After a year on the campaign trail, Donald Trump’s song remains the same

Trump showed no signs of moving toward the center—or away from divisive rhetoric—in his Atlanta visit
Donald Trump

Max Blau

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump stood in the Trump Tower and declared that the American dream was dead. “I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again,” he pledged.

In the year since Trump announced his presidential candidacy, a lot has changed. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who led the polls the day Trump joined the race, fizzled fast. Jeb Bush, the GOP establishment’s pick, failed to fulfill his family’s legacy. In total, more than a dozen Republicans of all stripes—Bobby Jindal to Marco Rubio; Ben Carson to Chris Christie; Carly Fiorina to Ted Cruz—were slowly devoured by the Trump leviathan.

The boisterous billionaire has vowed to resuscitate a struggling nation, all the while neglecting to provide any details on how this revival will occur. And he’s continued to stoke xenophobia, race-bait, and vilify the press. If his latest stop to Atlanta—six weeks after becoming the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee—is any indication, he won’t be wavering from that message as heads to the Republican National Convention next month.

Three days after 49 people were killed in an Orlando LGBT nightclub, the country’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11, Trump yesterday used the massacre to talk about why he’d be fit to become the nation’s next commander-in-chief. After a private fundraiser at Charlie Loudermilk’s Buckhead home, which was co-hosted by Gov. Nathan Deal and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the presidential candidate was introduced at the Fox Theatre by the likes of Ralph Reed and Herman Cain—the latter calling him a “shucky ducky kind of candidate.” Right before 1 p.m., Trump walked onstage with none other than Vince Dooley. The legendary University of Georgia football coach offered a hearty endorsement of the Republican only to be drowned out by loud barks from those packed inside the Fox Theatre.

“Great guy, great guy,” said Trump, backed by U.S. and Georgia flags, before striking a more serious tone. “So, the world changing rapidly, it’s a lot different, it’s not a pretty picture…”

An ardent Donald Trump fan
An ardent Donald Trump fan

Max Blau

Before diving into his routine spiel—the one you’ve heard a hundred times before, with the walls and the winning—he called the Orlando shooting a “horrible, horrible” event that took the lives of “incredible people.” By incredible people, Trump meant gay people, who he claimed were “so much in favor of what I’m saying” in regards to making the country safer. What Trump was saying, though, had to do with keeping out “radical Islamic terrorists” who “want to destroy us”—doubling down on recent anti-immigration rhetoric. However, he didn’t offer an actual solution, simply proposing that, in addition to a temporary ban on Muslims, the U.S. should establish “safe zones” in countries like Syria that are paid for by those nations.

“It’s humanity!” Trump said. “We have so many problems here. But we build safe zones there, and now, we have to get the Gulf States to pay for it. They have tremendous amounts of money, they’re not doing much, and it’s their territory. We have to get them to pay for it.”

Later on, he vowed to “save the Second Amendment” and went so far as to claim stronger laws would have saved the lives of some victims in the nightclub shooting. How, exactly? With fewer restrictions, he explained, club goers could have strapped more firearms on their waists or ankles to defend themselves. More guns, less carnage, he reasoned. The crowd roared its approval.

He then rambled some more, mostly about the declining state of America—a nation getting shafted in trade deals, a economy losing jobs, workers making less money than two decades ago—and pledged his presidency would reverse that trend. Those criticisms devolved into personal mockery—like when he made fun of the tone of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer’s voice—that were only matched by insinuations that a “crooked” Hillary Clinton “will basically do whatever Obama wants her to do” in order to avoid prosecution for deleting personal emails related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Protesters get arrested outside the Trump rally at the Fox Theatre
Protesters get arrested outside the Trump rally at the Fox Theatre

Max Blau

As at other Trump speeches, protesters inside the Fox made sure to disrupt the rally nearly half a dozen times. Outside the venue, five more protesters were also arrested in the middle of Peachtree Street for disorderly conduct. Hours before the paddy wagon arrived, a few of Georgia’s state Democratic officials, including Sen. Nan Orrock, blasted Trump—the man vowing to “make American great again”—for acting downright “un-American” by spreading hate through his speeches.

“We know the nation’s not going to fall for it,” Orrock said.

After a year of the Trump campaign, the GOP’s presumptive nominee is facing record lows in the polls: one from Bloomberg Politics had him down 12-percentage points, one from NBC News had him down seven points, and one from the Washington Post and ABC News found that 70 percent of Americans view Trump negatively. In Atlanta, Trump responded with a tactic as old as his campaign: he called the numbers “phony.” Whatever the numbers, he said, he vowed to press on, unfazed by the facts.

“We’ve been the dummies for too long,” Trump said. “We have to be the smart country. We have to be the brilliant country.”

Below are some photos from inside and outside the Trump rally held at the Fox Theatre.