I spent Super Tuesday with Donald Trump

I spent Super Tuesday with Donald Trump. No, he didn’t come over to my house for dinner or anything like that, but he did come to Louisville for a campaign rally. A friend invited me to go with him, and I did. Neither of us are Trump fans. In fact, we are staunch opponents. So why did we go? For me, I mainly wanted to see what all of the hubbub was about. It’s one thing to watch a demagogue on TV. It’s another thing to see in person how a demagogue captures and holds a room. I got to see it with my own eyes yesterday, and it was illuminating.

I had no idea that the crowds would be what they were. It is estimated that that there were about 5,000 people there. I think it may have been more. The line to get in the convention center downtown wound through four city blocks. All along the way, there were street vendors selling t-shirts, buttons, and other Trump paraphernalia—much of it emblazoned with the familiar vulgarities of Trump’s stump speech (e.g., “Bomb the sh– out of Isis,” etc.).

It took us about 45 minutes just to get to the security checkpoints at the entrance. Along the way, there were protestors shouting at us and holding signs. Walking by their jeers on the way in was like a walk of shame. I wanted to turn to them and say, “I disavow, okay.” But I didn’t. We kept our heads down and soldiered on, even as we largely agreed with what their signs said. I thought it was interesting that some of the protestors were already sporting placards reading “Dump Drumpf,” an allusion to the John Oliver take-down that has gone viral online.

Governor Chris Christie’s introduction was already underway when we entered the convention hall. Christie is apparently travelling with Trump and promoting him at different stops around the country. I was actually surprised to see him there. I would have thought that he might have backed away from his Trump boosterism after Trump shamelessly failed to denounce the KKK on Sunday. No, Christie came all the way to Louisville with a demagogue and would later appear again with him at a press conference in Florida. Christie looks to me like a man who has sold his soul and who now has to live with that decision. In a devastating column for The Washington Post, Alexandra Petri has put a fine point on it:

His were the eyes of a man who has gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back, and then he endorsed the abyss…

Chris Christie has seen things. Things you wouldn’t believe. Things that would make your hair fall out and turn grey all at once. But he cannot speak of them. He can only stand there. Chris Christie is the bearer of a hideous knowledge that hangs on him like a horrible weight. But he has no way to say it…

Chris Christie has the glazed and terrified look of someone who has traded his inheritance for no pottage at all, who has watched his credibility dry up and is about to be led back to his basement cage, having lost Winterfell for good.

Trump took the stage to loud cheers that hardly abated throughout his thirty minute parade of pablum. His speech was filled with the usual riffs—the polls, the wall, Ch-eye-nuh, etc. The only new thing I heard was a disingenuous shout-out to his support for clean coal—which he assured us he was not saying just because he was in Kentucky but which assuredly meant he was only saying because he was in Kentucky.

Probably my main take-away from listening to him in person was his ability to stoke anger and outrage. The people he appeals to are frustrated with their government. They are frustrated with jobs being shipped overseas. And they are frustrated with a sense that the political elite don’t listen to them. He knows how to stoke that frustration into a blazing rage, and that is what he does at his rallies. The people exult in his outrage because it is theirs. And many of them are willing to either abide or overlook the blatant demagoguery and strong-arming of dissent.

At many points during the speech, Trump berated protestors from the stage. In fact, nothing got the crowd going more than when Trump berated the protestors, “Get them the h— out of here! Get out! Get out! Get out!” He screamed this over and over, and every time the crowd got more and more exultant in his rage. At one point a girl and someone who looked like her boyfriend walked right past me and stood nearby to watch the speech. She had dreadlocks and tattoos going up her neck. I took one look at her and thought that there was no way she was a Trump supporter.

In short order, she and some others began shouting and holding up signs in protest. What happened next was stunning. Several Trump supporters—most of them who looked like white men in their 50’s—grabbed their signs, tore them up in their faces, and then began manhandling the protestors out of the convention hall. I know that not all Trump supporters are like those men, but those particular men could have been arrested for how they treated the protestors. Those men were the embodiment of the ugliness that they were hearing from the stage. The emotions run so high at these rallies that if this kind of thing continues, it won’t be long before someone really gets hurt.

I booed and hissed loudly at numerous points during his speech, but I didn’t get treated like the other protestors. The people around us mainly just looked at us and stared. Still, it was uncomfortable, but I would do it over again. I wanted people to know that I disapproved.

After the speech was over, I left grieved–grieved that a demagogue who is a pathological liar could be so adored by so many normal looking people. I would like to believe that many of them are low-information voters who are fascinated by his celebrity but who aren’t really acquainted with who he really is—a man who favorably quotes fascist dictators and who cannot find it within himself to condemn the most vile domestic terrorist organization in U. S. history—the KKK. I read one poll that suggests that over half of them don’t know about those things. But it is clear that at least some of them do, and they either don’t care or they agree. And that is what is troubling.

I am also grieved because I know that what I witnessed in Louisville is a microcosm of what is happening around the country. From where I’m sitting, Trump looks like a threat to our constitutional order, not someone who can be trusted to lead it. Yet somehow so many of my countrymen see him as their best hope for the future. How can they not see what he is? Maybe it’s because they don’t want to see it. David French may be right,

America is facing its Romans 1 moment. Claiming to be wise, we are becoming fools. Millions of Americans admire Trump not because he is good but merely because he is “strong” or he’ll “kick a–” (to quote one Trump supporter I talked to last week). But here are some words the Apostle Paul used to describe the citizens of a godless age: “insolent,” “haughty,” “boastful,” “faithless,” “heartless,” and “ruthless.” These words read like a Trump personality profile. Moreover, the great sins of that age included not just indulging in those vices but also “giving approval to those who practice them.”

My hope and my prayer is that our nation would not give their approval to this. My exhortation to fellow believers is that we cannot give our approval to this. Donald Trump’s candidacy at the end of the day is a referendum on us. What kind of people are we after all? I’m not asking the Lord for justice at this point. I’m asking him for mercy. That is what we need more than anything right now.

Let me finish by saying this. Even though this political moment is a dark one, Christians have great reason to be hopeful. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). “For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:5-6). God reigns supreme over everything—even apparent political disarray. He is writing our history, not a demagogue. God’s purposes for the gospel and for the good of His people are not thwarted by any of this. “He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?'” (Daniel 4:35). So there is more than enough reason for hope and vigilance. We need both right now.

25 Responses to I spent Super Tuesday with Donald Trump

  1. Ken Abbott March 2, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    I recently read Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts,” a book that recounts the experiences of FDR’s first ambassador to Berlin in the early/mid 1930s. At several points, the author recounts the treatment by the SA of persons (even foreign nationals) who did not execute the Hitler salute or just seemed uninterested in participating. Your description of the treatment of the protestors at this rally leads me to ask whether the men were wearing brown shirts…

    • amandawelliver March 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

      This book immediately came to mind for me, too.

  2. Kent McDonald March 2, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

    Fascinating read. I have often wondered what it was like in a crowd of 30,000 listening to Hitler screaming at the world. The fact that a demagogue can rise in America with large scale approval is frightening. How soon after inauguration will Kim Jong Un tactics begin upon those who disagree with “dear leader”?

  3. Barry Kenny March 2, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    For real, Romans 1 has been playing itself out for some time.

  4. Cindy Young March 2, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    AMEN brother!

  5. Bob Wilson March 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    I was at the Forth Worth Trump rally for the same reason: To see for myself and observe the crowd. The warm up was from Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist in Dallas, full of effusive praise and a request for God to bless Donald and his wonderful (third) wife Melania. Another lesser pastor came on to tell us that God signals who He favors by granting them great success and wealth. Funny that the story of Jesus and Paul doesn’t read that way.

    But actually the crowd didn’t strike me as being mostly from the religious right. Trump’s preposterous exhortations during his speech “I love the Christians! We will protect the Christians!” brought scattered cheers and applause, but nothing like the more nationalist trade stuff.

    Yet, I don’t think most in the crowd were bad people. Trump is a sign of desperation from those who feel no one represents them. So they take what they can get–a fraud, a huckster with dangerously authoritarian inclinations. I don’t know what excuse those pastors have–are they that gullible or just seduced by the thrill of being part of a movement as Trump would say?

    • David Henderson March 3, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

      Interesting. I amazed that Dr Jeffress has endorsed Trump in this way.

    • Tom Mackie March 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

      Some of the most horrible acts are done by very “normal” people who have started down a very bad route to follow someone to power. In Tolkien’s work, this is well illustrated by those who fell under the influence of Sauron. “We will share the power” is a strong temptation.

  6. Michael G Tucker March 3, 2016 at 12:29 am #

    Michael G Tucker. God bless you Denny Burk. #NeverTrump btw sbts ’86

  7. Lynn Burgess March 3, 2016 at 12:57 am #

    I honestly wonder if Chris Christie is being blackmailed. I read that some of the big GOP money has walked away from funding Trump takedown ads for fear of how he would harm their business names/reputations.

    Initially, I thought Jerry Falwell was just deceived and wondered if Trump had encouraged his endorsement with a nice new Trump Business Building or something on that order. Now I wonder if he too is being blackmailed. Falwell made a robocall recording for Trump slandering Ted Cruz that played in VA last week (and I do not know where else) and that may well have contributed to how poorly Ted did in that state.

    • Lynn Burgess March 3, 2016 at 12:59 am #

      Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck today both called for Marco Rubio to sign on with Ted Cruz as VP and Cruz seemed to say to Megyn Kelly that he was open to that idea. Humanly speaking, that seems like our best hope. If it goes to a brokered convention and Trump does not become the GOP candidate there will be riots.

      • Ken Abbott March 3, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

        The question: Is Senator Rubio open to this idea? For the sake of the nation, I certainly pray that he is.

      • Rob Wilson March 3, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

        As a democrat, I would be in favor of Cruz and Rubio teaming up to beat Trump. That may not seem strange, however a Cruz/Rubio team would most certainly give the Democratic nominee a better fight than Trump. What I’m saying is that I’m so concerned Trump *might* win, I’m willing to lose the presidency, just as long as it isn’t him.

      • Donnie Gifford March 9, 2016 at 1:07 am #


        I honestly wonder if Chris Christie is being blackmailed. I read that some of the big GOP money has walked away from funding Trump take down ads for fear of how he would harm their business names/reputations.

        Initially, I thought Jerry Falwell was just deceived and wondered if Trump had encouraged his endorsement with a nice new Trump Business Building or something on that order. Now I wonder if he too is being blackmailed. Falwell made a robocall recording for Trump slandering Ted Cruz that played in VA last week (and I do not know where else) and that may well have contributed to how poorly Ted did in that state.

        Lynn Burgess March 3, 2016 at 12:59 am #

        Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck today both called for Marco Rubio to sign on with Ted Cruz as VP and Cruz seemed to say to Megyn Kelly that he was open to that idea. Humanly speaking, that seems like our best hope. If it goes to a brokered convention and Trump does not become the GOP candidate there will be riots

        I believe Megyn Kelly is right, I truly believe that Marco Rubio would be an excellent V.P, and that Ted Cruz would be a great Commander and Chief. I also believe that Dr. Ben Carson would be an awesome nominee for Surgeon General, as well as; Alan West for the nomination of Attorney General. But I’d rather have my dog serve as Commander and chief before Donald Trump. He’s just an arrogant prick, who thinks when he says jump, every ones supposed to obey his orders; just like about if I tell the Military to do something even if its against the law; you can believe me their going to do it. Or were going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it, and were going to make America Great Again, because were going to deport all the illegal immigrants. He talks about career politicians making all these promises that they never fulfill, well if people would only listen to his Bull shit he’s doing the exact same thing; granted he’s not a career politician, but he’s a career business man; and in reality their one in the same: full of total Bull Shit if they can get their way. As far as Christie, we have to realize who he backed in the last Presidential race, Barack Obama. Who knows why he nominated Trump, but I think Christie knows in his heart that Donald Trumps not the best candidate. Every one says Trump is a good business man, but its one thing running a business corporation; its quite another being a world leader. if he becomes our Commander and Chief or even Hillary Clinton for that matter, I see us in a war and soon. As for Jerry Falwell, between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Donald Trump is a hypocritical Christian he shows it threw his actions; by his arrogance; and the fact that he supports abortion; why Falwell supported Trump, you may be right it may be because Trump gave Falwell a new business building; one thing I do believe, is Falwell is easily bought Another reason I don’t trust Donald Trump, is because he stated that he was Pro ISRAEL, then comes out and states that he was neutral between Palestine and ISRAEL; your either for ISRAEL or against them you can’t be neutral. And I honestly don’t believe in my heart that he wants the presidency, I believe the only reason he ran was to divide the Republican party and get the nomination; to take on Hillary Clinton head to head, because he’s going to lose and the Democrats will retain the White House. He’s supported the Clinton’s financially for years from Bill to Hillary, my question is what changed? Personally I believe its because Cruz would have gotten the nomination, and throwing his hat in the ring would guarantee that would not happen. And his were gonna make America Great Again, he’s just saying what the people have desiring to hear; but between you and I, the man has no heart he’s just on a power trip. I hope I didn’t make it too difficult to understand.

  8. Kelley J Brown March 3, 2016 at 2:08 am #

    Thank you for posting your first-hand experience. I don’t like crowds. For example, I vote on voting day – sadly, no crowd. So, I would avoid any rally that I didn’t fully support.

    Your feedback…why would anyone who wants to live in a peaceful world stand with someone who incites anger in a crowd? I’m disgusted by the effect Trump is aiming for. Angry people riot. Angry people do not make logical decisions. (Aha! Hopefully, people will cool off before they vote.)

    Again, we are reminded of how the world will turn away from God. Our fight is not for who to put in office, but to bring people to Christ. Anger has no place here.

  9. Kathy Robison March 3, 2016 at 2:49 am #

    I saw the early video of Dr. Jeffress ( along with many other “pastors”) laying hands on Trump in Trump Towers and was completely baffled and dismayed. What does it say for the state of the church, (forget the world, they are supposed to be blind) when a supposedly spiritual leader (who you would hope has discernment from the Holy Spirit,) praises a godless man like Trump and prays for God to bless him? What he should have been praying for is his salvation, since Trump doesn’t think he needs forgiveness! #NeverTrump #GodHelpUs

  10. Curt Day March 3, 2016 at 6:36 am #

    The only thing that I could add to your analysis here is this: the state of the community of Trump supporters is a testimony of what the love of power and wealth can do to people.

    I very much appreciate your attending the rally. I wouldn’t have bood or hissed, but if a friend asked, I would go there to listen. I did attend such a rally indirectly by watching it on the internet. It took place at my alma mater, ORU.

    And I very much appreciate the analysis you provided here. Thank you.

    But I guess we should note one positive effect of Trump’s campaign. For all of our political differences, that is yours and mine Denny, we found something that we can strongly oppose together. In fact, I will put a link to this post on my blog sometime next week.

  11. Stacy Grimm March 3, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    I also attended Trump rally in Louisville. I was embarrassed for my city that they could be led astray by his vitriol. May the Lord sift out the soot allowing our United States to be a shining city on a hill, not only for our sakes but a leader the rest of the world admires and respects.

  12. Alisa Alexander March 3, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    I speak as the minority here in this conversation. I am an educated Trump supporter. I teach yoga and meditation full-time. I’m not racist, I’m not violent. Trump is a lot of things, good and bad, but one thing he is not, is stupid. He knows he is inciting crowds and p***ing everyone off with his verbiage. We are all upset at how he’s saying things, but missing the substance of WHAT he’s saying. He’s a businessman. He will treat the presidency like a business deal – negotiations between parties. The rallies fall into the psychological realm of ‘crowd phenomenon’ – how it is all too easy to be ‘carried away’ in a tide of mass emotion.

  13. Steve dunbar March 3, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    He sounds a lot like the real political group !!

  14. Jordan Fry March 6, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    I just wanted to say that I agree that trump is not the man to lead our country… But as a Christian I think it’s very important that we take the time to be praying for Donald Trump to have a change in his actions and his way of thinking… Just a thought 🙂

  15. Hania Bisat March 7, 2016 at 9:28 pm #

    Thank you for this insight on what it’s like to be at a Trump rally. I don’t think I’d ever be tolerant enough to stand through one myself, or brave enough to show my dissent and risk getting thrown out, but it’s very interesting (and frightening) to read what it’s like from someone who was actually there.


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