A white woman in a red MAGA hat and an American flag T-shirt had a different dance for nearly every song that played last night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. She shredded an air guitar during Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” attempted to moonwalk for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and even did a ballerina pose for Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye.” But she had no dance moves in her repertoire when the Titanic theme song — Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” — began to play.
It was an interesting music choice for a politician some would argue is on his own sinking ship. Last night, as the House Judiciary Committee scheduled its first public impeachment hearing, President Donald Trump took the stage in Broward County for his first rally in the Sunshine State since changing his residence and officially becoming a Florida Man.
“You should smile — it’s a great day,” said the very first Trump supporter I spoke with in the parking lot. I gave him my best Greta Thunberg stare-down and continued toward the arena. “Don’t be a Democrat; buy a MAGA hat!” he yelled after me.
Meanwhile, outside has a definite tailgate atmosphere. People have been here all day for tonight’s #TrumpRally.
I walked by piles of discarded beer cans and camping chairs on my way inside the building. pic.twitter.com/wxNrLEkwLa
— Jess Nelson (@_JessNelson_) November 26, 2019
I don’t own a single article of red clothing, so I stood out like a sore thumb in my blue dress. Perhaps that’s why I was invited into the reserved seating area behind the podium where Trump would soon be speaking. My usher was a Florida militia member and Three Percenter wearing a “God, Guns, and Trump” button.
“I’m not going to say how I really feel because you’re a lady,” he said. “But fuck Nancy Pelosi.” I thanked him for the reminder and made sure to check in for my Thanksgiving flight to San Francisco as soon as I sat down.
Attending your first Trump rally is a rite of passage of sorts. Everyone wants to share with you how many times they’ve seen the president speak. “Is this your first time?” one of my neighbors asked as they passed me a Florida GOP anti-impeachment petition that misspelled Sen. Chuck Schumer’s last name as “Shumer.” “Is it that obvious?” I replied.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale kicked off the main event. After walking onstage to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” he embarked on a diatribe against “Big Tech,” “the mainstream media agenda,” and “the deep state.” He hyped up the crowd by criticizing my home state, or what he called the “Socialist Republic of California.”
“Sorry, Jess,” the man sitting behind me said with a laugh.
Vice President Mike Pence was up next. He walked out to Free’s “All Right Now” and told the crowd that Trump is a “man that says what he means and means what he says.” Unless it’s just locker-room talk.
POTUS made sure to hit all of his favorite punching bags last night. Russian hoax? Booooo. Mueller mess? Booooo. Witch-hunt impeachment? Booooo. Hillary Clinton’s emails? Booooo. The “lying” press? Boooooooooooo. Every time I told someone I was a journalist, their eyes widened like they’d seen a ghost. One woman leaned in and whispered, “Your secret is safe with me.”
Trump took undeserved credit for a lot of things. He asserted he defeated ISIS, completely disregarding the fact that the U.S. resumed large-scale counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State in Syria 24 hours earlier. “We defeated Barack Hussein Obama!” he yelled to the cheering crowd, even though he never actually ran against the former president. Invasive Burmese pythons are giggling to themselves and planning world domination now that Trump has claimed the Everglades ecosystem has been restored.
But facts didn’t seem to matter to the crowd. They hung on every word he said, meeting every cue to boo, cheer, or chant.
“I’m so excited. This is like seeing a rock star live!” a Boca Raton woman in a “Make Liberals Cry Again” hat told me. Keeping on theme, several fans wore T-shirts with the Grateful Dead skull logo with a mane of Trump hair on top. Apparently Deadheads for Trump is a thing.
One of the most bizarre moments of the night came when Trump invited some of his top Florida supporters to the stage, including Congressman Matt Gaetz, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor’s weight took center stage in Trump’s monologue, perhaps a projection of his own issues with body image. Trump spoke for several minutes about how DeSantis may look “a little bit heavy” on TV, but it’s muscle and not fat. “And then I see him without a shirt one day, and this guy is strong,” Trump said. “He’s not fat. That’s all power. That’s all muscle. I want to tell you that.”
DeSantis’ team very quickly clarified that, no, he and Trump do not hang out shirtless while talking about Space Force.
An explanation from governor’s office: While @realDonaldTrump said he had seen @GovRonDeSantis without his shirt on – He apparently was referring to seeing him without his jacket on. The two men have played golf together.
— Gary Fineout (@fineout) November 27, 2019
“We’re going to keep winning, winning, winning,” Trump said as he wrapped up the two-hour rally. Finally, he walked off the stage to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — music the band has repeatedly asked him not to play.