Dispatches from Wisconsin: Campaign 2016

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily carry the imprimatur of WVBR News or 14850 Magazine.

I just got back from a whirlwind tour of the Wisconsin campaign trail. I’m planning to write up some long-form roving journalist stuff later, but here are the hot takes:

• There were more black people in the press pen (~30 people total) than general admittance (~1k people total) at the Trump rally in Janesville. What makes that especially concerning is that the press pen was dominated by middle aged white dudes.

Donald J. Trump.• Best way to describe a Trump rally is: a militarized whites-only political picnic outside the actual event, and a Jerry Springer show on the inside.

• Driving around the Midwest and noticing all of the Algonquin place names, for me, pushed Trump’s nativism to a new level of absurdity.

• The smartest thing that anyone said to me this weekend came from the Dadaist protestor in the bunny outfit. He said that he recognized a lot of people as [paraphrasing] the terrifying “quiet types” back in school, and the press is focusing on the carnival characters and missing the really scary stuff. I think the scariest thing is that most of the Trump supporters weren’t stupid and were generally mild mannered. I talked to a lot of people at the rally, and some in the press who was there to just look for the wackiest looking people and grab an inevitably absurd quote wouldn’t have come to this realization.

• I didn’t see the incident involving the girl who was pepper sprayed. That occurred when I was already in the venue. If anyone tries to victim blame the girl who was pepper sprayed by blaming the protestors for agitating, don’t believe them. The protestors at this rally were unbelievably tame. There was only one protestor inside the venue and it actually took a minute for the crowd to recognize him as a protestor, because he was just quietly holding up a banner that had something about Trump University being a fraud. Trump didn’t even acknowledge him. There was a pair of young girls who walked out of the event who seemed upset and, I think, yelled “Trump sucks,” but they seemed more to be reacting in disgust than protesting or disrupting.

• Hillary had an organizing meeting, Sanders had a college campus rally. The press is reporting just the raw numbers and missing the story. Most of the people at the Bernie rally were college kids who got to skip class to see a presidential candidate. At the Hillary meeting, all of the people I spoke with were political volunteers. Again, there were a few very quiet individuals who organized important parts of Milwaukee. You wouldn’t know it unless you really dug into the crowd. Popular opinion right now is that Bernie will win, but if Hillary pulls of a squeaker, it’s not because she’s an anti-democratic thug, but because she’s running a very strategic campaign that’s making use of important *grassroots level* organizing relationships.

• I came away with a better impression of Bernie and Hillary, a worse impression of a significant cohort of the press and the Bernie campaign (especially his body man– total jerk), a reoriented sense of fear of Trump supporters, and a gut feeling that as long as Democrats don’t take Trump for granted, the general election is hard leaning blue.

• America desparately needs a fast-casual restaurant chain that makes Wisconsin Brats with sauerkraut, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and lots of brown mustard.  Furthermore, Schlitz beer and cheese curds are a better combination than PB&J.

For more, follow 14850.com on Facebook and Twitter.