They’ve got murder on their minds now.
At the previous Donald Trump rally I’d attended, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Hillary Clinton was called a “bitch” more times that I could count. “Trump That Bitch” was the most common refrain. They shouted it from the rafters, wore T-shirts emblazoned with it. But at a rally in Raleigh on Tuesday night, a new cry rang out:
“Hang that bitch!”
The anger among Trump supporters toward the presumptive Democratic nominee apparently had escalated in the past month, perhaps especially so after FBI Director James Comey announced on Tuesday morning that he would not seek criminal charges against Clinton over her email scandal. This was a travesty against justice, obvious proof of corruption. As Trump said on stage, “Today is the best evidence ever, that we’ve seen, that our system is absolutely, totally rigged.”
Clinton might have escaped criminal justice, but this mob had a different kind of justice in mind. Trumping that bitch was no longer good enough. Now they wanted her dead.
I’d just come from Charlotte, where I mingled with Hillary Clinton supporters in a line that extended a half a mile away from the Convention Center. They were relieved that the FBI had decided not to indict their candidate, and fearful of a Donald Trump presidency. But they expressed that fear a little differently than their counterparts: with buttons and stickers reading “Love Trumps Hate.”
I didn’t get into that rally; the turnout was overwhelming. So I drove the hundred and sixty miles to Raleigh. Given the reaction to my last report from a Trump rally, and that the campaign’s social media director, Dan Scavino Jr., had blocked me on Twitter, I wondered whether I’d get inside this rally either. But within minutes of standing in the line outside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, a vendor came by with a backpack full of “Make America Great Again” hats. The standard red one went for twenty dollars and worked just fine.
The first time I heard someone yell “Hang that bitch!” was during a speech by Trump policy advisor Stephen Miller. I heard “hang that bitch” at least twice more during Trump’s speech, remarks that led to the crowd’s calls for Comey to be fired. Trump alleged that former President Bill Clinton had tampered with the FBI’s investigation, and that Hillary had used her position as secretary of state to line her pockets and singlehandedly destabilize the Middle East.
While Trump made the latter case, a man stood up and yelled, “Hang Hillary!”
“Yeah!” another shouted.
A smattering of applause.
Nearly six years have passed since I last heard, in person, somebody call for the death of a politician. I was at a Tea Party informational meeting at the Greene County Fairgrounds outside Bloomfield, Indiana, back when Obamacare was still a dirty word. Speakers equated President Barack Obama with Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. They alluded to the Great Famine and the Great Purge. If Obama had his way, they argued, we should all be ready to report to work camps. After the presentation, I listened to farmers and factory workers alike wonder whether to take up arms and march on Washington. If the time had come, as one speaker put it, to “refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.”
There was a similar mood at Trump’s rally in Raleigh—the notion that extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary means. For bloodshed. Trump himself implied as much when he invoked Saddam Hussein approvingly. “Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right?” Trump said. “He was a bad guy, a really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists.”
He whipped his fans into a frenzy, and now they spilled into the streets, where media and protestors awaited.
“So let me get this straight,” one man fumed. “They get a fucking safe zone, but we don’t? Where do we get our free speech, bitches?”
When the protestors chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” his supporters amended it: “Hey hey, ho ho, (she’s a ho), Hillary Clinton has got to go (to prison).”
Meanwhile, a man with a copy of The Art of the Deal in his back pocket was ranting to a local TV reporter about Clinton’s private email server. He said Clinton should be “shot, executed” for “high treason.”
I walked the streets of Raleigh and heard laugher echoing through the blocks. There were Trump supporters eating food in the plazas. Trump supporters loitering in front of hotels and smoking while waiting for cabs. Some were debating their best insults to the protestors, and how they would’ve liked to have gotten their hands on them.
Later that night, in a frenzy himself, the architect of this bloodlust would tweet that “Crooked Hillary” got away with “murder.”