Column: President’s visit reinforces the ‘Divided States of America’

By Taylor Munce, sports editor

(Note: This is the third in a three-part series on the Trump rally in Erie on Oct. 10.)

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Taylor Munce, sports editor, The Panther Press

President Donald Trump came to Erie for a rally focused on promoting his campaign and fellow Republicans. Thousands of supporters, as well as many protesters, took to the streets of Erie to share their beliefs. I came as a journalist for the Panther Press and to experience how a Trump rally would feel for a Democrat like me. My experience can mostly be summed up in one word: uncomfortable.

The first person I interviewed was a protester. The woman was very pleasant when my colleague Dustin Steiger asked her opinion of the president. She calmly stated why she was upset with the president, citing things like his racism, sexism, and bigotry.

The next thing I encountered was getting to skip the long line of supporters trying to get in. Showing our press credentials, Dustin and I were instantly admitted and security checked us for any metals. Personally, I found this to be refreshing as I was panicking a few hours before about security and safety. I was worried about the possibility that I might be involved in a violent affair, such as the ones I’ve witnessed on television, where people have actively heckled and threatened journalists covering the event, many times at the urging of the president who has called them “dangerous and sick” and “the enemy of the people.

As soon as I arrived at the press area, I took note of my surroundings. Among the journalists present were reporters from the Washington Post, Fox News, the Erie Times-News, the Meadville Tribune, and many others. It was exciting to be in the midst of so many professional journalists from so many outlets. I also noticed the overhead display that flashed messages for those in attendance.

“If there is a protestor, simply hold your sign above your head and shout TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP. Do NOT touch the protestors and the police will take them out.” I found this unsettling. Though it may seem reasonable to President Trump, shouting at protesters does not seem like a good choice. Yelling in general does not get through to people as it causes chaos and misunderstandings, and angry people say things they later regret. Though I did not witness any protesters being removed, if this situation had occurred, I would have wanted to leave due to the mayhem that could have erupted and quickly become violent.

The overhead display also proclaimed: “Trump wants to protect your First Amendment along with your Second Amendment rights.” Of course, the First Amendment protects speech and the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms; however, it is well known that this president commonly refers to members of the press as  “enemies of the people.” I spoke to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post about this issue: “We are not the enemy of the people. We are the friend of the people. I believe that he [Trump] likes the attention; it helps his campaign. He only says things like that because it riles them [supporters] up,” Fahri said. It seems contradictory for President Trump to claim that he protects First Amendment rights, even though he himself cannot seem to accept that media outlets have the right to publish whatever they want.

During the rally, Trump emphasized that he isn’t focused on “putting money into Washington’s pocket.” This claim seems interesting in light of the fact that many sources have recently reported that Trump himself has already raised more than $100 million for his 2020 campaign.

Then he claimed that Democrats “are a party of crime” and they “only act out of anger and rage.” He mentioned them banging on the doors of the Supreme Court after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as an Associate Justice, and he claimed that Democrats don’t like the “principles this country was made on.” Shortly after this, he stated that he loves “all of America.” How can this be true if he condones and encourages hatred against an entire political party? More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton (about 2.9 million), but Trump won the election due to the electoral college vote. What about those 65,845,063 Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton? Does President Trump love them too? And if he does, then why demonize them and their party by calling them the “party of crime”?

At each mention of the Democrats or anyone closely related to them, the crowd would boo and Trump would nod in agreement. Now, it’s fine to disagree with people, but spreading hate in order to push your agenda is ridiculous, especially when both parties came together to create the principles our democracy was founded upon.  

There may not have been parties exactly like we have today when the Constitution was written, but the seeds of agreement and dissent that have made America great and led to compromise and progress were present, and to speak so negatively of those who disagree with you seems unnecessary.

Prior to the president’s arrival, Glenn Thompson, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, said: “That’s what Americans do. We stand up for each other.” If that is what Americans do, then why is it that we are at a war with each other when it comes to politics, race, and gender, just to name a few divisive issues?

There were also instances during his speech where Trump encouraged his audience that they needed to vote an all Republican Senate. That seems odd to me, too. If it’s understood that not everyone can get along, then how would having an all Republican Senate reflect the country? If senators were all from the same party, would the United States turn into an oligarchy? If this were to happen, only the laws Republicans wanted would pass, and this would most decidedly not reflect the will of the people.  

In the midst of all this uncomfortable rhetoric, there were two moments where I felt positively connected to the people in the arena. One was the praying for those in the path of Hurricane Michael and the other was the honoring of veterans. All veterans were asked to stand up as everyone honored and praised them for their service. Pennsylvania Senator Michele Brooks said, “It’s because of them that we can be here today and that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.” Even though I disagree with most of what the candidates said at this event, I will admit that it was very fulfilling to have the veterans recognized for their service and to know that we were united in praying for those affected by the hurricane.

When the rally ended, I felt unsettled. Although I gained valuable insight into how to cover a political event, I was left feeling as though I was not wanted in the arena due to my opposing political views. In fact, I left feeling like the president should not be making people like me feel so disconnected. As the President of the United States of America, he should be uniting, not dividing, all Americans.

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