Early evening, August, Cincinnati. The Queen City’s many bridges are sealed off, its sky is dirty with helicopters, and seemingly every cop for 100 miles is patrolling Pete Rose Way along the Ohio River. A crowd of 20,000 or more stands in punishing heat, waiting to enter U.S. Bank Arena. The evil rumor buzzing down the line of MAGA hats is that not everyone will get in to see Donald Trump.

“Can we just get in for a minute?” complains a boy of about 10 to his mother. There are a lot of kids here.

Donald Trump doesn’t visit Middle America. He descends upon it. His rallies are awesome spectacles. Gawkers come down from the hills. If NASA traveled the country holding showings of the first captured alien life-form, the turnout would be similar. The pope driving monster trucks might get this much attention.

Almost everyone in line is wearing 45 merch. Trump is the most T-shirtable president in history, and it’s not even close. Trumpinator tees are big (“2020: I’LL BE BACK”), but you’ll also see Trump as Rambo (complete with headband, ammo belt, and phallic rocket-launcher), Trump as the Punisher (a Trump pompadour atop the famous skull), even Trump as Superman (pulling his suit open to reveal a giant T).

Slogans include “Trump 2020: Grab ’em by the Pussy Again!” and the ubiquitous “Trump 2020: Fuck Your Feelings.”

One merch hawker — an African American man with a visor, wraparound sunglasses, and spiked, dyed-white hair — is snaking through the crowd, pushing a T-shirt: “Donald Fuckin’ Trump.” On the back, the shirt reads “Bitch I’m the President!” “Five bucks for hats, 10 for tees!” he yells. “ ‘Bitch, I’m the president!’ ‘Make America great again!’ ”

“Four more years!” someone in the crowd yells back, to cheers.  […]