In Manchester, Trump supporters stand by their man 

  • Omar Muhammad outside the SNHU Center in downtown Manchester on Monday morning, February 10, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Trina Rudolph (left), Christine Sylvia, and her mother Joyce Wilson all drove two-and-a-half hours from Massachusetts to get to stand in the rain before the Trump rally that night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jerry Cusak from the Bronx, New York came up Sunday night and was selling Trump memoribilia in front of the SNHU Center on Monday morning, February 10, 2020. Cusak had been up all night. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A Trump supporter with an over-sized hat at the SNHU Center on Monday morning, February 10, 2020. People were lined around the center waiting to get in for the evening rally. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • From left, Pat Lussier, Charlene Dejackomy, Gail Stoddard and Janice Grows from Central Massachusetts had VIP tickets to the Trump rally at SNHU on Monday morning, February 10, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 2/10/2020 5:46:26 PM

Go ahead, label them “deplorable.”

Donald Trump’s fans love it, wearing it like a badge of honor. They took it from a Hillary Clinton speech during the presidential race in 2016, when the Democratic nominee called half of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables.”

Remember? Then she lost, perhaps showing that politicians should be careful when name-calling on the campaign trail. It works for no one, except, of course, for Trump, and his appearance Monday night at SNHU in Manchester, on Primary Eve, resembled a pilgrimage.

Some pulled into town Sunday night, claiming a spot at the front of the line, waiting to bolt as soon as the doors opened, hoping to get near the stage of the general-admission event.

And some drove for hours, arriving Monday morning. That included a few African Americans and women, two segments of society that have long accused Trump of being a racist or misogynist.

Elliott Prather doesn’t buy it. That’s why he drove from The Bronx in New York City, 250 miles away, just to be here. He arrived at 3 Monday morning. He loves Trump, swears by him.

And Prather is black.

“Like I say, the second time around for him is when I become a millionaire, thanks to Trump,” Prather, 31, told me outside the arena. “He inspires. People want to spend money, and it makes people want to believe.”

He stood on the street corner, across from the arena. He wore a knapsack on his back and had two bags of clothing on the sidewalk. He parked in a nearby garage. He planned to sleep in his car Monday night before heading home.

He’s never been offended by anything Trump has said since the ‘16 election. He said that black people need to show self-motivation. He said Trump is the ultimate motivator.

“The black community has to do what it has to do to make it happen,” Pranther said. “Trump, 2020.”

John Camden of Manchester held a sign along Elm that read, “Trump making liberals cry again 2020.”

A white Republican, it was no surprise to hear that Camden was for Trump. What was surprising, however, was his take on the United States since Trump became president. The Democrats see Trump as a divider, certainly one of the most polarizing figures in American history.

The GOP sees him differently.

“He’s brought more Americans together than I would have ever thought possible,” said Camden, who’s 37. “He’s one of the most unifying people I’ve ever seen in this country. So I’m part of the basket of deplorables. That’s what they called us back then.”

Told that many see the country as fractured along political lines, Camden said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Portraying Trump as a unifying presence might shock some people, but an unmistakable fact that surfaced during this rally was that lots and lots of African Americans showed up to show their support.

One was 41-year-old Omar Muhammad, who drove here from Philadelphia to hear Trump speak. He cited the First Step Act, signed into law by Trump, a bipartisan statute that features programs designed to minimize recidivism.

“It’s the way he speaks and he’s not like a politician,” Muhammad told me. “He’s just not like everyone else.”

Women were everywhere as well. They’ve heard the accusations of sexual assault aimed at Trump. They don’t necessarily believe it. They think some of the women who came forward to accuse Trump did so for personal gain.

So they focused on other stuff.

“He did everything that I wanted him to do,” said 49-year-old Trina Rudolph, who drove 2½ hours from Massachusetts with her childhood friend and the friend’s mother. “I wanted a wall and he’s building a wall. I wanted my 401K to go up and I wanted my stocks to go up, and they did.”

She thinks people live off the backs of others, telling me, “If I’m going to work hard, and I’m very willing to give, I want that person who’s getting what I’m giving to be a step-up for them and use it. Not to sit back and keep taking and taking. I’m tired of that.”

Rudolph was with childhood friend Christine Sylvia, who cast doubt on things women were charging Trump with. She suspects that the controversy Trump found himself in with respect to women was fabricated.

“I believed him, just like I did with impeachment,” Sylvia said. “I think he’s been wrongly accused in some areas.”

And Sylvia’s mother, Joyce Wilson, had this to say about our president and the women in his life: “I think they used him and abused him to get where they wanted to go.”

No one was worried about the competition Trump will face in the general election. Not Sanders, not Buttigieg, not Biden, not Warren, not Klobuchar.

No one.

The line outside SNHU stretched for hundreds of yards along Elm Street. Hours before Trump’s appearance. This was a rock concert-type of gathering, with colorful clothing, cops on horses, closed streets, red MAGA hats and blow-up figures of Trump himself.

The fans were proud, boasting about their moniker, coined in 2016. They have Hillary to thank for that.

“We’re the deplorables,” Trina said with a wry smile. “And we like it that way.”

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