Donald Trump Affected Many And Is Missed
By Olivia Braccio
Like all the best things in life, Donald Trump’s presidency was over too quickly. If there’s one thing I regret about his reelection campaign, it’s that I didn’t take more pictures. I mean, I took a ton of pictures—it’s what I do. But I wish I’d gotten more candid shots of his supporters, like the ones below. I don’t really like posed portraits of people, because the emotion captured in a shot for which the subject was unprepared can’t be depicted when you ask them to freeze, put aside whatever they’re actually feeling, and plaster on a smile for your camera.
I’m not a mind-reader, just a photographer. I’m not sure what these subjects—none of whom I know personally—were feeling. I can imagine it was the tentative optimism we all shared. But I wonder if anyone else knew deep down that Trump would not be getting a second term. I didn’t want to say it then—I’m American with Italian roots; having come from a superstitious culture, it’s been implied to me that speaking something aloud can make it happen. But I knew. And it wasn’t the first time I felt that horrible weight in my gut, the sinking feeling of knowing a truth you so badly don’t want to accept. Some things are too good to be true. I knew Donald Trump’s second term was one of them. Some things do not happen twice.
My first thought when I wake up every morning is how much I wish Donald Trump were still president. Although we’re distraught that he didn’t get to finish what he started, I am as grateful for the time he spent being our leader as I am disappointed that it couldn’t last. I am thankful not only to President Trump himself, but for the fact that I was here to see all of this. Most lifespans are less than one hundred years. Considering this, I am almost in disbelief that I was fortunate enough to have my existence coincide with his. It dawned on me recently that had I been born a couple generations earlier or a generation later, I would have missed his presidency. I would have missed the greatest thing that ever happened for the United States. Each of us who supported him got to vote for him twice. We got to attend his rallies. Some of us were more involved than others, but we each got to play a part, however big or small, in the MAGA movement. At least we have that to carry with us moving forward.
I cannot imagine the depth of the bereavement President Trump is feeling now as he watches his hard work being undone and his accomplishments being erased. We knew the Biden administration would be bad, but this is far worse than we’d imagined. If it’s this hard for us to witness, how much harder is it for the man who did everything in his power to prevent it? I hope the devastation our former president and his family must be feeling is tempered by the immense gratitude we have for them and the whole administration.
I hope Donald Trump’s main takeaway from his time as president is, simply, that he is loved. It sure didn’t always seem that way, but I hope that as he looked into the crowd at each of his rallies, he saw the appreciation we had for him illustrated on our faces. We saw his love for this country, we saw what he was doing for us. We know what he had to give up in order to serve the American people. We know he didn’t need to become president—he took the literal weight of the world onto his seventy-year-old shoulders not for himself, but for us. He could’ve spent the past five and a half years enjoying retirement in Mar-a-Lago. We know how hard it must’ve been to be a public servant—donating every penny of his salary—to constituents who make constant attempts to vilify him, who make threats on his life. But I hope he knows that along with every media source diminishing his efforts, along with every journalist who has labeled him a bigot, a sexist, or a Nazi, along with the people who hold up a replica of his severed head in effigy, the people who get the hashtag “wrong Trump” trending on Twitter in reference to his younger brother’s death, and the people wishing he would’ve succumbed to Covid, there are people who love him so profoundly that they drive three hours away to stand out on the shoulder of the road all day just to get a glimpse of his smiling face and bright yellow hair through the tinted window of a limousine. I always thought fanatical people were strange—what is there to be so excited about? A celebrity is just like anybody else.
Until I was the one asking my mom to drive me to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport after Trump’s private presentation was over, so I could watch the motorcade go by for a second time that day.
Until I was the overzealous nut—there’s always one, right?—standing in the front row with the Bikers for Trump, and screaming “WE LOVE YOU MOOOOOOORE!” to Eric Trump at his rally in the parking lot of Superior Laminating, each time he spoke of his affection for the president’s supporters.
Until my mother and I were driving all the way up to Waymart in the pouring rain to see Ivanka, and I was one of the people shoving a piece of paper at her and telling her how proud I was of her, and later hanging that autograph, framed, on my bedroom wall.
Until I was photographing Mike Pence during his rally at the Reading Airport, in awe as he jumped off the platform like someone half his age to come around and greet his fans. As I shouted that I was proud of him and watched him smile back, the irony was not lost on me—anyone who knows me will tell you I’m fairly reticent, rarely telling even close friends that I love them. But here I was, saying it freely to members of both Trump’s family and administration, all of whom were technically strangers to me.
What I found particularly touching was how involved Donald Trump’s children were with his presidency and reelection campaign. I loved the devotion that the Trump family showed to each other and to the US. Seeing each of them in person brought out the human side of politics, the side you don’t see when you’re watching the ten o’clock news or reading the latest tabloid. They weren’t just public figures, they weren’t just his advisors. They already had full lives long before their dad ran for president, with the same ups and downs that all of us experience. They were citizens serving their nation while keeping their young children out of the limelight and trying to maintain some semblance of privacy. They went from being well-liked, successful businesspeople to being under 24/7 Secret Service surveillance in only a few months’ time.
I don’t think there is a family in modern history who has had to face the kind of adversity the Trump family has, who has taken the kind of undue criticism they have had heaped upon them every day since 2015. Call them privileged all you want; what does money and fame mean when you’re living with the knowledge that there are people who have homicidal intent towards you? A certain amount of disparagement is expected when you get involved with politics, and of course neither Trump himself nor anyone else in his family or administration ever batted an eye, but nobody is immune to constant assaults on their character or the stress of having their safety jeopardized each time they left their homes—a scenario which should never have occurred in a so-called civilized society. After the initial riots following the 2016 elections, I’d hoped the Left would realize their mistake, begin using their eyes and heads, and start appreciating what President Trump was doing for our nation. It was only a couple of months later when I realized we wouldn’t see that happen. On the contrary, the threats from the “Hate Has No Home Here” crew became more vulgar, grew in both intensity and frequency. Did President Trump and his family find it as harrowing as I did? Did they deplane at each campaign stop wondering if that could be the day when a protestor with nefarious intent would somehow slip past security?
It’s sad to think of our president and first family working for our country under these circumstances; the fact that they performed their roles so well in spite of it all is a testament to their indomitable spirits and dedication to the US. I don’t understand when it became socially acceptable to wish death upon the leader of your own nation, or how violence against Trump supporters became such a common occurrence that some of us had to think twice before leaving the house in a hat bearing the name of the president. I don’t understand how it was seen as normal that business owners in major cities had to board up their windows at the end of October—were we preparing for an election or a natural disaster?
I hope the support the Trump family was shown at each of their rallies insulated them against these attacks. I hope the screams of their adoring fans was enough to drown out the hostility, the hurtful remarks that were spewed, and I wish they knew that the amount of love and gratefulness I alone had—and still have—for them is so much greater than the hatred that all the vitriolic people hold within their embittered souls combined, and I know the rest of President Trump’s supporters would express the exact same sentiments.
The anticipation in the months leading up to the election was as torturous as it was delightful. It was like sitting at a railroad crossing while a freight train was going by. Logically, you knew it had to end sometime, but as it chugged along in front of you, it almost seemed like there could be an infinite number of boxcars. And yet, somehow, it felt like I was searching for a pause button that I knew did not exist—I wanted to stay there, savoring the feeling of unity at each of Trump’s reelection events, of being with people who all shared a common goal. You would think that when you cram five to ten thousand people into an airport hangar, things would get contentious, but they didn’t. We passed around snacks, we gave up our seats for each other. I doubt I’ll ever find a way to recapture that pre-election excitement; although I sensed the impending catastrophe, the last shreds of my idealism were not entirely snuffed out until Biden’s inauguration. Now having experienced Biden’s leadership—or lack thereof—there is nothing I wouldn’t do to be able to go back to that segment of our lives, to pull a lever and halt the Earth’s rotations at any point before November third.
I have no doubt that President Trump is aware of how much we miss him. Having known this was coming for months, I wasn’t expecting the onslaught of grief that hit me when I saw President Trump and Melania leaving the white house for the last time. But as I watch Biden force National Guard troops to sleep in a parking garage, as I watch him send airstrikes to Syria, as I watch the destruction of the Keystone Pipeline and the erasure of women from sports, as I watch the crisis at the border escalate, and executive order after executive order pile up on his desk in less than two months’ time, I miss President Trump in the same frantic and desperate way I would miss oxygen if I were trapped underwater.
I miss everything about the Trump administration.
I miss having peace in the Middle East.
I miss energy independence.
I miss gas being two dollars per gallon.
I miss his Tweets!
I miss watching his State of the Union addresses.
I miss the backache from standing in line at each of those rallies. I miss the total stranger who, when she saw that I was starting to panic after being in line for seven hours at President Trump’s rally at the Harrisburg International Airport, began rubbing my back and talking to me to calm me down. I miss holding up the sign I had made out of a poster board and Sharpies, “Four More Years of Liberal Tears.” I miss being awestruck at the sight of Air Force One landing on the tarmac. I miss the sound of ten thousand voices all reciting the Pledge of Allegiance together. I miss the way my throat closed up with emotion when Melania came out on stage to address the crowd in Chester County just about a week prior to voting day. I miss sitting in the parking lot of the Upper Salford Volunteer Fire Company on a day that was about ninety-eightdegrees, in a metal chair on the asphalt, direct sunlight beating down on us, melting in the literal sense while waiting to see Lara Trump arrive with the Women for Trump bus tour.
I miss the Toby Keith songs they used to play at Trump-related events. Do I like country music? Not one bit. I miss it anyway.
But mostly, I just miss having hope for our nation’s future. I miss the security of knowing we had a commander in chief who put America first in all things, who worked tirelessly to protect his constituents from threats both domestic and foreign, even in the face of constant opposition from the Democratic party and even some members of the GOP.
I wish I could go back to election night, 2020, getting home after a long day working the polls, eating a pork roll sandwich in front of the computer and forcing myself to stay awake until five-thirty to watch the count come in, clinging to the nonsensical belief that as long as I didn’t fall asleep, as long as I kept refreshing the Google results, as long as my eyes did not close, President Trump would be declared the winner before daybreak.
I wish I could go back to election night, 2016. That morning had been my first time voting in a presidential election, and I was filled with twenty-year-old naivety that had not yet been smothered. I spent the day at the hospital in the city, fighting the urge to pace, to shake out the nervous energy consuming me as I sat still as a statue while the surgical resident drew dots on my face, took measurements in preparation for a maxillofacial surgery that would take place several months later. I remember waiting for the train during rush hour at 30th Street Station, looking around at everyone else and wondering if this was just another day for them, just another commute home, or if they were feeling the same tension of being perched on that metaphorical precipice. It was after two-thirty that night when Hillary called to concede. I burst into relieved sobs while the rest of the nation erupted in equal parts rage and euphoria.
I wish we could all go back to June sixteenth, 2015, the day President Trump announced his candidacy. As we watched him descend the escalator in Trump tower, Melania at his side, some of us were scratching our heads. I remembered watching The Apprentice as a kid with my mom, but I was too young to understand what was happening in the show, and I knew next to nothing about this man other than the fact that he was rich, famous, and lived in Manhattan. It wasn’t the first time a non-politician had run for president—we can’t forget Ronald Reagan—but that was way before I was born. So admittedly, my only thought that day was, how is a reality TV star supposed to run the country? How will Donald Trump do something like that?
With more efficiency, care, common sense, candor, and patriotism than anybody ever had before.
And possibly anyone ever will again.