MANCHESTER, N.H.—During a rally in the nation’s first primary state last night, President Donald Trump delivered two hours’ worth of musings on his favorite topics, including, in the order mused: the 2016 election, “fake polls,” the “fake news media,” crowd size, “fake witch hunts,” the success of “Make America Great Again” as a slogan, China tariffs, farmers, “Sleepy Joe” Biden, “Pocahontas,” personnel matters at The New York Times, socialism, communism, the Green New Deal, the military, Barack Obama, jobs, the stock market, the unemployment rate, law enforcement, Democrats calling people Nazis, the Border Patrol, faith, the American flag, freedom, “America First,” receiving the nonexistent honor of Michigan’s “Man of the Year,” Mexico, winning Pennsylvania, winning North Carolina, winning South Carolina, winning Florida, Hillary Clinton’s emails, ethanol, Rudy Giuliani, Corey Lewandowski, NAFTA, tax cuts, coal, oil, the effect of windmills on property values, steel and aluminum, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, China’s currency manipulation, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, globalism, violent crime, how guns are shot, the Second Amendment, the opioid epidemic, the progress of a border wall, drug smuggling, sanctuary cities, illegal immigrants, voter-ID laws, “the Democrat Party,” Obamacare, late-term abortion, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, astronauts, Mars, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, rockets, the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the American dream, eradicating AIDS, curing childhood cancer, and, again, winning.
Trump has long used his rallies as a therapeutic escape of sorts, where he can loosen up and stream his own greatest-hits playlist without interruption from the outside world. For Trump, to hold court under the bright lights of a jam-packed stadium somewhere, anywhere, is to shut out the inconveniences that come with the reality of running a country. In the past few weeks alone, those inconveniences have included questions about whether he views nonwhites as sufficiently American, a series of mass shootings, fears of an economic recession, and the future of democracy in the Eastern Hemisphere. Rallies allow both Trump and his supporters to leave these questions at the door—and, in the process, to be transported back to a time when the Trump presidency was nothing more than a glittering aspiration.