The magic of democracy is that your vote can be canceled out by somebody who thinks your preferred candidate is literally a reptilian alien wearing a human skin suit as a disguise. Crazy votes count just as much as regular votes, and candidates have to find ways to court them -- see the 2008 campaign ad which subtly implied that Barack Obama was the Antichrist.
In Cleveland this week, I found a whole bunch of those outside-the-box thinkers at the "America First" rally. It was a gathering of Trump supporters which included one congressional candidate (Corrogan Vaughn), former Tea Party President Ken Crow, and noted millionaire conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones's address was the "big moment" of the event, when the crowd was at its largest and most excited.
Pictured: the maximum level of enthusiasm allowed by law.
Jones screamed ... basically the entire time. But he did his best to avoid most of the crazier aspects of his beliefs. There were no FEMA death camp conspiracies or Sandy Hook trutherism. And although he did directly accuse Hillary Clinton of being a Chinese sleeper agent, that actually counts as moderate in Alex Jones world.
Then, Adult Swim comedian Eric Andre managed to get up on stage and talk with Jones (it's reported that Jones confused him for Daily Show host Trevor Noah), in what will probably go down as only the 85th most bizarre moment of this campaign. Andre opened by offering Jones his hotel room key and asking him to fuck his wife, and then proceeded to claim that he agreed with Jones and wanted the government to look into the collapse of Tower 7 of the World Trade Center. I'm pretty sure I heard him shout "Jet fuel can't melt steel beams!" at one point.
Scientific evidence can't melt insane commitment.
Jones then had to acknowledge that, yes, he believes 9/11 was some form of government conspiracy, and this actually got one of the louder shouts of acknowledgement from the crowd. This keyed me into two realizations: This crowd was utterly filled with conspiracy theorists, and it was also very young and diverse for a Trump rally.
Keep in mind that Clinton currently has a 36-point lead on Trump when it comes to millennials, and it looks increasingly likely that Trump might win less than the paltry 17 percent of the nonwhite vote Romney managed in 2012. But this rally was full of millennials, particularly nonwhite millennials, all eagerly flocking to Trump. Not to paint all Trump supporters as crazy (they're not), but if you're running on "The system is rigged," you're going to get those who hate what trade deals have done to manufacturing jobs and those who believe that fluoride in the water is a communist mind control plot.
That's Hector. The other side of his sign said "Latinos for Trump," and when I asked him how much of a priority a fluoridation ban should have in a Trump presidency, he said, "He has to take care of the economy first. [Then] I want him to take care of GMOs, chemtrails, and pharmaceutical runoff." And as for the devilish fluoridation of our tap water, "He can expose that."
I spent the better part of two hours going around the rally to every young person who'd speak with me. They were, without exception, polite and friendly and convinced that the government had planned 9/11.
This is H.P. He had a whole poster filled with homemade buttons, and he wanted me to know, "I am not a Republican or a Democrat." But he was a fan of Alex Jones, and said, "Yes, definitely" when I asked if he thought the government should reopen the investigation into 9/11. All throughout the rally, the story was the same, whether it was this dude in his homemade shirt emblazoned with Infowars stickers ...
... this young conspiracy aficionado with an AK-47 on his backpack ...
... or Congressional candidate Corrogan Vaughn, who admitted when asked that he, too, thought the government should reopen its investigation into 9/11.
This Photoshop was an inside job.
Trump's weakness with young and minority voters seemed to disappear as long as those voters believed there was a good chance that the federal government was out to get them, one way or the other. You can use words like "fringe" when describing this group, but if you don't think there are enough of them to turn an election, you're not paying attention. Polls show that 9 percent of Americans think fluoride is an evil government conspiracy, 51 percent believe the JFK assassination wasn't the work of a lone gunman, 28 percent believe in the "New World Order" conspiracy, 37 percent believe global warming is a hoax and, yes, 13 percent believe Barack Obama is the Antichrist.
Here in Cleveland, I saw evidence that the Trump campaign is courting the "conspiracy nut" vote like no other candidate in my lifetime. Remember, the "America First" rally wasn't just a weirdo fringe event -- it was the primary pro-Trump event of the day. Security was provided by a mix of Bikers for Trump and agents of the extremely expensive private security firm Alexander Global Strategies, one of whom I caught texting when he was supposed to be protecting a speaker.
It's OK, guy, nobody noticed.
Look, you're not going to hear Trump come out against chemtrails or fluoride in a debate with Clinton. He doesn't need to; he just needs to appear to be open enough to these ideas that the true believers feel like they've got a candidate who takes them seriously. So Trump will stand right on the debate stage and say that of course we shouldn't stop vaccinating kids, but we just need to make sure the shots don't give our kids autism. That automatically makes him the most friendly candidate to the 20 percent of the public who are anti-vaxxers without coming right out and joining their movement.
Lots of the seemingly random things Trump alludes to in speeches will suddenly make sense to you once you realize that he's willing to throw a few bones to the Alex Jones crowd in order to keep them on board (statements like "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese"). And if he becomes president? Well, who knows what, exactly, the fuck that'll mean. But I have to hope it leads to FEMA Director Alex Jones.
Reptilian Space God willing.
For more reasons Trump is absolutely wrong for America, check out 5 Very Possible Nightmare Scenarios From A Trump Presidency and 5 Ways We Got The Trump Campaign Wrong: An Insider Explains.
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