The wacky, frightening and confrontational 2016 presidential election bled into my childhood Saturday when Donald Trump held a fundraiser two blocks from where I grew up on an OU football gameday.
Like a fly to feces, I couldn’t resist heading there for Total Coverage.
Back aboard the Trump Train
This was not my first time aboard the Trump Train. Fifty-one weeks earlier, as NonDoc still wobbled on its training wheels, I had covered The Donald at the Oklahoma State Fair. He called me — and other media members — terrible, and my attempt at fair analysis of the candidate and his appeal received praise from both Trump haters and Trump fans alike.
But Saturday, Trump’s traveling shit-show was even more so on my home turf, albeit ultimately within the walls of Barry Switzer’s son-in-law’s monstrous mansion that nearly every Normanite I know considers hideous, tacky and a 12,000-square-foot symbol of opulence jammed onto an otherwise middle-class street.
In other words, it was the perfect setting for a Trump fundraiser.
I told NonDoc contributing photographer Doug Hill that I’d meet him at the event’s designated media/demonstration location just across Chautauqua from Switzer’s own house and the hosting Hunter Miller residence.
At 2:50, I set off walking as if I were back in high school, heading down the street to rendezvous with neighborhood friends. About 15 years ago, Switzer’s house was just a frame, tied up in a lawsuit and left as a splinter-filled playhouse for teenagers who liked sex, drugs and rock-and-roll as much as the Bootlegger’s Boy himself.
Saturday, my rendezvous was mainly with people I didn’t know: Secret Service agents, Norman police officers and maybe 100 anti-Trump protesters.
My plan to sneak into the security-heavy fray failed when a gruff Secret Service agent met me at the north end of what Townie Scum call the Secret Sidewalk — a shrouded, paved walkway that connects Timberdell with Willow Lane on the west edge of Switzer’s property line. The federal officer dispatched me without amusement.
‘It’s going to get out of hand’
By the time I circumvented the neighborhood and reached the Chautauqua/Timberdell intersection, I had missed much of the early action, which involved fraternity members trying to keep protesters off their proverbial lawn.
“We just want this to be civil, honestly,” said Cache Daneshmand, a Phi Delta Theta member whose frat house sat across the street from the Trump fundraiser. “We’re just trying to separate ourselves and not associate with either political party and not try to get mixed up with the protesters. We know the news is here, a ton of reporters are here. It’s going to get out of hand, we think.”
According to Jim Davidson of Columbus, Ohio, some smooth talking by a Norman police officer kept things in hand during a day full of booze, football trash talking and political rabble.
“I think it’s comical,” Davidson said. “So the best thing was, there were some people over here, and they were getting all amped up, and then the fraternity was all amped up. So they went and got the cops to kick them off the yard, and the cops come over, and it’s going to be a really intense situation, and they’re not going to be happy and everything’s going to be frustrating, but the cop walks up and says, ‘Can you guys do me a favor? Nobody can see your signs from way back here. Can you get on the other side of the sidewalk?’
“That was brilliant. (He) brilliantly found a way to defuse the situation.”
Davidson was enjoying himself, seated under a shade tree next to the RV that brought him and his friends to the Sooner State. He was in town to root for his Ohio State Buckeyes, who later that night — after a powerful thunderstorm — demolished an under-performing OU team.
Full of jokes, Davidson relayed how he had asked a Secret Service agent whether he preferred Miller Lite or Coors Light and had attempted to give the federal protector a beer. I figured if that poor bastard couldn’t drink on the job, I might as well because I’d made a pact with myself not to let any Trump Drama ruin my OU-football weekend. Davidson was happy to pour me a cold one and talk politics.
“I’d be voting for Trump,” he confided while watching anti-Trump protesters wave occasionally amusing signs at game-day traffic. “I wouldn’t be voting for Hillary. I’m not a treehugger. I like to work hard for money and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and I prefer not to give handouts to those who don’t work.”
Between recent positive Trump polls and Ohio State’s No. 1 ranking, things were going Davidson’s way. He asked why the University of Oklahoma is called OU instead of UO, and he proposed that if the Buckeyes prevailed I should have to refer to OU as UO.
“You guys are dyslexic,” he said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My dad is dyslexic.”
Rumors and speculation
I thanked the Ohioan for the red Solo cup of sanity-saving drink in the midst of an odd scene: bumper-to-bumper cars heading toward campus with occupants gawking at Trump-hating protesters on one side of the street and Trump-sign-laden urban castles on the other.
Speaking of red Solo cups, I had heard days earlier that Top OU Fan and country music megastar Toby “I don’t compromise (on pickup trucks)” Keith would be playing the Trump fundraiser, which reportedly required at least a $1,000 donation to attend.
I could see no evidence of Keith setting up to play, nor could I imagine the pro-veteran songwriter aligning himself with Donald Trump, a man who only likes war heroes who aren’t captured. But I supposed that since Keith is the sort of person who would rather walk 10 miles and be down on his luck than ride around town in another kind of pickup truck, he might be willing to angle for Trump’s attention in case Bob Stoops can’t right the Sooner ship. He might become Trump University’s first football team booster, for all I knew.
Toby Keith’s supposed attendance of Saturday’s shenanigans wasn’t the only rumor swirling the 73072. Daneshmand said he had read that OU president David L. Boren would be there buddying up to the New York mogul. I asked him where he’d read it, but he realized he didn’t remember and said it didn’t even make much sense anyway.
‘It is just so inappropriate’
In reality, rumor without source and impression without reason are major factors in this 2016 presidential race, perhaps even more than ever before in politics. Hillary Clinton is widely hated for reasons that some haters can’t even articulate, and as Jimmy Kimmel found out in June, many people will believe just about anything said of her.
“I’ve never really felt like the light has been shined fairly on her,” said rally attendee Tera Cagle. “It started a long, long time ago. It seems like in politics she’s fair game.”
A teacher at a Norman elementary school, Cagle held a sign reading, “If students talked the way Trump does, they would be in the principal’s office.”
“I want people to think about the discourse that has become the norm,” Cagle told me, while emphasizing that she was standing aside from the assembled Trump-hating mob. “(I’m) not impressed. I teach, and I can’t bring this into my classroom because it is just so inappropriate. The concept of throwing discretion out the window and just saying whatever you want is not a good role model for my students.”
Seconds later, a yelling man leaned out of a passing truck and waved his middle finger at those lining the street.
Cagle and her friend, Mary Boren, sighed at the ironic timing before getting back to the topics at hand.
“It’s almost like a cartoon with the size of the building and the way it’s measured,” Boren said of the hosting house. “It just shows that once you get to enough status and money, then it becomes very, very convenient for you to disregard a lot of working people and oppressed voices in America, and especially in Oklahoma.”
Boren, whose husband is David Boren’s cousin, took issue with fellow Christians who support the lifestyle Trump and many wealthy Americans promote.
“I just want you to know that there are Christian people who do not support that theology and that political mindset,” Boren said. “I think a lot of what American Christian theology has been about is that, if you make good choices, good things will happen to you.
“And they just assume that if bad things are happening to you, it’s because you’ve made bad choices. It just perpetuates this status and power grab over a long period of time.”
Exotic news: Candidate booted from Trump Train
As storms began to roll in, I said goodbye to Cagle and Boren and went to work epoxying a NonDoc sticker on the side of a utility box at the intersection. Across Timberdell, I saw a knee-brace-wearing Joe Exotic flailing his arms while talking to members of the assembled crowd.
I ran after him, gathered his story and scurried back to my parents’ house with Ashiq Zaman to post it. That, I knew, was something we needed to put up quickly before TV crews reported the amusing details.
Writing about what football fans and anti-Trump protesters thought of a Saturday political spectacle would have to wait.
‘I’d love to meet with you’
More than 24 hours removed, I’m reminded what Rosemary Meacham-Zittel wrote just prior to Trump’s Norman visit. I, too, am waiting for this election to be over, for many reasons.
Chiefly among them? It could mean no more Donald Trump fundraising emails. The candidate’s campaign sent three of them on Sunday, a possible faux pas in heavily Christian southern states.
One came from Eric Trump, who asked me to “help smash through the liberal media filter.” NonDoc is, in fact, a filter, not a funnel, Eric, so we’re doing our part.
Another came from Ivanka Trump, who said, “I’d love to meet you.”
I think I’ll have to pass, Ivanka, even if I believed you. I barely avoided having your dad ruin a big football game in my hometown, and I’m skeptical you could handle the interview anyway.
Instead, here’s some free advice: The next time the Trump Train hits Columbus, Ohio, look up ol’ Jim Davidson. He’s got a few laughs in him, and he’s always willing to share a domestic beer.
Maybe just don’t put him in charge of the EPA.