CLEVELAND — Rick Buser is the kind of guy who stands at the back of a pro-Donald Trump rally, not the front of it.
At the America First rally Monday in downtown Cleveland, he had his arms crossed comfortably over his black Trump T-shirt, taking in the speakers.
He’s not a huge Trump fan: “never was,” only recently started supporting him. He thinks that a guy like Trump, with all those bankruptcies, isn’t exactly a great “spokesman for American business.”
Buser’s major issue is the economy. An electrical designer, he’s been on “sabbatical” since the NASDAQ crashed. He hopes Trump will get America making things again. He's tired of seeing closed factories, as he says he did on the drive from Arizona, and hopes Trump can turn the economy around.
In short, Buser, 59, seems like a perfectly reasonable Trump supporter. That is, until he starts talking birther issues.
Buser once thought President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But after doing some research, he came to believe that Obama's real father is Frank Marshall Davis, the supposed Communist but real American. (Haven’t heard this theory? Google it.)
Down by the river
The America First rally was sparsely attended by several hundred people, many of whom came to see Alex Jones, of the right-wing website Infowars, and Roger Stone, erstwhile Trump adviser, conspiracy theorist and political operative.
Jones and Infowars, by way of introduction, have claimed that the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. was a fake, designed to drive support for gun control. Not to mention that 9-11 was an inside job. On Monday, he screamed himself hoarse about businessman George Soros and the globalists.
And Stone spent Monday’s impeccable afternoon (it was so hot he theatrically removed his cream-colored suit jacket) dredging up old claims about Hillary Clinton, specifically those of the Vince Foster variety.
Attendees lazed on the grass by the Cuyahoga River or stood near the stage nodding approvingly, letting these claims float by unchallenged.
These were not delegates out for an afternoon stroll before the speeches began at nighttime. They were the right-wing base, who had originally planned to come to Cleveland to make sure no funny business went on with the few delegates trying to Dump Trump.
The rally was something of a victory celebration that that movement had failed — even as delegates inside the convention center began an unsuccessful floor-fight.
Ironically, the rally, manned by bikers and men in camo gear, ended up being the less unruly of the two visualizations of Trump support.
The answer . . . sort of
At first glance, these Trump supporters by the river seemed to be part of his wilder vanguard. And the rally, which shared its name with a darkly nativist historic movement, had its characters: bikers who’d come from near and far to “keep the peace,” some open-carriers, one in an NRA hat and a hunting knife reaching down his leg.
But there were also many who just came to show some support, regular Americans who are having a tough time finding work — a college graduate who studied accounting and has had one interview in months, a nurse conflicted about the way we’re administering health care — who when you really get down to it don’t have huge quarrels even with controversial topics like protest movements. They understand that lots of people are struggling.
Unfortunately, some of those people buy the heinous and willfully untrue claims of people like Jones and Stone — they’ve heard the claims so often that maybe there’s something to them. So Clinton is a murderer a few times over and Obama is not a legitimate president. And sincere differences and difficult issues are turned into cartoonish battles.
In the convention center, some delegates made some noise objecting to the cartoon, eventually shrugged aside in the name of party unity.
Outside, Trump supporters were ready to challenge such waffling. But many of those Trump supporters are less radical than would seem — if they weren't working with such distorted information.
“Something needs to change, I’m not sure how but it needs to be done,” said Matt Zaller, 23, smoking a cigarette while Stone peddled more of his nonsense conspiracies on Monday.
He was certainly voting for Trump, but he wasn’t sure what it was going to get him. “He’s sort of the answer.”
Check amNY.com throughout the week for more analysis from the GOP convention.
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