CLEVELAND — No one goes to the 2016 Republican National Convention expecting to encounter a life-size bust of Donald Trump constructed out of 30 gallons of dryer lint held together with two gallons of glue.
But it makes perfect sense when you do.
“At the end of the week, I’ll take the best offer,” said the artist who created it, Sandy Buffie, who said that the money will benefit the Center for Arts Inspired Learning, which organizes activities for kids including, aptly enough, an anti-bullying program.
Welcome to Cleveland, where the streets are alive with acres of t-shirts praising the take-it-to-the-bank GOP nominee Donald Trump and castigating his certain opponent, Hillary Clinton, as a hellion who should be in prison: on some shirts, she already is. There are cross-wielding preachers, $1 iced water vendors, 100 Indiana State Troopers in their “Smokey Bear” hats, plus thousands of officers from around the country augmenting Cleveland’s lean force. Delegates in suits, media in shorts and a general funhouse effect, though the city is reacting with pride.
“You know the convention’s there?” asked Melissa Brown, riding the No. 75 bus toward downtown Cleveland. Assured her new friend did, and asked what she thought of it, Brown, “old enough to know better and young enough to do something about it,” said: “It’s great. You got all political views and bring a little money to the city. Everybody’s happy. It’s a win-win.”
Not that the hoopla is going to gull her into voting. Brown, who is African-American, isn’t supporting either Trump or Hillary Clinton.
“The only way I’d vote is if Jesus Christ put his name on the ballot,” she said, explaining that her church, the Church on the Rise in Westlake, is handing out “Elect Jesus” banners.
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Brown exits the bus, gets aboard a red line Rapid Transit train to Tower City, the hectic hub of the convention. She takes a seat behind Mike Tallentire, 27, who works the third shift restocking a Walmart Supercenter in North Olmsted, Ohio. He used his day off to handprint a lengthy statement on a white t-shirt, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt about the need for immigrants to assimilate in this country. Then he headed downtown to attend an America First sponsored by Citizens for Trump.
“He just seems the lesser of two evils,” Tallentire says, doing a balancing gesture with his hands. But as he speaks, he warms to Trump.
“He’s a businessman not a politician,” said Tallentire. “So maybe he can do something about the deficit that never seems to go down.”
And the more extreme statements of Trump’s, about immigration and such?
“The media twists his words around.”
Take Ahmer Mohamed, a Cleveland cab driver for 17 years. He’s black, and a Muslim, and voting for Trump. That bit about barring Muslims at the border?
“He’s changing his mind,” said Mohamed. “He’s not against Muslims. He’s against enemies. He’s said he’s sorry. He’s OK now. Lot of people have a bad idea, that he’s a nasty racist. He’s a strong guy.”