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Gives a great view of the Trump rally addicts. It's clear it's more than
the political ideas; it's a whole culture. It's theater. Who cares if it's
theater of the absurd, it satisfies deep emotional needs. And that's where
real politics really lives anyway.

(If you're able to read this WSJ article online, I suggest doing so since
there are some great photos in it.)

Libby DePiero once drove her Ford Focus so far to attend a Trump campaign
rally—about 1,000 miles from her home in Connecticut to Indiana—that when
she lay in bed that night she thought the twitching in her driving leg was
coming from an animal under the mattress.

The 64-year-old retiree, who prefers sparkly nail polish, leopard prints
and selfies with Trump campaign officials, is almost always one of the
first few people in line at the president’s campaign events, part of the
self-described group of “Front Row Joes” who routinely travel to see the
president perform. Several, like Ms. DePiero, have attended more than 50
Trump rallies.

She keeps going because she trusts only the president to deliver her the
news. “How else would I know what’s going on?” she said.

Mr. Trump has hosted more than 550 ticketed campaign events since 2015, at
least 70% of which include his trademark rallies, according to Republican
officials. These rallies form the core of one of the most steadfast
political movements
modern American political history, a dynamic that has reordered the
Republican Party.

Mr. Trump’s perpetual tour
a coterie of political pilgrims who travel across the country and encamp
outside arenas for days at a time for the chance to stand in the front row
and, for 90 minutes, cheer the man they say has changed the U.S. and, in
many cases, their own lives. Somewhere between 5% to 10% of attendees have
been to multiple events, the officials said.

“You go to the rallies, and he basically tells you that you don’t have to
put up with ‘the swamp’ and those kinds of people,” said Saundra Kiczenski,
a 40-year-old Walmart worker from Michigan who has been to 29 rallies.
“Because of him I decided not to pay for Obamacare, not pay the fine. And
what happened? Nothing. Before, the quiet me would have paid the fine. But
Donald Trump told me that we have a voice, and now I stand up for myself.”

The Trump rally die-hards—a few dozen men and women who have been to more
than 10 rallies—are almost exclusively white. Many are recently retired
with time on their hands and little to keep them tied to home. A handful
never had children. Others are estranged from their families.

Several of those with jobs live paycheck to paycheck, but constantly offer
strangers a cold beverage, sandwiches or their last cigarette.

Some rely on disability payments, like Cynthia Barten, or cut lawns in
Missouri, like her husband, Ken Barten. Others sell secondhand items in
Kentucky like Jon French, or find odd jobs such as clearing rocks from
farmland in Minnesota, like Randal Thom. Kevin Steele quit his job and
plans to finance his travels to Trump rallies with the remaining $120,000
from an inheritance.

The group includes Trump aficionados, who have spent decades keeping tabs
on his history of political flirtations, tabloid melodrama and star turns
on reality television. A surprising number voted for Barack Obama at least
once, caught up in the Democrat’s charisma and fed up with Republicans over
foreign adventurism and growing national debt.

Rally regulars stay connected through Facebook and text messages, pinging
one another to see who is attending the next rally, who can carpool and who
wants to split a hotel room.

Ms. DePiero broke up a 700-mile drive to the Cincinnati rally on Aug. 1 by
spending the night with Becky Gee, a northeast Ohio dairy farmer she met at
a previous Trump rally. She stayed with Barbara Bienkowski in Maryland
(they met at Trump Hotel in Washington earlier this year), on her way to
the Greenville, N.C., rally on July 17 and stayed in Myrtle Beach, S.C.,
with Dale Ranney, another Front Row Joe, on the way home.

Two regular rallygoers have already married, and divorced.

All of them describe, in different ways, a euphoric flow of emotions
between themselves and the president, a sort of adrenaline-fueled, psychic
cleansing that follows 90 minutes of chanting and cheering with 15,000
other like-minded Trump junkies.

“Once you start going, it’s kind of like an addiction, honestly,” said
April Owens, a 49-year-old financial manager in Kingsport, Tenn., who has
been to 11 rallies. “I love the energy. I wouldn’t stand in line for 26
hours to see any rock band. He’s the only person I would do this for, and
I’ll be here as many times as I can.”

For many Front Row Joes, the Trump era marks their political awakening.
Among the first Americans to identify the resonance and endurance of Mr.
Trump’s political appeal, they are reveling in the victory. Like Mr. Trump
on stage, each recounts the Election Night triumph without any prompting.

In Orlando, Fla., Trump fans sat in a field adjacent to Amway Center in
June, about to get soaked by the second downpour in as many days. Still,
they wore sunglasses and smiles as outdoor speakers pumped out “Sweet Home
Alabama” and “Hurts So Good.” Head shakes and patronizing laughs greeted
questions about which Democrat might beat Mr. Trump.

Michael Telesca, a middle-school teacher at the front of the line in
Greenville, compared the experience to following Bruce Springsteen.

“You come to the show, and you know exactly what you’re going to get—all of
the hits and maybe a few surprises, too,” said Mr. Telesca, whose bushy
brown hair is graying at the temples.

The surprise in Greenville wasn’t from Mr. Trump, but the crowd as it
debuted a “send her back” chant
The chant erupted as Mr. Trump was criticizing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.).
Three days earlier, Mr. Trump had tweeted
Ms. Omar and three other liberal congresswomen, all women of color, should
“go back” to unspecified countries. The four women are American citizens
and three of them were born in the U.S.

Before the rally, more than a dozen supporters said they would never use
that racist language to denounce minorities. Inside Williams Arena, many
participated in the chant that mirrored it. “It was like a tornado when
‘send her back’ started. I was looking around and people were loving it,”
Ms. DePiero said.

The regulars who arrived early at rallies—often before campaign officials
or local law enforcement—hurried to set up tents and organize their
belongings. The Bartens, who drove their Dodge minivan seven hours from St.
Louis to be first in line in Cincinnati, unfolded a table and set down a
deep-cycle military battery, a camp stove for turkey melts, a string of LED
festoon lights and a half-empty pack of Edgefield cigarettes.

They mingled until doors opened, then rushed to the front row on the arena
floor. But not necessarily center-stage.

Some, like, Shane Doyle, prefer the side where Mr. Trump first appears from
behind the curtains. “Back in the primary, I used to like being the first
one when he came out, because he would sign all my stuff,” said Mr. Doyle,
a 24-year-old machinist from Buffalo, N.Y.

Just before midnight on the eve of the Cincinnati rally, about two dozen
fans lounged in lawn chairs or leaned on metal bike racks, scrolling
through their phones and sipping from cans of Coors Light. A soft brown
blanket covered Ms. Barten and her 12-year-old granddaughter, who slept
sitting up in her camp chair.

The 57-year-old Air Force veteran’s disability check is reduced by $5 every
month by an automatic donation to the Trump campaign.

“We’re not rich by any means,” Ms. Barten said. “But I’ll tell you what:
When we’re rich in our hearts with our country and our president, we’re
richer than anybody.”
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