President Donald Trump’s March 15 visit to Nashville attracted long lines of supporters together with some 2,500 demonstrators protesting the president’s attacks on health care, education and immigrants.
In a campaign-style event, Trump spoke at the city’s Municipal Auditorium for about 40 minutes. He spent little time on the issues that had been advertised as the main topics of his remarks, repeal of Obamacare and school vouchers, and instead focused on the pseudo-populist, nationalist rhetoric that dominated his election bid and inaugural address.
Trump pledged “peace through strength” and reiterated his pledge to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. “We subscribe to two simple rules,” he declared, “Hire American and buy American.”
Earlier in the day he brought the same economic nationalist message to a group of United Auto Workers officials and autoworkers at a decommissioned auto plant outside of Detroit. UAW President Dennis Smith demonstrated his support for Trump’s anti-foreigner and corporatist program by sitting next to the president and alongside U.S. auto CEOs in a panel discussion prior to Trump’s Michigan speech.
In Nashville, the president resumed his attack on the courts, denouncing a Hawaii federal judge for temporarily blocking his second anti-Muslim travel ban. “A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming in to our country from certain countries,” he said. “This ruling makes us look weak, which we no longer are. It’s time for us to embrace our glorious national destiny.”
Citing his economic nationalism and calls for protective tariffs, Trump sought to cast himself in the mold of the seventh U.S. president, Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), a Democrat and slave owner from Tennessee. Jackson was a reactionary figure who represented the Southern ‘slaveocracy’ in alliance with certain commercial interests and corrupt big city political machines in the North. He presented himself as a populist ‘man of the people’ in order to conceal the reactionary interests he defended and attract support from disaffected farmers, artisans and workers.
Security was tight for those entering the aging auditorium in Nashville. Outside, blocking James Robertson Parkway and denying vehicular access to the auditorium entrance, was a line of city dump trucks. The line to get into the auditorium at one point stretched for a mile, and many people were unable to obtain entry to the 8,500 capacity building.
Inside the auditorium there was a scattering of protests, which were quickly suppressed and the protesters removed. Joining the line in the frigid weather were an estimated 2,500 protesters. While voicing a desire for change, many also expressed discouragement and fear about the direction of the political situation.