If you’re thinking about attending a Donald Trump rally just to see what it’s all about, you might not want to let your curiosity get the better of you.
The aura of violence that surrounds these affairs, which never seems far from the surface, has been stimulated by the Republican nominee’s own imprudent mouth during the long and cantankerous campaign and was highlighted by his recent statement suggesting that gun rights advocates might know how to deal with Hillary Clinton. Add to that supporters with monumental intolerance toward those who disagree with their candidate and a staff that appears to lack any judgment about how to handle even the mildest protest, and there is always a danger of a rumble.
The other day during a Trump campaign rally in Virginia, Joy Maloney found herself a victim of this over-exuberance. The campaign affair was being held in a high school auditorium, and Malone was standing in a line with friends, ticket in hand, waiting to be admitted.
Now before we go any further, we should note that Maloney is a county school board member and, as a result, is personally responsible for overseeing the system’s school facilities and policies. She is not a Trump fan but decided she wanted to understand the support he’s been receiving. Her education on what motivates Trump voters came quickly. The lesson: They tolerate only true believers.
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A reporter approached her for an interview, and she stepped out of line to honor the request, making it clear she was not a fan of Trump and that she had found his remarks denigrating minorities offensive. She added that this was her daughter’s school.
When she attempted to return to her place in the queue, however, Trump voters behind her protested and summoned campaign staffers who told her to go to the back of the line. She refused and sat down in protest of what she believed was unfair treatment. The staffers then summoned sheriff’s deputies, and she was subsequently arrested, handcuffed and led away on a charge of trespassing, which carries a fine up to $2,500.
She was the only person arrested at this campaign affair, although law enforcement officials told the press that several other people were asked to leave, including a group of students wearing T-shirts that said “Stump Trump” on the front.
One could argue that Maloney should have either refused the interview request or moved far enough away that her remarks offensive to the Trump voters could not be heard. She might have found it even more prudent not to have attended in the first place.
But the very purpose of political stumping is to convince voters to support you. A candidate who wants only attendees who already are in his or her corner is a fool.
When Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, first appointed to the U.S. Senate following the death of her senator husband, decided she would run for a full term, she was opposed by the state’s Democratic Party machinery and given no chance of winning. That is, until the great populist Huey Long of Louisiana spent three days stumping on her behalf. She won handily.
The charge of trespassing is patently ridiculous when applied to Maloney. As a member of the school board, she has unrestricted access to any school facility. It is also a serious question whether the sheriff’s office had authority to arrest her on school property unless she was in serious violation of the law. Even though the event was private, she could have stated that in her official capacity she was there to make sure there was no harm done to school property. The board is looking at whether the Trump campaign has any authority to bar anyone lawfully on school grounds.
This is just another incident — albeit a small one — in which obviously inexperienced Trump staff members, in this case not even egged on by the candidate himself, have shown an utter lack of propriety and good sense. So far there is a decided lack of professionalism in the entire campaign.
That is, I suppose, to be expected given the fact that Trump is completely without experience in the art of politics, including its niceties. We can only hope that the incivility that lurks everywhere in this country doesn’t become true violence, which would tarnish our most cherished institution, the election of a president.
Dan Thomasson is a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.