GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Red hats emblazoned with the phrase “Make America Great Again” were perched atop the heads of hundreds of people walking from parking lots throughout downtown Grand Rapids on Monday as they walked to join hundreds more of their kindred souls already waiting in line to hear a final address from the man who had awoken their political souls.
The people who wound up waiting in line for more than five hours – until 12:30 a.m. today – for Donald Trump’s final campaign address weren’t the frenzied, angry mob that was often seen on TV during other rallies for the GOP presidential candidate.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the venue capacity was 4,200, but Trump was 90 minutes late “and a steady stream of attendees headed for the exit as Trump spoke for just over 35 minutes.”
This crowd broke the mold, or at least rattled the cliche that had been painted by the media, and they took pleasure in expressing that to PJM.
“He’s going to drain the swamp and change things from the way they are,” said Eric Neubecker, who also said he was not always a Trump supporter.
“At first I was kind of a Ted Cruz supporter,” said Neubecker. “But after listening to Trump, I got on the Trump train and I have been on it ever since.”
Neubecker, as did many who spoke with PJM, also stressed he does not fit the model of the stereotypical Trump supporter as defined by the media and the Clinton campaign.
“I am a college graduate and I am a working geologist,” he said. “I am not an uneducated deplorable, as Hillary Clinton tries to paint us.”
Sean Collins drove 20 miles to attend the rally. Like Neubecker, Collins runs counter to the idea that all Trump supporters are, well, dumb.
The medical device salesman stood in line with his 16-year-old daughter as he told PJM that he supported Trump because “I am for change.”
“A lot of the politicians these days do things for themselves,” Collins said. “Trump has his issues just like Hillary does. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think it is time to really shake it up.”
At least half of those in line were college students, most of them from Grand Valley State University, which has a campus in downtown Grand Rapids.
The conventional wisdom is that college students went to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) first and then found another candidate after Clinton won the Democratic presidential primary.
That was not always true. Trevor Harlow, a Grand Valley State University business student from Connecticut, told PJM he had never been anything but a Trump supporter.
“I just believe in his non-establishment values, what he can bring to the table, and his aspirations for making America great again,” he said.
“I support Donald Trump. I support his policies. I want to help make America great again, and I don’t like Hillary. She’s a criminal,” said Alex, a computer science student at Grand Valley State University, who asked that his last name not be used by PJM.
Delaney, a hospitality and tourism management major at GVSU who also asked her last name not be used, told PJM that she had always supported Trump because “he tells it how it is.”
“I don’t want someone who is going to beat around the bush and tell lies,” she said.
Delaney wasn’t the only woman in line supporting Donald Trump.
“I can’t stand the Clintons, never could, from the beginning when Bill was in office,” said Glenda, who came from her home about 20 miles east of Grand Rapids for the rally.
“I like a lot about Trump, almost everything, except when he talks nasty and dirty,” Glenda also told PJM. “And if it’s true, that he has been a womanizer, I don’t like that. But I think what she has done has been much worse. She’s just a liar.”
If this had been a family reunion, and in a way it was, Terri Goins might have taken the “Traveled the Farthest” prize.
“We need change. I think he is not your average politician and I think he really, really cares about America, he cares about us, and Hillary lies,” Terri Goins, who, with her daughters, drove close to three hours from her home south of Detroit for the rally, told PJM.
Donald Lebault was living proof that Trump had brought people into the American political process who had never been involved in the system.
“I would like to see change,” said Lebault, a middle-aged man who had only been to one other political rally in his life, and that was another Trump rally in the Grand Rapids area.
He lives on a hobby farm in Clarksville, Mich., a small town east of Grand Rapids, works at Amway Corp. and has always been a Trump supporter.
“And I have always thought we should have a businessman running the country, not just a politician who can talk the talk,” Lebault told PJM.
Tom Harris, a senior citizen who had never been to a political rally before in his life, drove from his home about 40 miles north of Grand Rapids for the Trump rally.
“I want to see change. I am sick of the political establishment in Washington. I think Trump will make a change. We have had eight years of garbage. Now we have to go onward and upward,” said Harris. “The alternative is not good.”
Tom and Donald had been standing together in line for an hour when they spoke with PJM and expected to be waiting at least another four hours to hear from Donald Trump.
“It’s worth the wait,” said Lebault.
“It’s worth the wait to show our support,” added Harris.