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Fear and loathing at the Fox Theatre

Yesterday I attended vice presidential candidate Mike Pence's political rally held in downtown Tucson. I went in with low expectations, considering my political views aren't usually very conservative, and I don't like Donald Trump much. But I figured it wouldn't hurt to get educated and see what the guy has to say.

It's a good thing my expectations weren't high, because there's no way the rally could have met them.

I was frustrated from the beginning at the environment within the theater. It became clear very quickly that people who weren’t Republican and didn’t support Trump and Pence were less welcome. I heard a couple men seated behind me laughing at a woman after she mentioned that she was likely voting for Hillary Clinton. After that, a man who had taken the stage before I entered the theater asked where the Independent party headquarters was, and laughter erupted from the crowd as he answered, “It doesn’t exist!”

What’s the point of a political rally, then, if people of all opinions and mindsets can’t attend without being ridiculed? I know I wasn’t the only one there who wanted to learn about a candidate I don’t support, but those speaking on behalf of the Republican party and the Trump/Pence ticket are making it obvious that they only want an audience of people who agree. I don’t know how that’s supposed to increase your numbers at the polls, and it certainly didn’t reflect positively to me.

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Pence took the stage amidst applause and hollering from the audience. He spoke well, but he wasn’t anything outstanding compared to other politicians. He said everything the audience wanted to hear, sampling from Trump’s platform and a list of jokes about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He got people fired up and chanting “U.S.A!” and “TRUMP!” I even heard a lady try to start a “Lock her up!” chant after Pence fired a cheap shot at Hillary, but it didn’t seem to catch on.

When it came to the issues, Pence stood by his running mate's views through and through. It sounded to me that he supports the idea of a wall that won't work—see: Great Wall of China; Berlin Wall—the desire to integrate religion and government through repealing the Johnson Amendment, and other conservative values with which I disagree. That’s nothing I hold against him as a candidate, because I can recognize that we have a difference of opinion. It just so happens that I disagree with those views, so it became another part of the rally that I disliked.

After his speech, Pence spent some time taking audience questions and answering them very poorly. He mostly came up with something that sounded good to the audience, maybe a bold claim or a kind sentiment, but he rarely answered the actual questions. The one question in particular that stood out to me, was an 18-year-old boy who asked what the Trump/Pence campaign would do to make amends with Israel as our ally, and his answer boiled down to the sentence, “America stands with Israel.” He didn’t give any policy details or ideas relating to the question itself; he just said what the concerned young man would have wanted to hear. I don't know whether he was dodging the question or just didn't have an answer, but I saw right through it. 

At the rally, Pence said what conservative voters would have liked to hear, in the smoothest voice he could muster, but to me he came off like just another crummy politician. He didn’t answer audience questions, and he made the event feel exclusive, worthy of Republicans and Trump supporters only. I don't think Pence is a bad guy necessarily, but I wasn't very impressed by his persuasive strategies and I'm certainly not sold on his views. He definitely didn't earn my vote for this November.


Follow Rhiannon Bauer on Twitter.



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