DALLAS, Texas — It’s only fitting that the first sentence out of President Trump’s mouth at his Dallas, Texas rally on Thursday night was about the luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton.
“I am thrilled to be here, deep in the heart of Texas, where we just opened a beautiful, new Louis Vuitton plant,” Trump said from the American Airlines Center podium.
Wealthy, beautiful women with designer purses is in fact what many Texans think of when they think of Dallas. That and the nutty, sprawling highway interchanges. As one “Keep America Great Rally” attendee, Dan told me, “The difference between Dallas and Fort Worth is that in Dallas they call fish ‘sushi’ and in Fort Worth they call it ‘bait.’”
Despite its reputation for flash, Dallas is not an elite bubble of a city, which was reflected in the 20,000 people from a variety of ethnicities, economic classes, and age groups that traveled to see the president this week. Dozens of supporters began lining up outside the venue on Tuesday, and waited in line more than 50 hours to get in. Thousands more watched outside the arena.
I spoke to people who traveled for hours across the state, even out of state, from Austin, Canton, Colorado, and Las Vegas. They were from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, from the big suburbs, the small communities, and the Southern Methodist University campus a few miles away. Like many Texas cities, Dallas may be blue, but those huge highways make it extremely accessible to a lot of red. Its neighboring county, Tarrant County, hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson won his home state in 1964.
Trump’s speech hit all the fan favorite rally topics: crazy Democrats, Sleepy Joe, Pocahontas, fake news media, witch hunts, the wall, confirming judges, social media censorship, and bringing the troops home.
He hit especially hard on “a very dumb candidate,” Texas Democrat and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, eliciting boos from the crowd. Trump berated O’Rourke for his recent calls to confiscate guns and to remove the tax-exempt status of churches and religious charities.
“In a few short weeks he got rid of guns and got rid of religion. Those are not two good things in Texas,” Trump said. Later he hit on other 2020 contenders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, claiming their first order in office would be to end oil and gas production.
He said Democrats want, “No guns. No religion. No oil and gas. Abraham Lincoln could not win Texas under those circumstances.”
Several attendees said their takeaway from the recent Democratic debates was that the Democrats have nothing to talk about and only want to give away free stuff.
One woman from Arlington wearing a Space Force T-shirt, Caroline, is a 33-year-old immigrant from Chile who said she was a Democrat until 2017, before she became part of the #WalkAway movement, a grassroots campaign encouraging former Democrats to share why the Democratic Party has become too extreme.
“I was a Democrat but always had one foot in the pro-life movement,” she said. “When Hillary Clinton said the founder of Planned Parenthood was her idol, the woman who wanted population control…that was a breaking point.”
— Madeline Osburn (@madelineorr) October 18, 2019
Trump addressed the extremity of the Democratic Party. “Democrats are now the party of crazy politicians, high taxes, late-term abortion, and corruption,” he said, dropping mentions of both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Rep. Adam Schiff. “These people are crazy. They have absolutely no respect for the will of the American people. First it was the Russia hoax. Then it was the smearing of a fine man, Justice Kavanaugh. Now they continue the outrageous impeachment witch hunt.”
Politico’s Nancy Cook reports that the Trump campaign decided to come to Texas to, “build support for congressional Republicans struggling with brutal 2020 reelection battles shaped by the president’s wobbly political standing.”
If the president’s political standing is “wobbly,” it appears to only be emboldening his supporters in Texas. The dedicated crowd and their record-breaking size was itself discounting of “wobbly” media narratives. Even attendees who said they initially believed Trump was in over his head in 2016, like Brian from Grand Prairie, said he had “been pleasantly surprised at how he’s kept his promises.”
One of the crowd’s loudest cheers of the night was for a Trump policy goal that has been attacked from all sides in Washington, D.C. the last two weeks: Pulling U.S. forces out of Syria. Establishment Republicans, Democrats, foreign policy experts, and media have acted outraged at the president for disobeying their conventional wisdom, and criticized him relentlessly for letting Turkey attack the Kurds.
Trump justified letting the two countries hash out their own problems without U.S. meddling, telling the crowd that “sometimes you have to let them fight like two kids. Then you pull them apart.”
“Bring our soldiers back home,” he said to a roaring arena and a standing ovation. “We’re rebuilding our military and we are not going to spend it on stupid, senseless endless wars.”
Trump did not dwell on impeachment, but placed the blame squarely on Democrats’ intolerance. “They come after me, but what they are really doing is coming after the Republican Party,” he said, dubbing “Crazy Nancy” the new nickname for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
When talking to supporters both before and after the rally, impeachment seemed to be furthest from their minds.
“How often do you get to see the president in Dallas? Trump is like nobody else,” said attendee Marcia Davis, who was not wearing any Trump garb like most people but instead said she was dressed like an expired hippie. “When you listen to all that he’s done, it’s kind of overwhelming.”