MINDEN, UNITED STATES, (AFP):- The red-hatted crowd roils, claps and chants: “We love Trump! We love Trump! We love Trump!”
US President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies are packed with familiar rituals, classic chants and routines.
They are essentially the same as the Republican billionaire’s 2016 campaign, giving a sense of traveling through time, even if Joe Biden has replaced Hillary Clinton as the Democratic challenger.
During his eight years in the White House, Trump predecessor Barack Obama changed significantly: his hair grayed, his face grew thinner and more lined.
But Trump, 15 years older, seems to want to offer a more enduring image.
The same shade of blond hair, the same hairstyle — a source of intense speculation that he himself has joked about — and the same red tie.
With 52 days until the election, Trump rolled out that collection of now well-known rituals at his rally Saturday night in Reno, Nevada.
– Grand entrance –
After a long musical intro, featuring Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” the eagerly awaited announcement echoes out: “Ladies and gentlemen, the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump!”
Grinning broadly, the 74-year-old former real estate mogul walks on stage to the sound of the very patriotic “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, a country music icon.
The refrain, heady and nostalgic, sets the tempo, while the verses — set to a softer melody — offer the incumbent president the opportunity to take charge of the scene.
“From Detroit down to Houston, and New York to LA, well there’s pride in every American heart, and it’s time we stand and say — that I’m proud to be an American!” the song goes.
Trump applauds, pointing at someone in the crowd, holding up his fist in a victory sign.
He approaches the podium, adjusts the microphone with his left hand, and booms: “Wow, beautiful. What a crowd!”
– Crowd games –
The former reality television star plays up his connection with the crowd, one of his talents.
He cuts off sharply mid-sentence: “You are a hell of a crowd, I’ll tell you.”
“You are my kind of people, we love each other,” he interjects a little later.
His rally speeches are filled with approximations, exaggerations and full-on falsehoods, but the crowd is not there to fact-check his statements.
At one point, he describes — against all evidence to the contrary — “tens of thousands of people on the streets” awaiting his arrival.
His aggressive words are the most eagerly awaited, and he denounces attacks against him by Democrats, saying, “It’s a disgrace!”
“You know the good part? Now I can be really vicious,” he adds and the crowd goes wild.
– Acting it out –
Once he gets going, Trump acts out skits.
He plays the role of someone else, making flattering comments about himself, though it’s impossible to know if these people exist.
“I have a friend, a very smart guy,” Trump begins. “He said, ‘You have to be the most honest guy to go through three years of investigations.'”
Another dialogue arises when Trump mocks his presidential opponent, whom he has nicknamed “Sleepy Joe.” He invents an exchange between the former vice president and his wife.
“‘Please, darling, I want to go to bed. I’m exhausted. I made one speech yesterday.'”
“‘But darling, they gave you the answers and the questions.'”
“‘I know, but that was a big strain because my eyes, I couldn’t see the teleprompter.'”
Delighted, the crowd cries out for more.
– Attacks on the press –
At one point, Trump points to the platform facing him, set up for news cameras.
“The Fake News! Look at all those people back there!” he says to boos and whistles from the crowd.
Attacks against “sleazebag” journalists serve as a narrative thread for the whole evening.
Trump repeatedly refers to the night of November 8, 2016, when his victory over Clinton shocked the country — as if to instill the idea that the same scenario will play out on November 3, 2020.
A favorite refrain is imitating television news anchors, stunned by the political upset.
“Donald Trump won the great state of Texas! Donald Trump won this, and that!”
Clinton stepped back from politics after her defeat, but cries of “Lock her up” still ring out at Trump rallies.
“I used to stand back, and I said, ‘Be quiet, don’t say that,'” he says.
But now, “I don’t care if you say it,” he says with a huge smile.
Addressing an enthusiastic crowd, where face masks are rare despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the meeting in Minden lasted more than 90 minutes.
Dozens of others will take place ahead of the November 3 election, which will mark a turning point for Trump the showman.
It will either halt a political career that began June 16, 2015 when he announced he was running for president from the Trump Tower in New York — or secure a second term that will keep him in the White House until January 20, 2025.
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