“Is there anything more fun than a Trump rally?” asked a president who clearly has never been to the Minnesota State Fair.
Well, if you’re asking me — “BOO!”
I’m just — “BOO!”
But — “BOOOOO!”
The official White House transcript clocked 17 boos from the crowd over the course of President Donald Trump’s hourlong speech in Duluth last week. That’s a boo every three minutes or so, not counting the stretch they spent chanting, “CNN sucks.” The transcript spells “boo” with three ooos and believe me, that’s not enough ooos.
Everyone who wasn’t a reporter penned in the center of the arena directly under speakers blasting “Tiny Dancer” at full volume did look like they were having fun.
Thousands of furiously happy people, covered in sequins and red, white and blue, chanting their way through the Trump rally liturgy: Build the wall! Lock her up! They booed on cue — Fake News, Crooked Hillary, Obamacare, protesters who need haircuts — and cheered on cue — walls, winning, President Trump’s fabulous wealth.
“I’m smarter than they are,” the president said of his critics, to the crowd’s delight. “I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t. And I’m representing the greatest, smartest, most loyal, best people on Earth — the deplorables.”
“USA! USA!” the crowd whooped. A grandfatherly looking man in the stands grinned and flipped me the bird.
It was not the Minnesota Nicest day, even if we assume grandpa there was from Wisconsin, which he probably was.
“You have a lot of problems in Minnesota with people coming in,” the president said during a pre-rally roundtable. Twenty miles away in Cloquet, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa did a collective spit-take.
Eventually, the speech worked its way around to the big news of the day. The administration would discontinue its policy of ripping immigrant children out of their parents’ arms at the border.
“Today I signed an executive order,” he said. “We’re going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been.”
The crowd cheered. It wasn’t entirely clear which half of the sentence they were cheering — tough borders or no-more-kids-in-cages.
If you’d asked me before I went to a rally where thousands of people booed me but not a murderous North Korean tyrant, I would have guessed that we’re all happy for the kids. Nobody likes seeing kids penned behind chain link, right? Nobody can bear listening to their sobs for their missing parents, right?
Polite high-five to the president for ending the crisis he created and then back to the problem of the thousands of children already separated from their families, and all the others who could land in family lockup in the future.
Even now, with my ears still ringing from that incredibly loud rendition of “Tiny Dancer,” I like to think most of them were rooting for the kids.
One thing reporters know — and don’t tell the president I told you this — is that most people are pretty great.
We write about terrible news every day, and we see how it brings out the best in our readers. The newsroom phones start ringing.
When someone’s in need, someone else almost always steps up.
People rush in with money, casseroles, a job offer, a prayer, an invitation for a homeless stranger to stay in their guest room.
At my old paper in Tennessee, an old fella called me up one day, reeled off a long list of every Republican he’d ever voted for, his general disdain for the social safety net and his firm belief in personal responsibility and the power of bootstraps.
Then he asked for the address of the campground he’d read about where homeless families were living in tents.
Because when you have two coats, his faith told him, you share with those who have none.
Right now, volunteers are streaming down to Texas to advocate on behalf of kids and parents in detention. Right now, there are churches and community groups working to make immigrants feel welcome and safe, here in the home of the brave.
I don’t understand why so many people in that arena seemed to take pleasure in collective unkindness. They were perfectly pleasant if you approached them individually to talk about jobs or tariffs or the weather.
But once the rally got rolling, they rolled with it.
“I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota,” said Trump, who carried 45 percent of the state in 2016. “I needed one more visit, one more speech.”
The president made exactly one visit and one speech in Minnesota that year — a quick appearance in a Sun Country hangar, two days before the election.
“I used to go out during the campaign — and you know it because I was in Minnesota a lot,” he said. “But obviously, one more trip. Ay-yi-yi. That won’t happen again.”
He’ll be back in the neighborhood next week for a rally in Fargo.