What do Trump’s people want from him? What do they expect him to do? Is there anything he could do to let them down? Trump grinned as the crowd chanted “lock her up,” even though he has already stated he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton. They chanted “build the wall” and “drain the swamp.” Trump talked about repealing Obamacare, ending Washington gridlock, rebuilding inner cities, and putting coal miners back to work.
“All of it,” John G. Falk told me, when I asked him what he thought Trump would do. “I think he will do all of it.” A blue-eyed, stubble-faced 40-year-old in a Trump campaign shirt and hat, Falk said he had bet two friends bottles of whiskey that Trump would really build his promised border wall, which his friends do not believe.
“They voted for him, but they think he’s going to be just another politician,” he said. “I said, ‘No, he’s different.’ In three years, if he hasn’t built the wall, he’s done—he put his name behind that.” Falk paused and then qualified his statement: There could be some unforeseen obstacle that would prevent Trump from building the wall, and in that case, it would not be his fault.
Falk pointed to the Carrier deal and a similar Trump interaction with Ford as proof he was already making good on his promises. Most of all, though, Falk and others I talked to seemed to see Trump’s victory as an end in itself: a cry of defiance, a downtrodden people’s assertion of its voice. “It’s like being reborn,” he said of the election result. It was a rebuke to Clinton’s disdain for “deplorables,” a blow struck for Middle America.
Originally from Cincinnati, Falk was in town visiting; he now lives in New York and sells biometric-fingerprint technology, but he still saw himself as a citizen of the heartland. “Why is it that lesbians and gays and blacks and transgenders can vote for their interests, but when working-class people do that, they’re demonized?” Falk said. “Who’s speaking for us? There’s more of us. We’re America.”
Talking to Falk and a dozen others at the rally, I got the sense they would do exactly what they’d done throughout the campaign: follow Trump wherever he led, rationalizing his lapses and believing his claims of triumph, facts be damned.
“His transition is a lot different than people envisioned—it’s been pretty inclusive,” said Keith Rings, a 55-year-old Cincinnatian who works for a business finance company. “He’s reached out to people that were against him.” Rings looked forward to Trump “getting rid of the nepotism in Washington,” defined as the money-and-lobbying axis exemplified by Clinton.
Rings was a conservative who hadn’t always approved of Trump’s conduct but was tired of being “stomped on” by “elitists” in the media. He was relieved by the defeat of Clinton, who, he said, had been up to no good ever since she was kicked off the Watergate Commission. (This persistent rumor is not true.)