“They want”—and Schlapp cannot stress this enough—“ultimate control.”
Schlapp and her husband, Matt, who is the chairman of the American Conservative Union, are here in rural Pennsylvania to headline the Trump campaign’s “Halloween Witch Hunt Party.” Joining them are the pro-Trump video bloggers Diamond and Silk, who are dressed in judges’ robes, with Silk carrying a gavel and block to bang at random intervals. (The Schlapps, for their part, have attended the costume party as themselves, and poll the crowd on what they should dress up as the next night. “How about I’m Peter Strzok,” Matt says, “and”—he points to his wife—“Lisa Page?” The crowd cackles. “Or,” he continues, “how about I’m Hunter Biden?” Mercedes then vamps for the room: “And I’m the Ukrainian model.”)
Read: America’s goodly veneer was a lie
The Trump campaign, which won Pennsylvania in 2016, has identified the swing state as key to its reelection efforts. Yet the purpose of this gathering is unclear both before it begins and after it’s over. The Schlapps and Diamond and Silk are big names in Trumpland, but you wouldn’t know it based on the crowd, which fills less than half the room, excluding a taped-off section for reporters. Barbara Augustine, a 69-year-old retired nurse from Lancaster County, tells me she showed up to Spooky Nook Sports five hours before the event’s start time. “But I didn’t have to line up,” she says. “Nobody was here.” It is Mischief Night, and it’s as if everyone involved got tricked.
If the event is about anything, it is less about promoting Trump than about demonizing the opposition—certainly a hobby of many of the Trump voters I’ve spoken with over the past few years, but one that at this particular function doesn’t make much sense. Diamond and Silk, for instance, implore the locals-heavy crowd to vote out Democratic representatives from places other than Pennsylvania. Diamond: “You know what we’re gonna have to do with Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff? “We’re gonna have to”—and here the crowd shouts in unison—“VOTE THEM OUT!”
“And ol’ mean Maxine,” Diamond continues, referring to Representative Maxine Waters of California, “y’all know what we gotta do?” All together now: “VOTE HER OUT!” The Schlapps call for the crowd to send Diamond and Silk themselves to Washington. “I would say Diamond and Silk for Congress, don’t you think?” Mercedes says. “Let’s take out AOC! Let’s take out the swamp! Let’s put in Diamond and Silk!”
The Schlapps quickly outline in grave tones what will happen if they don’t send Trumpists to Washington. They remind the room that Democrats are “telling us we’re racist, they’re telling us we’re bad, they’re telling us that we’re destroying the environment, that our plastic straws are killing turtles”; that the country is “teetering” on the brink of “all that socialism and secularism”; and that the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry is “fake,” “faux,” and “not real.”