Donald Trump’s Biggest Fans at Bucks Rally Were Teens

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Teens at Trump rally

Donald Trump’s rally on Friday night in Newtown was full of teenagers.

I’m standing on the road outside the Newtown Athletic Club, trying to explain to these teenagers how Donald Trump was the featured attraction at WrestleMania 23.

This is not what I expected to be doing when I went to cover a Trump rally last Friday night in Bucks County, but such is the nature of journalism: You go where the job takes you. And Trump’s rally on Friday night in Newtown had an interesting crowd.

It was the third time I was covering a Trump rally. One was a speech about his military policy[1] at the Union League in early September, and another was Trump’s rally at a Delaware County movie studio[2] late in the month. Both of them featured the crowd you’d expect at a Trump rally given his base of support[3]: older, mostly white.

But while the crowd at Friday night’s rally was overwhelmingly white, it was also surprisingly young. As in, there were a lot of teenagers at Donald Trump’s rally on Friday night. There were about 1,500 people inside the NAC, and more outside listening to an audio feed. (The fire marshal cut off the line at a certain point; Newtown Athletic Club owner Jim Worthington said there were 4,000 people in total at the event.)

My unscientific estimation from inside the building is that the crowd was probably 40 percent old people, 40 percent teens and 20 percent other. Even if I’m over-counting teens a bit, it was still a teenage-heavy crowd. You could tell a lot of them were in high school by their T-shirts: Council Rock South, Council Rock North, Central Bucks East, Central Bucks West, Central Bucks South.

So what gives? What caused a bunch of teenagers to give up their Friday nights to see Donald Trump, a man who is down in the polls and appears headed to a rout[4] next month?

That there are lots of directional schools in Bucks County gives one reason why there were a lot of teens there: There are a lot of high schoolers in the area, period. And some of them were just there to have fun. And it wasn’t the first I heard of Trump’s teen support: Joe DeFelice, head of the Philadelphia GOP, told me earlier this month that Trump won a straw poll at St. Hubert’s, 50-41. “That’s pretty telling for an all-girls high school in lower Northeast Philadelphia,” he said.

And, yes, teens at the rally were enthused. “Donald Trump is going to win the election!” says a kid in a Central Bucks South T-shirt when I approach him and his friends afterward. He and his group declined to give their names — they had just been at a rally where Trump told his supporters to distrust the media and where people chanted, “CNN sucks!” — but they did talk about why they wanted to see the Trump rally.

I asked them what they thought of Trump before he ran for president, and some of them copped to not really knowing who he was. This is how the discussion of Donald Trump, pro wrestling villain — my main experience with Trump before this election season — came into play. I may have shown a few people a GIF of Trump failing to properly sell a Stone Cold Stunner[5].

But it moved on to politics, and they were fans there, too. Though only three of the 20 or so high schoolers I talked to outside the rally were eligible to vote next month, many said they agreed with Donald Trump’s vision for the future of America. “I like that he’s not a politician,” one student told me. “He’s out of the ordinary. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. I kind of agree with all of his policies — trickle-down economics, deporting all of the illegal immigrants — that’s how I want the country to be run. I think he’s going to benefit us the most. Hillary’s the same old stuff.”

Asked about Hillary Clinton, teens I talked to were less derisive of her than your usual Trump supporter. It makes sense, as many Hillary haters had their fires stoked in the 1990s — whereas some of these teen Trump supporters were born after Bill Clinton left office. But a lot of these teenagers were excited for Trump: They wanted a wall built. They wanted taxes cut. They wanted Donald Trump as president, even if they couldn’t actually vote for him. They genuinely liked the guy.

It was a student from the high school I attended in Bucks County, Holy Ghost Prep, who summed things up best. “I think it’s because he’s, like, immature,” said Rick Liberatore, a junior who said he was neutral in the election. “We’re immature, so we understand him.”

His friend, also a HGP student, laughed: “As a Trump supporter, I can agree with him. We find some of the things he says humorous. Like, we would say that, as a 17-year-old boy — but when a 70-year-old man says it it’s even funnier.”

There you have it: Donald Trump is a bit of a teen idol. Unfortunately for him, many of his biggest fans legally can’t vote for him. Then again, he did joke[6] about liking voter fraud if it helps him out. Maybe these kids ought to head to the polls anyway.

Endnotes:
  1. speech about his military policy: https://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/09/07/donald-trump-philadelphia-union-league/
  2. Trump’s rally at a Delaware County movie studio: https://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/09/23/donald-trump-delco/
  3. base of support: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/08/21/at_the_base_of_trumps_support_131567.html
  4. a rout: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=rrpromo
  5. failing to properly sell a Stone Cold Stunner: https://twitter.com/fakemikemulloy/status/665829480091402240
  6. did joke: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/10/22/donald-trump-jokes-that-its-okay-for-his-supporters-to-commit-voter-fraud/

Source URL: https://www.phillymag.com/city/2016/10/24/donald-trump-rally-newtown-teens/