Walking around Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony with a press pass pinned to my coat sort of felt like I was wearing the Scarlet Letter. Strolling around the standing section of the southwest side of the U.S. Capitol, I got a lot of nods and half smirks. I exchanged a look with many as if we were both thinking the same thing: I was a member of the lying media, and they were thriving in this place replete with whiteness, buzz cuts, and red — lots of red.
But most were happy to talk to me, and seemed to want to defend the leader who —objectively speaking — hardly stands on moral high ground. And perhaps I wanted to convince them I wasn’t a leftist commie working for a California weekly newspaper.
No one I talked to claimed the Trump victory surprised them, which really made me feel like a West Coast moron.
Many offered rather predictable stories: Patricia Cheek gladly voted for Trump after Obama cut defense spending contracts — with Eagle Ship Building in Mississippi, precisely. Or Robby, a 17-year-old who came just for one night from Palm Beach with his family of five, who said Trump gives an outsider’s perspective and will “offer results.” Or the insurance broker from Texas who I waited in the Starbucks bathroom line with for 45 minutes, just long enough for him to lecture me about the dangers of being so far removed from the founders’ belief in Christianity. If public school teachers are prohibited from teaching the word of the Lord, how are we supposed to teach all children right from wrong?
But Dinick Martinez set herself apart. Martinez is a transvestite from Brooklyn who immigrated from Honduras about 15 years ago. She can’t vote but she described herself as neither Republican nor Democrat. “I have my own mind,” she said. I asked her if she worried Trump’s Supreme Court Justice picks would reverse same-sex marriage, but she was not worried, not for now. “Donald Trump is not anti-LGBT,” she asserted.
She was absolute in her beliefs about security, saying too many people hesitate to use the word “terrorism,” but we should say it like it is. “Hillary was selling herself to the Muslims,” she said. She essentially believed immigrants should conform to American practices. “If I go to your house, I have to do what you do,” she said. She argued the mass murders in Orlando, San Bernardino, and Missouri committed by Islamic extremists speak for themselves. When I asked to take her picture, she borrowed a Red Hat from an older man nearby. He gladly handed it over. It was still three hours before the ceremony started, and everyone was cheery.
Another attendee stood out because he wore a furry Russian hat with Trump buttons pinned to it. And he was one of just a few people of color in the crowd. Eric Johnson, who worked on Trump’s campaign, told me he was the “token Republican” in his family. He said he rejected notions in the African American community about past struggles. “It’s not about the past. It’s about results,” he said. He predicted Trump would get a higher percentage of the black vote in 2020.
Since I don’t exactly feel confident in my political predictions these days, I asked him what he thinks Trump will do in his first 100 days in office. He said with assurance, “Every day we are going to be surprised.”
I also bumped into a few Hillary voters who were also from California. But the conversation didn’t last long. Neither of us had much to say.
Likewise, when Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer spoke, the crowd could not have been less interested. After all, isn’t he an elitist Democrat from New York similar to those this crowd decidedly rejected? The group I was near started chanting “Goodbye” to the tune of the Beatles song. Schumer’s mere presence appeared to offend them. It was an odd tone to take for a side that had won.
When Trump took to the podium, everyone went nuts. They were especially receptive to his promise to obliterate “radical Islam terrorism” from the planet.
He added, “Mostly we will be protected by God.” At that, one expressive older woman in a black hat turned around, and raised her eyebrows like she was as surprised as many that Donald J. Trump was now the President of the United States.