Ringside at the first presidential debate with Trump’s biggest bros
They said a lot about how Muslims should be kept out of America
Once we’re through security, it only takes five minutes before a Trump supporter tells me Obama is a jihadist, “Islamic Nazis” are threatening America, and Muslims are as bad as Hitler. Welcome to the presidential debate.
The electioneering hordes have swept into Hofstra University, in a sleepy college town outside of New York for the first TV clash between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If there was anyone normal here, they must have vanished by the time we arrive.
Every party denomination in America has descended on this campus — earnest-looking Hillary fans in face-paint, the Green Party hardcore in their earth-mother cardigans, and the weirdo pranksters who hit the campaign trial every year following a wizard-looking man named Vermin Supreme.
At events like this, you can divide Trump supporters into two rough camps. First are the cargo-pant dads with great, heaving guts — men like Bob from Florida, who told me Obama is a jihadist. Second are the Trump bros, young tank-top chuggers, who are equal parts Bud Lite, gags about Ronald Reagan, and I’m-just-being-honest-bro comments about booting out Muslims. These guys are out in force tonight.
“Muslims should be screened before coming into America,” says Sage, a Hofstra student voting for Trump, dressed in an American flag suit. “For our safety, yes.”
He’s one of many star-spangled Trump bros cheering on Bill O’Reilly at the Fox News tent, which is full of Harambe t-shirts and signs about Monica Lewinsky. Two guys arrive with a freshly-painted poster about Hillary’s email scandal. “No dude, you need to raise it up more,” says one of them, trying to get it seen on live TV.
“It’s just temporary,” explains Isabella, about a ban on Muslim immigration. “And it’s for our national security. Trump’s thinking about America when he says that.”
“Muslims,” adds Lexi. “They need more background checks. All terrorist attacks in America are from Muslims.”
Chants of “Build that wall” and “Trump Trump Trump” ring through the crowd before the debate begins. Trump comes on to cheers, and Hillary to a shout of: “Get the wheelchair out now!” in reference to stories about her poor health.
The candidates hissed and scratched at each other on immigration, trade, and national security.
“Well, Donald, you live in your own reality, but it is not the facts,” Hillary laid into Trump.
“But you have no plan, secretary, you have no plan!” he later hit back.
To ISIS now, and Trump snaps to Hillary: “You’ve been fighting ISIS all your life!”
I ask Marc, a Trump bro standing next to me, what he thinks The Donald means by that.
“It’s obvious,” he tells me, exasperated. “ISIS have been around since Hitler’s time. Hillary has connections to the Middle East stretching back decades.”
You can’t be serious, I say. That’s a new conspiracy theory — where did you even hear it?
“Yeah bro, look it up. It’s online, it’s in books, it’s in libraries.” And that’s it.
Marc turns away as up on the screen, Trump chimes in at the perfect moment.
“We’re in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” he barks.