Chris Faraone
The crowd. Credit: Chris Faraone

There’s a man with a dark complexion hocking “Bomb The Hell Out of ISIS” lapel pins. His heart’s not really in it.

The next vendor over from him isn’t legitimately feeling the energy, either, his long hair and thick Boston accent a dead giveaway that he’s a foreigner in Trump country. In any case, the prices on “Make America Great Again” merchandise are non-negotiable—for hats, $20 or $25, depending on whether the letters are embroidered or ironed on, and $5 for flags. There’s no bargaining with these leeches.

No pocket knives. No guns. No food. No water. No pepper spray. The guy in front of me snickers at the instructions, and asks his friends to hold his place in line as he presumably goes to stash one of the above items—probably not a bottle of water.

The woman in front of me is the principal of a middle school.

A reporter approaches a couple behind me from Wells, Maine, and asks if they have an opinion on Tom Brady’s relationship with Donald Trump. The guy says, “They’re both winners. I know that. They’re both honorable.”

The journalist returns: “Who do you consider less honorable—Roger Goodell or Obama?” Guy goes, “Goodell, because you’re in Patriots country.”

Then on through the metal detectors. You have to pity a Secret Service agent who studied hard and dedicated her life to protecting dignitaries, but got stuck on the Trump detail.

Inside, a 50-something bumps into the son of a friend. “Hey, aren’t you in college? You should be at the Bernie rally—free tuition!” The lad chuckles awkwardly, then skips back over to his gaggle of goobers.

As I pound details of the scene into my cell phone and eavesdrop around the fast-filling gymnasium, in front of me, a white guy in an Under Armour cap resembling a du-rag unfolds his USA Today and begins to read an article titled, “Barack Obama: Muslims ‘Part of Our Family.’”

If anybody sees the president, be sure to tell him that his pre-primary trolling of conservatives worked. That mosque visit was like gasoline to this dumpster fire.

A veteran opens the show by claiming that under President Donald Trump, vets will be able to go any hospital they want. He then leads the crowd through through the Pledge of Allegiance, with a couple of markedly eager folks pledging especially loud like annoying kindergarteners.

Next up, a co-chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party explains how Trump helped revitalize the Wollman Rink in Manhattan—a routine story on the campaign trail—and how that means he can make America great again. The next surrogate goes even further, promising jobs to the hundreds of young people on hand.

Trump is the kind of guy who makes loud entrances. On top of that, he seems to have an extraordinary number of supporters who cup their hands when they clap, all together sounding like firecrackers popping in a metal bucket. It’s every asshole uncle from every family in New England, all in one place, feeding off mutual stupidity.

Then a message comes over the loudspeaker. It says Donald Trump respects the First Amendment as much as he adores the Second Amendment, but this is a private rally, the voice says, so protest isn’t allowed. Should a demonstration break out, the crowd is told, Trump supporters shouldn’t touch or harm the group or individual, but rather, they should stand beside them holding a placard in the air and chanting, “Trump. Trump. Trump.”

An hour and 45 minutes after the scheduled start time, there’s still no sign of Trump. Meanwhile, his supporters and sycophants are using Donald lines on one another. “You’re fired,” a woman says to her husband after he fumbles his cell phone onto the floor.

Trump walks in at 7 pm, a whole two hours after the scheduled arrival time, and jumps right into the rapes and killings being committed by illegal immigrants. In your apartment. Right now! The candidate gives props to Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and then rails about the border and undocumented (“illegal”) immigrants. “It’s very unfair to those who legally go through the process,” Trump laments.

Then the Paris attacks, sleazebags, and ISIS using the Iternet that Americans founded to recruit our children. Our children!

Also: Mexicans are paying for the wall on our southern border, because Trump “has a great relationship with Hispanics.” He’s going to get their jobs back from China. He can do this in an hour, since “everyone in Washington agrees” that it’s the right thing to do.

Bowe Bergdahl. Then back to immigration. Then health care. “I want to get rid of Obamacare and give you something great.” The crowd goes nuts. “We’re going to make our country rich again.” Add bananas to the nuts.

I sneak out the back.

As I’m exiting, perennial fringe candidate Vermin Supreme and a small platoon of misfits slide in the side door.

So much for the metal detectors.

This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.