd consisted of mostly white men, but I was surprised by the amount of younger women in the crowd as well as children. I actually didn’t spot any minorities, but after the rally I saw a large group of Chinese Americans from Illinois wearing t-shirts of who they were and that they were Trump supporters.
The big thing that caught me was the music, which consisted of Dream On by Aerosmith, Rockin in The Free World by Neil Young, a Queen song I couldn’t make out and a Rolling Stones song I couldn’t make out. The atmosphere felt like a 1970’s-80’s rock concert, and it made me feel like punching the air for no reason. The stage was quite simple with a podium; hanging from the ceiling were the American and Wisconsin flags, and all behind that was a row of Christmas trees. We eventually made it through the crowd where the barricaded section of the media was.
Disappointingly, the media setup wasn’t close to what it was like at the Democratic debate I went to in February, but it doesn’t surprise me because of the relationship between Trump and the media. The setup was a narrow rows of tables, and it was behind the scaffold where all the cameras were set up, so the stage could not be seen from a where the tables were. The biggest thing was that there wasn’t any internet to speak of which made a lot of people in the media not so happy. There was a lot of local media like Fox 6, CBS 58, WISN, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but there were also national outlets where the cameras were like CNN and Fox News. All of this was barricaded and surrounded by the crowd of people.
Before Trump came out, members of the Republican party came out and spoke. The first was RNC Chairman and future White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who legitimately sounded like an 80’s cartoon character as he used his crowd speaking tone. Following were Governor Scott Walker, Speaker Paul Ryan – who was booed by half of the crowd – and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. All four said the same thing, which was thanking Wisconsin voters, assuring all the stuff they were going to do now that they control all bodies of government and pumping up the crowd for Trump. The crowd was hot through the entire time.
President-Elect Donald Trump
Pence ended his speech yelling “now here he is President Trump!!” and We Are The Champions by Queen blasted from the speakers. The crowd went absolutely nuts and throughout reacted to everything he did and said. He said a lot so I’m going to organize the significant things in a bullet pointed list.
- Wisconsin: He thanked everyone there and mentioned that Wisconsin voted Republican for the first time since Ronald Regan in 1984. He said it was all because of Preibus, Gov. Walker and Speaker Ryan. He promised to make Wisconsinites winners again and that they’ll win so much Wisconsin and Walker will beg him to stop winning.
- BREAKING NEWS: Trump announced officially that the crown jewel, Secretary of State in his cabinet, was Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. I can now say that I got national breaking news from the primary source itself. The crowd gave a huge ovation for this.
- Kanye West: The oddest and funniest thing of the night came when Trump mentioned all the people meeting him in his tower. That day, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, future NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, billionaire Bill Gates and rapper Kanye West met him. He said the first three names, let out a pause, then said Kanye West and surprisingly the crowd went absolutely nuts. I would never believe the day when I saw an arena full of Trump supporters cheer for Kanye West.
- What He’ll Do: For a short period of time, he went over what he’ll do as president. Among these were repeal Obamacare, terminate NAFTA, not pass TPP, drill a lot of oil, mine a lot of what he called “clean, beautiful coal,” destroy ISIS, make our military powerful but assure that we are at peace, create jobs and finally make America great again. Also he mentioned that many believe he won’t go through in his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border but assured that it will happen, and Mexico will pay for it.
- The Electoral College: Trump proclaimed that the Electoral College is the most genius thing to ever exist and how great it makes American democracy. He went on to say without it he would have only campaigned in California, Texas, New York and that he would neglect states like Wisconsin, which got a negative reaction from the crowd.
- The Media: This encompassed over 30 minutes of his speech and that was his distrust and hate of the media. He pointed us all out and that made everyone turn to us as if they were about to sharpen their pitchforks and jump the barricade. He went on to tell a story from election night where he believed the media when they told him he had no way to win because of exit polls, but his wife Melania believed in him. After the results came in saying he did win, he proclaimed that he’ll never trust the media again and that made the crowd chant loudly, “CNN sucks.” He also told a funny story about him hearing that Hillary Clinton decided a week before the election that she didn’t want her celebration fireworks which she apparently spent millions of dollars on. After Trump said he offered the pyro distributor 5 cents on the dollar for the fireworks, but unfortunately didn’t hear anything back
I didn’t know it was true but after minutes of cheering when Trump finished, the song You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones blasted through the loudspeaker and that song plays at the end of all his speeches (without the consent of the Stones). I allowed the crowd to thin so I can pick some people to interview. I first spoke to a couple of high-schoolers who were happy and excited after seeing Trump speak. The second person I spoke to was a younger man who was actually born in Canada, and who was a huge supporter of Bernie Sanders but switched to Trump because he didn’t want to elect Clinton. He said he made that decision after reading Trump’s and Ben Carson’s book. The last two people I spoke to were two older men and one was in a wheelchair. Both were very happy and excited to what they just saw and they were also happy to be American. All the people I spoke to were extremely kind and helpful. They wanted their voices to be heard and were more than happy enough to give me answers to the questions I asked. After Matt got his interviews, we left in total bewilderment after everything we experienced.
I believe the whole experience was great and beneficial to me. I received an opportunity see a president in person for the first time, and I was a credentialed member of the media. It was very different from the debate I did as that seemed more relaxed and less chaotic. That makes sense because the debate didn’t have the actual candidates in the spin room nor did it have hundreds of supporters surrounding where the media was. Both were completely different experiences but offered their own unique factors.