Last week, Kerry forwards me a link to an article that Donald Trump is holding a rally in Fredericksburg, which is where my in-laws live and is a rather close drive.

We’re not Trump supporters. We’re part of that demographic that strongly dislikes both candidates from the major parties. Furthermore, I’m in the surprised and puzzled group of people wondering how the machinery of the GOP have allowed a person like Donald Trump to make it on to their ballot. That’s what Republicans get for allowing the democratic process in their own ranks, I suppose.

I still wanted to go to experience it. We talk and Tweet and complain about American politics, but don’t actually first hand experience it. I’d have rather gone to a Johnson or a Stein rally, but this is what we had and this is where we went.

The primary reason for getting the free tickets was to deprive two Trump supporters of tickets, but then decided that I didn’t have much to do this weekend and another personal errand would be taking me that direction on Saturday anyway.

The rally had an iPhone launch day grade line in the heat. Kerry had read a report that claimed people had started lining up to get in before noon, while doors wouldn’t open until three and the event wouldn’t start until six. When we joined the line around five thirty there were a hundreds people ahead of us.

Our welcome to the line included an elderly woman who cMe close to fainting because of the heat and was laying on the grass while someone else called for an ambulance. The EMTs checked her out and let her return to the line. Other people were saying she “deserved to meet Trump,” but I couldn’t figure out on what basis she qualified for that.

Much later and much closer to the entrance and after six o’clock, someone starts live streaming Trump’s speech from their phone for themselves and people lean in to hear. He’s talking about how Virginia and West Virginia has the largest deposit of clean coal. First of all- there is no such thing as clean coal. Perhaps if you’re comparing coal to non-traditional energy sources like used car tires or broken pieces of Styrofoam, then coal looks a lot better. Second of all, Appalachian coal deposits sulfur content is of marginal importance with modern emission scrubbers.

Kerry finds out that Trump had opened his speech by addressing the people of “Fairfax” which is north of where we are at, but can’t blame the man who has been on tour for months for getting slightly confused about where he is.

Meanwhile a local politician in a suit is shaking hands and thanking people for coming out. He seemed comfortable in the dark suit in the Virginia summer heat. Doing better than I would have, I can say that much.

At the head of the line, people started asking the line if they had any extra tickets. Someone did and gave them up. Some else arrived and declared that they had extra tickets and asked if anyone wanted them, the people who had been standing in front of us for forty five minutes in the sun claimed them. I overheard them talk about how lucky they had gotten. Who puts on their shoes, drives across town, waits in the heat, and hopes that they’ll get free tickets or hopes that they can sneak into the convention hall without proper documentation and take the place of a someone who had legally gotten their place? Trump supporters, that’s who.

The last of the people selling hats, buttons, and shirts to the line, which were non-white, I might add, faded away as we get inside the building. A man to the right asks the line of we have tickets. I vaguely wave my printed tickets towards hi, figuring that his job was to check if people had tickets and we’d then have to have them scanned, but, nope, that man was it for tickets. If you had a piece of paper in your hand, that was good enough.

Security seemed pretty standard. Empty your pockets, go through the metal detector, and get wanded.

Inside Donald Trump was wrapping up with the coal bit. Personally as a non native to this area, I’m not clear if people miles south of Washington D. C. care that much about the coal industry. But, these folks do like hearing about American jobs.

He then moves on to minority voters. He says,

“I want African Americans to honor me with their votes,”

Then goes on to blast Hillary for using black people for votes sentences later.

Next he goes on and speaks about an America without racism or prejudice. He then dovetails this with the idea that illegal immigrants are taking jobs that American black youth could have. Since immigration is one of the primary areas I’m specifically conservative on and I’m also anti-racism, I like this part of his speech. I’m also surprised at how receptive his unsurprisingly white audience is to his pro-racial equality words are. I had at least one prejudice against Trump and his supporters undone.

He talked about that plan for the wall and continues to insist that Mexico is going to pay for it. I do remember that a notable member of the GOP said:

“Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”

But here we are. It’s a different time maybe.

People cheer for the wall, Trump talks about how Hispanic gangs are flooding into Virginia and how Hillary Clinton is going to bring a quarter million Syrian refugees into this country and, hey, we don’t know who these people are, it could be the “greatest Trojan horse in history”. Or something to that effect.

Trump continues with more American-first job rhetoric, which closes out the speech.

After most of an hour of talking about what he wants for America, he’s played off the stage by The Rolling Stone’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want. I presume his sound guy is voting for Clinton.

Trump presented ideas that I agreed with, ideas I don’t agree with, but understand, and some ideas that are hyperbole at best, lies at worst.

When I read Trump’s words, they sounds stupid and he sounds like the blowhard sitting at the bar soapboxing, while everyone else rolls their eyes and wishes he’d shut up so they can enjoy their night. In person? He speaks exactly how a populist candidate should speak. He speaks confidently with small words. Let me give you an even more specific example beyond the vocabulary. He tells the gathered audience that Hillary Clinton wants to get rid of the Second Amendment (as far as I know, a lie), and goes on to say she’s going to do that by undoing the Supreme Court ruling that allows states to govern their own gun laws. Trump being wrong about how that would actually work aside, he doesn’t actually refer to the Supreme Court ruling by its name. He doesn’t call it “the Heller ruling” or “Supreme Court v Heller”, because these people don’t know about it or its name or probably even care about it. I’d bet you dollars that Hillary Clinton, when speaking about this, refers to the ruling by name instead of a vague reference to some gun thing.

Trump is a populist and he knows that Americans don’t care about the labels and names that the federal government give their rules or laws. They care what the federal government does that effects them personally.

He’s not getting my vote, but, I’ll tell you, he knows how to speak to the American voter.