When scrappy Tennessee frontiersman Andrew Jackson defeated John Quincy Adams, Harvard-educated scion of an American political dynasty, in the particularly ugly election of 1829, his supporters were so keyed up about their victory – the people’s victory over the political establishment – that tens of thousands of them descended on D.C. from as far as 500 miles away to celebrate his inauguration.
After the swearing-in, a crush of bodies followed Jackson as he rode horseback to the White House, where they got so drunk and rowdy and out of control that the only way the White House staff could get them to leave was by luring them outside with more booze. (Jackson himself had to be extracted hours earlier out of fears he would be smothered to death.) That was the beginning of the modern Democratic Party.
Thursday night’s DeploraBall, a celebration by the right-wing trolls who helped elect Donald Trump, wasn’t quite as wild as Jackson’s party. But it was clear attendees have similar political ambitions – and that Paul Ryan should be afraid.
The evening before Trump’s inauguration, the stately National Press Club has became the “basket” Hillary Clinton once referred to: infamous islamophobe Pamela Geller is gabbing with two girlfriends by the open bar, hipster bigot Gavin McInnes is leading a “U-S-A!” chant in the atrium, Mike “Misogyny Gets You Laid” Cernovich is FaceTiming his wife from the ballroom, and James O’Keefe – whose sting operation earlier that week exposed a plot to disrupt the DeploraBall with stink bombs – is posing for a photo with a fan. Meanwhile, dozens of less famous (though no less enthusiastic) Twitter trolls mill around in ballgowns and sport coats, squealing in excitement as they encounter their Internet friends IRL.
Cernovich, who spent the duration of the campaign deep in the digital trenches for Trump, advancing conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health and John Podesta’s emails on Periscope and Twitter, takes the stage around 10 p.m., where he articulates a vision for a new kind of Republican Party: one without any of its current leaders, except Trump of course. (“I’m not going to rant about Paul Ryan,” Cernovich says at one point. “Some people call him Cuck Ryan, but this is family-friendly so I’m not going to call him Cuck Ryan. You won’t hear me say that tonight,” he tells the crowd, who answer with calls to “LOCK HIM UP!”)
“It’s good to see everyone from Twitter, here, in real life,” he says. “What we’re doing tonight is bigger than this event. … This is a show of force, and I want to be very transparent in that regard: You think we don’t exist, you want to marginalize us, you think we won’t show up.
“If the GOP opposes Trump, what are we going to do in 2018?” he asks the crowd. “We’re taking it over! We’ll take it over! We’ll get rid of all of them!”
“DRAIN THE SWAMP! DRAIN THE SWAMP!” the delighted crowd responds.
Cernovich is followed by a succession of characters who, one-by-one, articulate a vision for a new Republican Party – one that embraces gays but eschews political correctness.
“Let’s be very clear that we do not want Trump to be George W. Bush 2.0,” Jeff Gisea, a political consultant who worked with Peter Thiel and helped bankroll Thursday’s party, tells the crowd. “We may agree or disagree on issues like gay marriage or Social Security reform, but those issues don’t define us.”
What does define these new voters? Gavin McInnes describes what he sees as the prototypical Trump voter: “He’s a chain-smoking, swearing Staten Islander. … You know what he thinks of gays? He doesn’t. He doesn’t really care,” McInnes says, throwing his hands in the air in an elaborate shrug, noting that “he” doesn’t care about transgender issues or racism either. “It doesn’t come up in our day-to-day. You know what comes up in our day-to-day? A little three-letter acronym that goes like this: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
“It’s pretty simple, is it not?”
The Staten Islander McInnes is referring to is a painter, Scott LoBaido, who later takes the stage to create a live-speed portrait of the soon-to-be president.
Outside, anti-Trump protesters are booing and chanting “Shame!” at the deplorables as they enter the building, some throwing eggs and water bottles. At one point, someone lights a small fire.
On stage, a blond woman has broken out an acoustic guitar and is singing Bob Dylan. “Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call,” she warbles. “Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled/There’s the battle outside raging/It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
“For the times they are a-changin’.”
Watch Donald Trump’s inauguration speech pledging ‘America first.’