When my truck skidded on the first ice patch within a mile of leaving my house, I almost turned back. Was it worth putting the truck in a ditch just to hear Donald Trump at Greenville’s TD Center some 25 miles away? Curiosity, that great catalyst of feline mortality, propelled me forward with abandon.
I was not the only one. An hour before Trump was scheduled to appear, cars were already lining into the overflow parking lots near the municipal airport. I parked with them and joined a huddled group trudging through the cold toward certain spectacle and a hope of political truth.
Once inside, the number of metal detectors and secret service agents caught me off guard and cast a certain TSA airport security feel over the experience. My hat caused some brief concern, but after determining that it did nothing more than keep the rain from my head, I was waived through.
The massive convention hall was jammed packed. All of the seats were taken and the rest of us were asked to stay out of the aisles and stand in the back under threat from the fire marshal. I took my place against the back curtain beside an older lady, wheelchair and sweater bound, escorted by a middle-aged bearded man.
I looked around and beheld, not suited members of the professional class or members of the GOP Women’s Club or bow-tied Young Republicans or Second Tuesday members, but ordinary people – thousands of them – members of nothing more than the working middle-class. The same group of overtaxed and underserved people brought into the Republican Party by Ronald Reagan with the promise of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow built on individual freedom and responsibility, not on government dependence.
Promises – the politician’s stock-in-trade and easy to carry until those unpaid begin to be called in. The GOP has made many promises to the working middle-class since the Reagan years. Some promises have been kept, but most have not. Sure, we have kept our guns and our religion but we had that before the GOP showed up. That promise of a small, efficient, limited government and all that goes with it remains unpaid.
Yet, the establishment GOP candidates keep repeating the same promises over and over, which explains the turnout at the Trump rally. These people were looking for a different kind of promise keeper – one less familiar with saying the right words and more familiar with delivering visible success. With Van Halen’s Right Now blasting through the convention hall, Trump walked onto the stage, visible to all on massive screens, and smiled to the roar of the crowd.