What a V.I.P. Pass Means: The refusal of the press to understand Trump supporters

I am always grateful when someone gives me a V.I.P. pass to some event, whether its political or some sporting endeavor—or the opening of some new restaurant. When I do something, I like to get up close and personal with it, but I do not have the time to wait in lines. I am not a line kind of person largely because it’s a time management issue. I have too much going on all the time to really spend too much time on one thing. So, When I get the opportunity to be a V.I.P. at an event I take it very seriously and am always very appreciative. Usually if it’s a political event, like the Trump events always are, if I go it’s because somebody thought enough of me that they offered me a V.I.P. experience. Such a way of attending allows a person like me the time to do what I do without making it into an entire day’s event. So it was in that context that I saw the fangs of the national media at the Trump rally in Lebanon in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have, and it was obvious.

Usually at these kinds of political rallies there is a general entrance and there is a V.I.P entrance that is usually near where the media enters. In fact, the last three or four times that I had been to a Trump event, the V.I.P. entrance was in the same place as the media entered. So it was only logical as we parked in Lebanon, Ohio and came to the entrance to the Trump rally that I notice the media sign-in table, so I asked them where the V.I.P. entrance was. The girl who answered me was about a year shy of 30 and was pretty smug. She repeated what I had said like some puppet and pointed at the long line that was about a quarter-mile long that everyone else was standing in waiting to get into the event. I paused on her face because I wasn’t sure if she was challenging me to a fight or was trying to be helpful. An older man who was standing next to her and was much more reasonable pointed around a chain link fence just to the other side of their position and told me that the V.I.P. table was there.

We stepped around the fence avoiding the long line and got to the table where some really sharp young ladies were doing the check ins, so I felt that whatever that was I encountered with that bizarre lady was over. Another thing I like about V.I.P. lines is that the security is usually less intrusive. They figure that you wouldn’t have a V.I.P. pass unless you knew someone important so they treat you differently, as not a potential terrorist posing as a Trump supporter, so security is usually much smoother, and in this case, it was. Not less stringent, but more respectful for sure. Once we were through I was immediately thankful for our passes. I had brought my daughter on this particular event because out of all my family, she hadn’t yet had a chance to see the president yet, so this was going to be a treat for her. Even though we had the passes we still showed up three hours early and it was a good thing that we did because the place was already stuffed with people. Under the big roof of the main stage the entire floor was packed and there wasn’t a seat to be found. It was astonishingly crowded.

But the event organizers were very nice when they saw we had the badges and they directed us to our seats in the bleachers just behind where the president would be speaking. I was thinking about what the media lady had said as we approached, it was obvious that she thought anybody coming to a Trump rally with a V.I.P. pass was pretentious and that it was violating some unwritten rule she lived by that was very much the way Democrats view the world. Nobody was more important than anybody else so how could someone coming to a Trump rally be more important? Well, as they showed me to our seats the bigger picture was obvious. I saw people there I knew from other events and the necessity for V.I.Ps was obvious. Trump could be assured that the people directly behind him knew what to do with the cameras on them, and they were all safe people who were good for security. Mostly the people sitting around us were all either big political players or major donors, so they were invested in the safety of the president, and we were part of the show. In my own way I give a lot more to the plight of the president than people who one or two times in their life wait all night to get a seat in the arena. We all do what we do and all those things were needed for this type of show. So I didn’t feel guilty about being taken to a nice seat while the people in the pit were stuck standing for up to six hours. And they didn’t seem to resent us, we all understood the larger context. Everyone was just happy to be there.

But as the media started doing zoom checks of the crowd from their position some of the organizers caught what was going on around the media area and discussions were brewing about the bright yellow badges that the people in the V.I.P area had around their necks. And the media was talking about it in a negative way. Apparently other media types were just as appalled by the signs of a V.I.P area as that girl was that I encountered. So the event staff came by and asked us to conceal our badges and to stay in our seats. The venue was too packed to get up and move around anyway. There was no way to really go use the restroom or to get some food so the only thing we could do is stay put. That is when it really became clear to me why the media hated Trump so much, he was making even political rallies cool again by breaking down norms the press had long accepted, basic rules of practice. V.I.P. passes certainly aren’t a new thing, and Democrats have those types of things at their events as well, but the media had in their minds that Trump supporters were still a subspecies of political activism and that Trump’s people couldn’t be that organized as to have a V.I.P. base to draw from. It is a denial of their own making, but it did have an impact on the way they covered the Trump events.

It was a fascinating observation and a new level of hatred that I hadn’t seen before, but the disdain was quite clear. Perhaps at other events the thoughts were that Trump would never make it to the presidency or that if he did, Democrats would knock him out of power. So there wasn’t much consideration about different status levels of Trump support from his base. But now everything was a little more real for them, the media was getting tired of covering Trump every night and having him berate them. But they had to go because their media bosses needed the ratings of covering Trump and they were becoming very resentful. And to make matters worse were the obvious evidence of Trump’s ground game, the financiers, the provocateurs, the political support that became the members of the V.I.P. section. The media had been wanting to think that we were all playing political house, and some people still refused to believe that what they were seeing was real. But it was quite real, and even more than that—it was better than what was going on with the other side. Wherever there are V.I.P. passes that are as valuable if not more so than a back-stage pass to a rock concert, there is value that justifies them. I appreciate that value immensely. But the media obviously had a hard time accepting the obvious. They weren’t the only ones with special access, or in the case of that rally, limited access. They were able to be in the press area, but they weren’t able to get to where we were and that seemed to bother them. And that is a very subtle sign of winning that doesn’t get talked about very much. But it is one of the biggest bits of evidence of these changing times and it makes me even more proud of that little souvenir that I will never forget. It meant more to me than just being able to get a decent seat. It was the evidence of some changing times that are getting better by the day. And I’m looking forward to those continuous improvements.

Rich Hoffman

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