You might have heard that a certain golden-haired, thumb-pumping narcissist of a presidential candidate dropped by our fair city last Friday to much pomp, circumstance, fervor and a soupcon of tear gas for media flavor.
The mainstream media ate up the fervor and tear gas, quite predictably, because conflict attracts more eyes. And attention, Donald Trump would tell you, is the name of the game.
A friend recently noted the similarities between Trump and the greatest self-promoter of all time, the bombastic P.T. Barnum of circus fame. The comparison is well-trodden ground, as are most topics in this seemingly never ending spectacle of the ridiculous that presidential elections have become.
But last Friday, on the streets of downtown that our smiling mayor and his tourism-boosting proxies love to promote as paradise, a different side of San Diego emerged that Spin Cycle found much more intriguing, confounding and hopeful for a more vibrant, passionate future, far removed from the bland preferences of our aging civic leaders.
It is within that crucible of transition that Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer finds himself as we approach Election Day next Tuesday. And by Spin’s highly unscientific measure of the political temperature last Friday, he’s not impressing.
As wide-eyed Trump supporters of all stripes—a true spectrum of the human condition—cut through an equally diverse throng of protesters to get to the San Diego Convention Center doors, Spin asked passersby for their thoughts on the mayor and his pronouncement that he would not be endorsing the presumptive presidential nominee for his own party.
“Typical politician” was the number-one answer, followed closely by references to chicken manure and “Who?”
“What else did you expect?” noted Karen Grube, a third-generation San Diegan who may have been the only person among the thousands that packed Harbor Drive Friday with a Ted Cruz sign. “I wouldn’t expect anything else.”
But fear not, Mayor Faulconer, for Grube—a longtime thorn in the side of the local Republican establishment—lives in Escondido. She said she has reached out to the Cruz campaign, national Republican Party and her own representative, Rep. Duncan Hunter (the poster boy of vaping and campaign credit card mismanagement), urging everyone to call for the release of Trump’s tax returns.
Convinced there will be some bombshell in those filings, Grube holds out hope for her Texas senator preference come convention time, even though his campaign has shifted back to Texas senator mode.
Hunter—who helped warm up the crowd prior to Trump’s hourlong speech and promptly skedaddled with a young man who appeared to be his son toward the San Diego Hilton to the south—recently told Grube, “I got to be for the border. I’m from San Diego. And Trump is for the border.”
“I’m like, ‘Is that it? Is that all you’ve got?’” Grube recalled, laughing. Grube was soon greeted by a young Cruz supporter who requested a selfie. He noted that he and Hunter share similar vaping flavor tastes for something called “Dragon’s Blood.”
Hunter and his conspiracy-hunting colleague, Rep. Darrell Issa, were the local politicians of note to venture inside the law-enforcement-blanketed convention center for Trump’s speech.
“Are you ready for the next President of the United States?” Issa shouted to a cheering crowd. “I see a lot of young faces here, but over there in the back I see some wrinkled old veterans…” Trump used the occasion to roll out his veterans advisory council. Speaking outside, veteran Marine, former mayoral candidate and rumored future county supervisorial candidate Nathan Fletcher carpet-bombed Trump.
“I hope this is a group of people that can advise him of all of the things he’s done wrong for veterans,” Fletcher said, “because at the end of the day as a veteran I can tell you that there is no one who would be worse as our commander in chief.”
The former Republican-cum-Independent-cum-Democrat pummeled Trump over his alleged $6 million fundraiser for veterans, for proposing to “privatize the VA” and for comparing his own troubles in the 1970s— “his womanizing, his attempt to avoid getting a sexually transmitted disease”—as “his own Vietnam. Those are his words.”
A few steps away, a gentleman sporting rouge and a blond wig danced underneath a Trump piñata dangled on a pole to the rhythmic beat of YG & Nipsey Hussle’s modern-day anthem, “(FDT) Fuck Donald Trump.”
Look, Reagan sold coke, Obama sold hope/Donald Trump spent his trust fund money on the vote…
Yes, this is not your grandmother’s San Diego. Camouflage-capped NRA youth mingling with Aztec dancers. A 14-year-old waving a “Fuck Trump” sign—a Friday sales hit at 3 for $20!—in the faces of a Trump-shirted family that appeared to be making its first foray into an urban setting. “You’re 14,” the mother admonished. “You shouldn’t be using language like that.”
Counter that with the mother/ daughter duo offering free coffee and tea to protesters. “We don’t know who we’re voting for,” the mother told one grateful recipient, “but I hope we can all come together afterwards.”
Minus the militaristic ending, this would be a magnificent event to hold every year, election campaign or not. Gaslamp businesses seemed to be buzzing—red-hatted Trump backers were found seated at numerous eating establishments. Cops, at least during the protest, appeared to interact well with participants—no small feat in an area not created for static mobs of people. (The artistry of maintaining trolley movement alone was a sight to behold.)
Most importantly, people exhibited passion and a hunger for something real, whatever that may be to them. They’re tired of the status quo. For protesters, that spells a need to be heard. For Trumpians, that seems to mean a return to an America they once knew that is likely never returning, where might makes right.
Floating in the fog, meanwhile, is Mayor Faulconer, who jumped from supporting Marco Rubio to John Kasich to, from the looks of things, not Donald. “He hasn’t earned my vote,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. Asked Tuesday whom the mayor will vote for, his office was silent.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if his own base responded in kind?