The Slatest

Trump Supporters Rallying Outside Trump Tower Still Think He’s Going to Be President

Donald Trump greets supporters outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan on Saturday.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Late on Saturday afternoon, as the dam broke on elite Republican opposition to Donald Trump, dozens of backers of the Republican nominee gathered at Manhattan’s Trump Tower to show their support. At around 5 p.m., Trump emerged to greet them. A few moments later, John McCain became the latest Republican senator to withdraw backing for his party’s nominee, saying, “Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

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Despite mounting Republican calls for Trump to drop out, his supporters at Trump Tower weren’t worried. “Nobody’s afraid of that,” Kathy Serra, a 64-year-old from New Jersey, told me. To her, it was self-evident that Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comments are not a big deal. “When men get together, I think we all know, they talk in ways that they would never talk in public,” she said. “It’s called one-upmanship, who can be the biggest braggart. I’m not the least bit concerned about that, especially when we know that Bill raped all these women, and Hillary just didn’t care and called them bimbos.”

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I asked her what she thought of all the Republicans who were turning their backs on Trump. “I don’t think they are,” she replied. “I think that’s a lot of baloney.” What about McCain? “Nobody’s changing their position, OK?” she responded. I insisted that McCain had. “McCain is establishment. He’s New World Order,” she said. “He’s as fraudulent as all the rest of them.” But the party as a whole, she maintained, wouldn’t wobble. “If they really care about this country and they care what happens to it, they will not change their position, and they’ll stay with Trump,” she said. “If they don’t care about this country and they want New World Order and they want ridiculous Muslim immigration and they want to turn this country into an Islamic country, they will vote for Hillary.”

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As we spoke, Joey Zeno, a 47-year-old doorman from Brooklyn, interrupted to say, “If I gave you a bowl of Skittles and I told you that three of them might kill you, that’s the same with these Syrian refugees.” I asked Zeno what he thought of the Republicans calling on Trump to drop out. “They’re all part of the establishment,” he said. “They’re all part of the globalist agenda.” Another demonstrator handed me three photocopied pages listing headlines and URLs of news stories about lack of voter enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. On the last page, it said: “PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS TRUTH WE ARE WINNING THE ENTHUSIASM BATTLE!!!!!”

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Other people I spoke to had, like Serra, heard about the Trump Tower gathering from pro-Trump Facebook groups, and pro-Trump social media shaped their perception of reality. “Donald Trump is going to be elected president next month,” Jim MacDonald, an actuary from Queens, told me. He was convinced that the Republicans who had bailed on Trump would soon be back aboard the Trump train. “I think they’re timid people, and in two or three days, they’ll realize that the remarks that he made were 10 years ago, they were not that terrible, and they will start coming back to Trump,” he said.

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This seems unlikely, but MacDonald’s words point to the bind that the GOP is in. When Trump’s base comes to fully understand the degree to which the Republican establishment is abandoning him, they’re going to be furious and baffled. Many liberals are incredulous that “grab ’em by the pussy” has sent Republicans fleeing their nominee, when countless other equally hideous things that Trump has said and done have not. Trump fans are going to experience a photo-negative version of this puzzlement: Why should this comment, this bit of what Trump initially called “locker-room banter,” matter so much? After all, everyone already knows who Trump is!

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As the GOP melts down, it’s as if Republican officials have suddenly awakened from a trance and realized, with a month until the election, that they have nominated Donald Trump for president. But it’s far from clear that the millions of Americans who support Trump are having similar epiphanies. Paul Ryan may have disinvited Trump from a major Republican rally in Wisconsin that took place on Saturday, but attendees reportedly chanted, “We want Trump! We want Trump!” As McKay Coppins reported in BuzzFeed, hecklers taunted Ryan: “Trump for president!” and “You turned your back on him!” As the crisis in the party progresses, Republicans may find that disavowing their nominee is the easy part. Breaking with the deplorable voters who chose him is going to be a lot harder.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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