Wisconsinites Who Turn Out For Trump Aren’t Typical GOP Coalition

Trump's First Rally In State Is Marked By Large Crowds, Bickering And Protest


With protests, counter-protests, marching, and shouting, Donald Trump’s Janesville campaign rally on Monday was unlike anything seen at events for the other presidential hopefuls.

For one thing, the coalition of supporters Trump is hoping will win him the GOP nomination is far from typical.

One of the first things you notice at a Trump rally is all the merchandise for sale. Outside the Janesville rally, vendors selling T-shirts, hats and buttons line one side of the street. Carl Nester of Ohio was there selling political buttons with messages like “Bomb the hell out of ISIS,” “Donald Trump, finally a man with balls” and “Hillary for Prison.”

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Nester said he considers himself an independent, but when he describes why he likes Trump, it’s very similar to what you might expect to hear from a Republican.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of dealing with government, where every time you go — whether it’s to get a license or anything else — no one seems to be with the program. But you pay, pay, pay. It’d be nice to get someone in there who knows the other side of it,” said Nester.

You hear some recurring themes outside the Trump rally. Supporters like that Trump is wealthy and not as beholden to donors. Santiago Sarabia of Milwaukee likes the way Trump talks.

“He speaks like the common man does,” said Sarabia. “Often, when you’re speaking to people on the street, they say the same thing.”

Trump’s promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico is also a popular topic, which fuels another feature of Trump rallies: arguments between protesters and supporters, often over accusations of racism and sexism.

Some of them involve the same people, starting one fight then jumping to another. Supporters mock protesters, saying Trump only wants immigrants to follow the law.

Madison demonstrator Shawna Lutzow said what Trump’s doing is far more serious than that.

“His rhetoric is causing people to act out — is encouraging people to act out in racist ways,” she said. “And that’s just not OK. It’s not an issue of free speech, it’s an issue of hate speech, and he’s inciting that.”

Trump talks tough on immigration, but his views aren’t that out of line with other prominent Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has emerged as Trump’s chief rival. It’s what he says about other issues that’s upsetting the Republican world order.

Jerrod Wiedmer, a welder from Janesville, said he likes what Trump says about workers.

“Well, I’m Republican. My Second Amendment rights are important to me. I usually vote for my rights. This will be the first election I vote with my pocketbook,” said Wiemer.

Trump talks about imposing tariffs on foreign countries to boost wages here. While the policy flies in the face of modern conservatism, it hits home with Wiedmer.

“Twenty years ago, this used to be a much better country,” he said. “And I think we’ve lost a lot of money to China, Japan. I mean, these people should be paying us.”

But what’s really unusual about a Trump rally is that some of his supporters seem like they have nothing in common. Take Betty Mayfield of Madison.

“The middle class are not getting anything,” she said. “Being cut all the time — Social Security, everything.”

In the home state of Gov. Scott Walker, Mayfield said something you don’t hear a lot from a Republican: She opposes Walker’s collective bargaining and civil service laws for the way they treated government workers.

“Walker did wrong to us in Madison, Wisconsin,” she said.

Mayfield’s comments might just as well have been uttered at a rally for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But while she has her issues with Scott Walker, she’s supporting Donald Trump in the chaotic Republican presidential primary.