As Wisconsin’s presidential primary approached, all eyes were focused on Appleton. On Tuesday, March 28, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders hosted a town hall meeting at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Sanders was followed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who held his campaign rally at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel on March 30. Both events were free and open to the public, but admission was on a first-come, first-serve basis.
On Tuesday morning, a large and exuberant crowd had gathered as early as 6 a.m. at the Performing Arts Center to welcome U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Doors for the event opened at 9:30 a.m. Due to the overwhelming size of the crowd, both the Thrivent Financial Hall and the Kimberly-Clark Theater were used to accommodate the attendees.
Sanders made his first appearance at the Kimberly-Clark Theater at 12:30 p.m.; he then moved outside to talk to the overflow crowd before giving a lengthy speech at the Thrivent Financial Hall.
Armed with the cheers of his supporters, Sanders expressed his confidence about the results of Wisconsin’s Democratic Primary. “I believe we have an excellent chance to win here in Wisconsin next week,” he said. Sanders has been running on a liberal agenda that focuses on social and economic reform as a means of attaining a sustainable future for the next generations of U.S. citizens. Hence, it was no surprise when he outlined his demands of a “government in a nation that works for all of us, not just the one percent […] a political and campaign finance system which is democratic and not corrupt.”
Also, in saying that “you can vote for me, or you can vote against me; that is democracy,” Sanders seemed to advocate for the value of political integrity. He then gave a brief overview of his plans to address prison reform and income inequality. “We’re going to end private prisons. Corporations should not be making money locking up fellow Americans,” he said. “We have to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of 15 [dollars] per hour.” After an extended critique of what he deems to be the highly dysfunctional U.S. political system, Sanders concluded his speech by alluding to his optimistic view of the primary’s results.
On Wednesday, March 30, Donald Trump hosted a campaign rally at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. Doors for the event opened at 1:30 p.m. Unlike the previous day’s event, the crowd consisted mostly of middle-aged and elderly Caucasian citizens.
The event started at 2 p.m. when former Trump employee Tana Goertz invited all attendees to join her in a prayer in favor of Trump’s campaign and the U.S. as a whole. Goertz then encouraged the crowd to pledge allegiance to the flag, and requested that everyone sing the national anthem after. Finally, Goertz recognized all the veterans who attended the rally and requested that all of them rise for a standing ovation. As Goertz left the stage, it was announced to the general crowd that “Mr. Trump supports the First Amendment as much as he supports and respects the Second Amendment.”
After this introduction, Trump was welcomed onstage by his ecstatic supporters. He spent a significant amount of time selecting specific members of the audience and complimenting them on their Trump apparel, whilst also expressing his love and appreciation for the people of Wisconsin in general.
In talking about his agenda, Trump focused on parts of his foreign policy that relate to Mexico, the Western World’s conflict with ISIS and the trade deals made by the U.S. government. “We make the worst trade deals,” he said specifically. He also provided extensive commentary on President Barack Obama’s strategy against ISIS by stating, “We have a president who will not call it for what it is: radical Islamic terrorism.” It was at that moment when numerous members of the crowd called Obama a Muslim. He also expressed his opinion on America’s interrogation program, “We can’t waterboard and [ISIS] can drop off heads? We need to make some changes.”
After employing several witticisms against his opponent, Senator Ted Cruz, he said that “[Cruz] great relationships with the Mexicans,” and after encouraging the audience to think about illegal immigration and “the Syrians,” Trump read the lyrics of “The Snake,” a song released by American singer Al Wilson in 1968.
Trump ended his rally by stating, “If you’re not going to vote for me, don’t go out to vote.” The audience then erupted in applause, and numerous attendees approached the stage to receive autographs.
It should also be noted that numerous protesters had gathered outside the hotel to express their dissatisfaction with Trump’s policies. However, there were no incidents of violence.