When President Trump stopped for a rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of the papers that carries my column got me press passes to go. So, in order to better understand this slice of Americana, I went.
It was fun being in the press cesspool during the rally, with Trump pointing at us and calling us “Fake Media.” Although our roots are in England, getting a nickname from Trump is the closest thing we have in America to being knighted.
The crowd was huge; thousands could not get in and waited outside in the rain to hear his speech, blasted to them on a loudspeaker. The crowd was whiter than a Barry Manilow concert — and more polite.
There have not been that many cheering people in the UT-Chattanooga basketball arena since Brandon Born ruled the courts in the 1990s, when upwards of 225 people would show up.
And there have not been that many white Southerners cheering a philandering billionaire since Tiger Woods was in contention at the Masters.
Having been to an Obama rally back in the day, what struck me was is that the attendees at the Trump rally were there because they wanted to be. An Obama rally was basically a bunch of public service union workers in matching SEIU T-shirts at 2 p.m. on a “work day,” backing him. It was not as organic as a Trump rally, nor as substantive.
Sure, maybe a couple of the 15,000 were a bit twitchy looking, and perhaps I’d be okay with police searching their vans, but 99.9 percent were great Americans: the kind who fight our wars, repair your air conditioner and whom you would welcome to help you fix your roadside flat tire. They just want to reduce the chokehold government has on our lives and to live free. It’s not that hard to understand.
Unlike the Clintons’ upcoming 14-city speaking tour, the Trump rally was free. The Clintons’ last grifting tour will cost you about $80 for the cheapest seats. Imagine how much the Clintons would charge if they were not “share the wealth” socialists who condemn capitalism.
Chattanooga is the bluest city in East Tennessee. Trump won Hamilton County by only 16 percent in 2016, his thinnest margin of victory in this part of the state. By contrast, Trump won Cleveland of Bradley County, Tennessee, by a 59-point margin.
Trump had to come to Tennessee because the Democrats have their only viable candidate for Senate there. Many, like me, actually like Bredesen more but we know he will vote with Schumer and Pelosi, which is contrary to Southern values. Bredesen: great guy, wrong party.
Our editorial board interviewed Bredesen earlier in the campaign when he had a four-point lead–before the Kavanaugh accusers were marshaled forward by the Dems. When I asked if he would vote for Kavanaugh, he demurred and said he had not studied Kavanaugh’s record. (Translation: no.) Then I asked him if he would have voted for Gorsuch since all his information was out there, and he punted on that question, too.
Later in the race and down in the polls, Bredesen had a revelation and said he would have voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. To me, that was a shock collar Schumer had on him and would continue to have in the Senate.
Outgoing Sen. Bob Corker chose wisely by not being a part of the spectacle and has been diplomatically Switzerland on the race to replace him.
Some of what Trump mentioned were his new sanctions on Iran which have brought that regime to the table; they might have been one reason Corker stayed away. Trump is replacing Obama and Corker’s Iran nuclear deal with his own. Of course, since it is Trump’s deal, it is younger, fresher and entails a larger bomb rack.
The introductions of Trump at the rally had, like most political ads in Tennessee, a very religious overtone. But Trump, who said he was “very religious,” was put on the spot and said his favorite Bible verse was “Corinthians 2.”
He might be able to bridge our nation’s religious divides. Trump had just come from the Jewish temple in Pittsburgh where he attended a vigil. You would have never heard the words “Jesus Christ” uttered so many times in a northern synagogue until he came in.