Make America Clap Again
“I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.” -Proximo (Gladiator, 2000)
(This post was originally published on Katelyn’s Substack on 11/6/2019 and has been moved here as her Substack no longer exists)
There’s something uniquely American about booing people we don’t like at sporting events. In most of Europe, for example, people tend to hiss instead of boo, a fact which confused me when I first watched a World Cup held outside the United States. My dad couldn’t explain why at the time, finally responding to my badgering with, “some cultures are different.”
In the US, booing is the great equalizer of the masses. The asshole owner of your employer is throwing out the first pitch? Boo him from the bleachers. The politician at the center of the local political machine who can never seem to be unseated? Boo his ass at the high school football game. The quarterback you love to hate? Boo bitch!
You might only get one chance to throw a really good boo at someone you legitimately despise. The staffers for some politicians work overtime to ensure that their elected official is only seen in front of receptive crowds. Ever since President Trump descended his golden escalator to announce his candidacy for the country’s highest office, he’s been speaking in front of hordes of adoring fans.
That’s no accident. Political crowds are often tightly controlled to ensure the best possible optics, and the reality show president understands the importance of production value. Like The Apprentice, Trump’s rallies have always been produced for entertainment value, and dissent is discouraged. Trump went so far as to encourage his supporters to violently eject protesters from his rallies, allowing the mobs to enforce their own restrictions on speech.
Thankfully the President of the United States has given us two chances to loudly dissent recently, and of course real Americans responded as only Americans do. We booed. Several weeks ago, the president attended Game 5 of the World Series, where the DC locals responded by reigning down boos upon Trump and his Republican sycophants in his luxury box.
Afterwards pundits questioned the boos and the accompanying “lock him up” chant, claiming the office of the presidency deserves more respect. Critics of the president pointed out that the chant was obviously ironic, and appropriate considering it’s alleged the president has done crimes. You can’t joke about anything these days without offending someone.
Over this past weekend, Trump took a second crack at it, attending a UFC match in New York City, perhaps imagining that fans of a more “masculine” sport may be more likely to support a president who consistently appeals to a particularly toxic form of masculinity.
No such luck.
Again the boos reigned down on the president. Trump’s handlers can’t control who attends a baseball game in DC or a cage match in NYC. In many ways, arenas and stadiums are the ultimate form of democracy. At the ballgame, you’re free to cheer — and boo — as you see fit, the ultimate freedom to vote. And unlike his carefully pre-screened rally fans, Trump didn’t win these crowds.
News then broke Monday that Trump would be attending this weekend’s Alabama-LSU football game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After not attending any sporting events for three years of his presidency, suddenly Trump has taken an interest in being seen at games. Is it possible he’s just suddenly taken an interest in sports? Maybe.
More likely his ego is wounded from the back-to-back booings up and down the east coast. It feels as if Trump is groping for a warm welcome to remind himself that he’s still beloved in parts of the country, and that conservative Alabama is perhaps the most likely spot to receive that kind of coddling from a random crowd of sports fans.
Trump’s presidency is in shambles. He’s under congressional and state investigation, his domestic policy is dead on arrival, he’s weak on the international stage and has allowed our allies to be slaughtered. Successive Democratic waves in elections in 2017, 2018, and now 2019 have proven his political coattails to be quite short. All he has left is the crowd, but DC and New York have put dents even in that armor.
He’s an old man wandering the countryside looking for people who won’t boo him. This is officially Trump’s “Please Clap” moment.