Trump Rides West

On September 6th last year, President Donald Trump kicked off the autumn campaign season with a rally in Billings, Montana. He’d campaigned throughout the spring, and almost non-stop over the summer as well – indeed, he’d never really stopped campaigning since his own election victory – but now the primaries were over and the country was entering a final two-month period of maximal obsession with the midterm elections for Congress.

Billings was a programmatic destination for Trump. Montana is by landmass the fourth-largest state, but Billings, with a population of only 109,000, is its biggest city. The nearest real city – the glittering cosmopolis of Denver, Colorado – is an eight-hour drive, across the whole of Wyoming and beyond. Billings therefore has a decent claim to being the most provincial place in the entire continental U.S. This meant that the scene at the rally was somewhat exceptional. It was a little purer, a little richer, than usual…

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