They were pumped up by the speech, but it was more than that. Their voices were clear and unabashed. There was a noticeable comfort, as if they had been encouraged by not just Mr. Trump’s rhetoric but also their shared proximity to so many people of a similar mind.
And then it dawned on me: For them the arena, and then the parking lot, had become their own safe spaces, where these people, who had long been reined in by changing societal expectations and especially the heavy burden of political correctness, felt they were finally free of the ridiculous expectations of overly sensitive liberals.
At the same time there was an overt hostility to dissent and difference. At one point a man standing nearby looked me over and said, “You don’t look right.” I had no doubt that, had I suggested that Mrs. Clinton was not in fact a lesbian communist, I’d have been forcibly removed, or worse. And I saw cars of supporters hurling slurs at a passing motorist waving a Mexican flag out his driver’s-side window…
In a perverse way, many Trump supporters want what they criticize: the sense of winning that seems to be the sole preserve of the cultural elite, the ability to set the terms of discussion, the freedom to speak their minds and not face criticism. Whether it’s same-sex marriage, the last two presidential elections or the Confederate battle flag (several of which I saw at the rally), they have not won in such a long time.