Trump supporters express conspiracies, fear, and hope at Montgomery County rally

By: - November 8, 2022 10:04 am

Trump rallygoers in Delaware, Ohio, this past spring. Photo by Graham Stokes, for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish only with original story.

VANDALIA — “Are we ready to welcome Donald Trump back to Ohio?” asked Republican Ohio U.S. Senate nominee J.D Vance to a crowd of over 1,000 supporters at the Dayton Airport Tarmac on Election Eve.

Joe Biden won Montgomery County by 50.3% in 2020, and Dayton itself spearheaded many progressive causes, from marijuana legalization to banning conversion therapy. Nowhere could be found traces of the region’s liberalism, as the Dayton airport transformed into the temporary headquarters of Trumpism.

Unlike the chilly autumn evening waiting outside, the rally was garish, colorful, and extravagant. Attendees were constantly bombarded with audio-visual reminders of their cause, and its righteousness. “Save America,” projected on screens. American flags hanging from cranes, barricades, and seats. Eighties hits like “In the Air Tonight,” and “Macho Man,” blared from sound systems at the highest volume. Rallygoers themselves wore “Trump won,” buttons, Infowars hoodies, and Second Amendment shirts. And everywhere far-right influencers could be found, to mingle among their followers and promise they’ll keep up the fight.

Similarly, conspiracy theories about Jan. 6, the 2020 presidential election, and American schools were repeated by attendees like mantras, with talking points viewed as gospel by many rallygoers.

”The election was rigged,” said Ronda Hercules, when asked about the previous presidential election’s outcome. “President Trump is my president,” said Hercules, who later, when asked about the alleged fraud, replied, “the machines changed votes.”

Among other topics like “crime,” and “the border,” an attendee named Karen — she preferred not to give her last name — named one of her biggest issues this election cycle as “the rigging of the election.” Karen also disparaged “big tech,” “the media,” and other institutions, believing they collaborated to fix the presidential election results, and create a “one world government.”

Tonya Henry attended her first Trump rally in “2016 in Cincinnati,” and had followed Trump’s political ascent ever since. Henry’s admiration eventually brought her to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, to view Trump’s “Save America,” rally, and watch as his supporters overtook the U.S. Capitol. Despite all evidence showing the riot was instigated and led by Trump supporters, Henry proposed an alternative version of events. “I think the FBI was a part of it,” Henry argued, with the help of “black blocks, more commonly known as Antifa.” Henry even alleged she saw “busloads,” of people being sent to Capitol Hill that day.

These ideas — stemming from misinformation spread on social media — have been thoroughly debunked by experts on several occasions.

Fear of the LGBTQ community was equally prevalent among rallygoers, with trans people being a specific target of consternation. “I don’t want them pushing it on children,” said Nicole Betty-Sue, in reference to “transgenderism.” Sue was also fearful of “drag queens reading books to children,” and a “natural boy,” competing in “women’s sport.”

Sydney G. — who preferred anonymity, due to being a schoolteacher — defined herself as a “Christian,” believing that the United States was “founded upon,” Christianity’s teachings. Teaching students about LGBTQ gender and sexuality is “perverted,” according to Sydney, and “not developmentally appropriate for kids at that age.” To her, the problem lies not with Democrats, but with education as an institution, calling it a “inherently progressive,” entity.

Both the claims of election fraud and allegations of “grooming,” in America’s schools, are false, and can be easily disproved. They’ve also led to violence against demonized minority communities and individuals.

On Nov. 4, a bakery in Tulsa, Oklahoma was struck by a Molotov cocktail for hosting drag queens. Patriot Front members were arrested for planning to disrupt a pride parade in Idaho,  and proud boys have targeted LGBTQ venues for months. Likewise, Paul Pelosi — husband of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — was assaulted by an assailant who believed the 2020 election was stolen.

Meanwhile, election workers across the country have received death threats. But an assortment of political and media figures took the stage to validate and amplify audience members’ paranoia.

MyPillow CEO and prominent election denier Mike Lindell posed for photos with rallygoers, with surrounding viewers expressing their “love,” for him. Asked about what evidence existed for the wide scale electoral fraud he alleged, Lindell responded “it’s all coming,” and that people should “stay tuned,” before walking off.

Rather than dialing down attacks against Pelosi, Trump and his team exacerbated them. Video compilations were broadcasted on projectors, with a narrator comparing Trump to a “lion,” being hounded by “jackals,” as footage of Nancy Pelosi played. Trump himself called Pelosi a “animal,” during his speech, gaining ripples of laughter from the crowd.

Every target mentioned above was deemed “communism,” an ideology that loomed large over the night’s proceedings. “You have to crush the communists,” Trump told his supporters, the same people he alleged were “killing our country,” and turning it into a “police state.”

Simultaneously, Trump praised Xi Jingping, General Secretary of China’s Communist Party, for usage of the death penalty against drug dealers. Proudly proclaiming he would support enacting “the death penalty for drug dealers and traffickers,” Trump rhetorically asked the crowd what is done to drug dealers in China.“They kill em,” replied one attendee, drawing laughs and cheers from others.

Trump also proposed imprisoning journalists for not revealing their sources, mockingly saying “if the reporter doesn’t want to reveal it, bye bye.” Michah Wagers fully endorsed Trump’s idea. “If they’re gonna leak something, they should say the names.”

Not everyone present that night was a lifelong Republican. Scott Myers was a “registered Democrat,” previously voting for Clinton and Obama. “So was my father,” Myers explained. Then “you get the housing market crash,”and obsequiousness from the Obama White House which dissuaded him from voting Democrat again. First backing Trump in 2016, he seemed “not to be paid off,” and him getting into office “surprised everybody.”

The Ohio Democratic Party has worked hard to gain the trust of voters like Myers again. Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Tim Ryan’s campaign has attempted to replicate the populist appeal that enamored working class voters in Ohio. Trump disparaged Ryan repeatedly during his speech, confirming “he’s not with me,” and calling him another “do nothing, radical Democrat.”

Rhetoric espoused from the podium didn’t impress at least one attendee. Jamie Perez wasn’t a Trump supporter. He simply had “never been to a political event” and wanted to “know what it’s like to attend a political rally of this scale.” Perez found the event “underwhelming,” and similar to a “county fair,” in its aesthetics. Discovering politics in 2018, Perez quickly found himself on the “progressive left,” and spent most of the rally “practicing not engaging.”

After seeing the consequences of Trumpism first hand, Perez emphasized the country’s situation was “very reminiscent of 1920s Germany,” in the use of ultra-nationalism to rile up base level support. “Dictators around the world do the same thing,” he said.

Regardless, the Republican Party appears poised to win the midterm elections. Forecasts show a Republican takeover of both Congressional houses, and gubernatorial candidates like Kari Lake and Joe Lombardo- who’ve embraced electoral fraud messaging — are likely to become governors in important battleground states.

What’s more, Secretary of State candidates like Mark Finchem and Jim Marchant have a chance of controlling their state’s election processes, running for office with the explicit goal of contesting results in 2024.

“The vote counter is more important than the candidate,” noted Trump during the Dayton rally. 

Visibly disturbed, Perez felt he was watching something unprecedented — and destructive to American democracy — being born.

“Some people say it can’t happen here. It absolutely can.”

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Zurie Pope
Zurie Pope

Zurie Pope is a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. His work has appeared in The Nation, Unpublished Magazine, Youth Journalism International, and his college newspaper, The News Record.