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The majority Latino city in Texas was shaken to its core but El Pasoans say a strong sense of family and community will help them heal

Its a white guy who says it first.

Its Saturday evening at the high school stadium, hours after a terrorist gunman killed 22 people and left dozens wounded at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. A prayer vigil has concluded, and a small group of mourners linger to try and make sense of it.

One by one they tick off the reasons: weak gun laws, a complacent Congress, a president who stokes racism and xenophobia. Aside from David Williams, theyre all Hispanic. But its Williams who adds: Its a clash of cultures, its Hispanic versus white. Everyone nods in agreement.

While it was racism that compelled the shooter to draft a hate-filled manifesto aimed at Hispanics, racism that pushed him to drive 10 hours to the border and attack a community over 80% Latino, the shooting served to highlight the starkly different cultures that came together that day: one culture comprising large extended families living in close proximity and with strong religious ties, and another more fractured and isolated in the sprawling suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

All day, Williams, a local surgeon, has been hearing the same thing from his neighbors and fellow El Pasoans: This kind of thing would never happen here, meaning someone from El Paso would never carry out such an act of mass violence. His wife, Elizabeth OHara, a former journalist who is Hispanic and grew up in El Paso, has even told him: Brown people dont do this kind of thing.

Now, standing next to her husband, she adds: I finally had to ask him, What is wrong with your people?

The question had been bothering him long before she asked, he says, particularly every time a lone white male opened fire on a large group of people. And while Williams is no sociologist (hes a podiatrist), his own experience marrying into a large Hispanic family in a predominantly Hispanic city had given him perspective into this particular tragedy.

White people, he says, have spent the last half century closing themselves off in the suburbs, originally to separate from minorities. In the process, our families have fractured and gotten smaller, our visits less frequent, until the only time we see our extended kin is on Facebook or at funerals. Williams is speaking from his own familys experience, but its similar to mine and that of many white Americans.

But that is not El Paso, Williams says. El Paso is exactly the opposite. Here youre gonna have your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles always around, whether you like it or not. Most families see each other on a weekly basis, if not more. On the weekends, you can drive by any El Paso park and theyre full of Hispanic families cooking out, listening to music, playing volleyball, just being together. You rarely see a white family doing that.

Jose Ozuna installs American flags next to crime scene tape at a makeshift memorial honoring victims outside the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Its very hard for a member of that community to not feel supported, he adds. Theres always someone to talk to. White kids, on the other hand, are talking to kids in chat groups. I do think there is a clash of cultures and maybe thats why we dont see darker-skinned people doing this kind of mass killing.

The research backs it up, says James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University whos studied and written extensively on the subject, most recently in the book Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. Especially strength in community. Mass shooters generally dont have a strong support network, Fox says. People who have the support of friends, neighbors and families have a sounding board to help get them through the hard times and help give them a reality check.

That sense of community is what brought Arturo Rodriguez back to his hometown from Las Vegas, where he lived for over 20 years while serving in the air force. In fact, Rodriguezs daughter was attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival in October 2017 when another terrorist gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, killing 58 and wounding more than 400 others. She escaped, he says, but the aftermath reminded him of something about where he grew up.

Im not saying Las Vegas isnt strong, he says, but we are more family oriented here. Our religion is stronger, our values are stronger. Its the reason I returned home.

A woman standing near Rodriguez reminds him: We have to remember this wasnt someone from our community. Its a statement Id hear again and again, along with: Thank God he wasnt Hispanic.

By now, the lights of Juarez are flickering yellow just a mile across the border. The group pauses to look at them and OHara says: Weve been here for 400 years, long before we were part of the States. This guy doesnt get to change our DNA in one day.

The next day, I walk to the international bridge downtown to have a look at the border. The terrorists manifesto cited a Hispanic invasion, parroting the words Donald Trump has used over and over in his tweets and speeches, and in more than 2,000 Facebook ads seen by as many as 5.6 million Americans.

Like other cities along the border, El Paso has seen huge numbers of migrants crossing from Central America seeking asylum, but today I see no signs of an invasion. Theres a new 18ft metal wall snaking below the pedestrian bridge that replaced the old barbed wire. And on the bridge itself, just regular Sunday traffic: people from both sides of the border shopping at Paseo de Las Luces and eating ice cream with their kids a fraction of the 70,000 people who cross daily to shop and work and attend college the way theyve done for generations.

Watching them lug their plastic bags and push strollers, Im reminded of what a man said earlier at a restaurant. I dont have any answers, he told me. But our wall didnt stop this guy from coming here and killing us.

When the two cultures came together that day, as Williams says, the result was more than a tragic loss of life. Others I speak with say that El Paso lost a kind of innocence. That morning at Walmart, America and its twin diseases of gun violence and white nationalism finally found their way in, and now everything has changed, especially themselves.

This is especially evident later that afternoon when I visit a local gun store. The faade of Gun Central, located along Interstate 10, is decorated in rah-rah Christian nationalism: red, white, and blue bunting, a mural that proclaims A Savior is Born next to a manger scene and shining star of Bethlehem. And lording itself above it all is an AR-15 assault rifle spewing fire. But inside this bunker of white Maga gun culture just two miles from where bodies were still being recovered, I dont encounter the expected enthusiasts marrying God and the second amendment. Instead I find a store packed with terrified people, mostly Hispanic, buying guns for the first time.

Im on high alert, says April Sanchez, who works in marketing and who along with her husband and son is buying her first weapon. I never thought Id carry a gun, but now I want something to defend myself.

This isnt something Im proud of, she says. It makes me sad and angry that Im even here. Im heartbroken, but Im also afraid.

I just want to give us both some peace of mind, says Denzel Oliver, 29, an army veteran whos buying a handgun for his girlfriend, Christabelle Guzman. He adds that Saturdays shooting is going to change this community forever. He points to the crowds lining up for handguns and assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammo, and says: Just look, it already has.

On Sunday evening, the Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest holds a vigil at Ponder Park for El Pasoans to come together and pray. Thousands flock to the baseball diamond, many wearing T-shirts that read El Paso Strong and buttons bearing the word HOPE.

For two hours there is prayer and singing, tears and raw, unfiltered anger at the gunman who attacked this community; the terrorist who robbed its families of its mothers and fathers, tias and abuelas, cousins and friends who held it together and would never come home again; the lonely boy from the suburbs whod gone straight for the jewel of the culture.

But that evil would not win, not when people come together and call it by name.

For the sake of the dead and the survivors and their families, we pray for the strength to brace ourselves for the just action ahead, to choose life and the blessing, says Dylan Corbett, director of the community organization Hope Border Institute.

For we will go forward from this night with our own manifiesto: love, inclusion, compassion, hope, justice all that makes El Paso and the borderlands truly great.

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Northampton county, Pennsylvania voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping for Trump and could decide whether Trump gets a second term

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Larry Hallett erected Donald Trump billboards outside his roadside diner in eastern Pennsylvania, where he handed out Trump bumper stickers and presided over big breakfasts with a dozen or so regulars who got together to share their excitement about the Republican nominee.

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Friends and colleagues are puzzled by his unexpected conversion, and some speculate that hes angling for an administration post

Facing a skeptical audience at a theatre in downtown Washington, Senator Lindsey Graham embraced the role of pantomime villain in the ongoing saga of Brett Kavanaughs nomination to the supreme court.

Im the first person to say, I want to hear from Dr Ford, he said, referring to the woman who testified to the Senate about allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. I thought she was handled respectfully. I thought Kavanaugh was treated like crap.

The packed auditorium at the Atlantic magazines annual festival filled with boos and heckles. Graham snapped back dismissively: Yeah, well, boo yourself.

Some members of the audience walked out in disgust. But the South Carolina senator was reveling in being the centre of attention. He was also displaying his new, unexpected conversion from ardent critic of Donald Trump to one of the presidents most ferocious attack dogs.

It is a role that has pushed Graham into new national prominence, putting him squarely in the middle of the national confrontation between the #MeToo movement and the populist backlash of male victimisation and righteous indignation.

His battle cry: I know Im a single white man from South Carolina and Ive been told to shut up but I will not shut up.

But friends, acquaintances and colleagues are puzzled. Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said: I think a lot of people in this town who know Lindsey are scratching their heads and saying, Thats not the Lindsey Graham whos always been an honest broker. If Lindseys honest, he would not perform the way hes been performing on behalf of Trump.

Graham, 63, has long been one of the most colorful characters in the Senate, long parodied by TV satirist Jon Stewart as a southern belle like Tennessee Williams Blanche DuBois. He served in the US air force in various capacities for more than three decades. In 2015, he acknowledged he had never sent an email.

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Graham launched his political career in the South Carolina legislature in 1992 before winning an open House seat in 1994. He emerged as a key figure in the attempt to impeach President Bill Clinton. He also became known for hawkish views on foreign policy andfor working across the aisle with Democrats.

Graham ran for president in 2016 but was crushed in the Republican primary. During that campaign, he dismissed Trump as a jackass, a race-baiting bigot and the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican party.

So his performance at last weeks Senate judiciary committee hearing over Dr Christine Blasey Fords allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, seemed wildly out of character. Just as Republicans resolve appeared to be faltering, Graham delivered a fire and brimstone blast If you vote no, youre legitimising the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics that thrilled the White House and conservative base and simultaneously destroyed any lingering hopes of bipartisan comity.

Steele reflected: That sycophantic performance was all for Trump because there was really no basis for him to go off the way he did, to show the kind of immature behavior in a setting like that, given the seriousness of the conversation.

The Atlantic editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, put this directly to Graham at Wednesdays event. I think youre cheapening me and thats fine, I dont really care, the senator replied defiantly. Youre suggesting that the reason I got mad was for some political play.

Graham pointed out he had voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, both nominated to the supreme court by a Democratic president, and claimed a double standard. So heres the game here: when Im voting for two female nominees, nominated by the Democrat, Im the smartest frigging guy in town. Im the epitome of what a good Republican would be like. When I defend somebody Ive known for 20 years against complete character assassination, all the sudden its about Lindsey.

Indeed, in recent days Graham has continued to be Kavanaughs stoutest champion, even suggesting that if he is voted down, Trump should simply renominate him. His efforts have not gone unnoticed. The president told reporters on Tuesday: Lindsey is a friend of mine at least for the last six months, as you know. And hes done, really, a great thing and a great service for our country.

Only two years ago Graham was lambasting Trump. In 2017 he warned there would be holy hell to pay if the president fired the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Yet by August this year and after several rounds of golf together – he had done a U-turn, suggesting Trump deserved an attorney general in whom he has confidence.

What happened? Steele said: You only go from This guy is a danger to our nation and bad news to Oh my God hes the best thing since sliced bread, let me play golf with him, only if you want something or you expect something. I cant explain it. Only he can explain it.

When Lindsey Graham ran for president in 2016, he described Donald Trump as a jackass, a race-baiting bigot and the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican party. Photograph: Brian Frank/Reuters

Grahams full-throated embrace of Trumpism appears to have accelerated since the death in August of his great friend, Senator John McCain, an arch foe of the president both politically and personally. McCain continued to denounce Trump until the end but his death has left a void, and the anti-Trump resistance in the Republican party is shrinking fast. Senator Ted Cruz, who also clashed bitterly with Trump during the election, has also thrown in his lot with the president.

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center thinktank in Washington, said: Lindsey Graham has probably looked around and seen Jeff Flake leaving the Senate, Bob Corker leaving the Senate and Ben Sasse under siege and thought theres not much mileage in being a Trump critic.

Some observers speculate that Graham is worried about a populist challenger in the next South Carolina primary (in 2014, he won with 56%). Others suggest that he is eyeing a job in the Trump administration. Media reports have suggested that Sessions, much derided by Trump, and Jim Mattis, the defence secretary, might be gone with the next year. Graham could be a contender for either position.

Olsen added: If there is a job in the administration hes angling for, its defence secretary. I have a pretty strong impression Jim Mattis is going to be asked to leave. Lindsey Graham would be happy to close out his career with that.

Kurt Bardella, a political columnist who switched allegiance from the Republican to the Democratic party, disagreed. Lindsey Graham is auditioning to be the next attorney general of the United States, he said.

Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to President Clinton, said he first became acquainted with Graham during the impeachment process. There are many Lindsey Grahams, he said. Ive been puzzled by his trajectory during the Trump administration. I have no explanation. In person hes decent, moderate and humorous, but these attributes were not on display last week.

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The 18th district will soon disappear but a loss for Republican Rick Saccone would shape the narrative ahead of the midterm elections

Tuesdays special election in Pennsylvanias 18th congressional district may be one of the most important races of 2018. It may also be one of the least consequential. The campaign between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone is for a House seat that will not exist in November.

But in a district that includes coal country and Pittsburgh suburbs in equal measure, the election has little to do with the current balance of power. It is about something much more important and much less tangible: the narrative.

The 18th is the heart of Trump country. In 2016, he won it by 20 points over Hillary Clinton. The House race is a dead heat.

Lamb is a 33-year-old veteran whose Homeric epithet could be square-jawed marine. He has run a well-regarded campaign, wooing suburbanites unhappy with Trump and blue-collar workers with Democratic roots who went Republican in 2016.

Saccone has floundered. A state legislator who claims to have been a diplomat in North Korea, he has been a weak fundraiser. National Republican groups have spent more than $10m to help him. The result has been a hodgepodge of ads, from a claim the Democrat is Nancy Pelosis little Lamb to touting Republican tax reform to simply bashing Lamb as weak on crime.

None of the attacks caught fire with voters, especially after Lamb recorded a straight-to-camera ad in which he said he would not support Pelosi.

The previous representative, anti-abortion Republican Tim Murphy, was forced to resign last year when it was reported he urged his mistress to have an abortion. In February, the race to succeed him took on a unique character when the state supreme court ruled the states congressional districts unconstitutional, due to Republican gerrymandering, and redrew the map. The result is that the 18th will be split, its Pittsburgh suburbs going into one district, the surrounding rural area to another.

Lamb has been old-fashioned. An event in Pittsburgh in February seemed more appropriate for early 20th-century Boston. Irish music blared through a banquet hall as an older crowd gulped beer from kegs and grabbed pretzels from shamrock-shaped bowls. Proceedings even closed with a rendition of Danny Boy. Former Maryland governor Martin OMalley was there to lend a hand.

On Sunday in Waynesburg, Lamb appeared with the head of the United Mine Workers, Cecil Roberts. Waynesburg is the seat of Greene county, which Trump won by 40 points and Ronald Reagan, in his 1984 landslide, lost by 20. It could be ground zero for Trump Democrats. At Lambs event, the room filled with white men in camouflage jackets and union hats.

George Campbell, a retired miner from Westmoreland, told the Guardian he was there because he had received a letter from the union. Although the terse, mustachioed 68-year-old said he voted Democrat more than the other, his choice in 2016 wasnt Hillary. He was just worried about his pension, he said, adding that in the voting booth, I pretty much go with what the union says.

His union did not endorse in the 2016 election but now its leader was all out for Lamb. In a fiery speech, Roberts hailed the Democrat as a God-fearing, union-supporting, gun-owning, job-protecting, pension-defending, social-security-believing sending-drug-dealers-to-jail Democrat.

They have a hatred for God

Donald Trump with Rick Saccone in Moon Township on Saturday night. Photograph: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Saccone has been running close to Trump, who held a rally for him on Saturday night. The chance to speak before the president, Saccone said, was the ultimate blessing.

On Monday, Trumps oldest son showed up. A vote for Saccone, he said, was a vote for his father.

Just because [Donald Trump] is not on the ticket does not mean that everything he stands for and represents for the future isnt on the ticket, Donald Jr said, to a crowd of around 100 at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Elizabeth, a hardscrabble town just two miles downriver from the setting of The Deer Hunter.

Saccone has become increasingly bitter, towards the media and his opponent. In a debate, he claimed Lamb did not know the difference between North and South Korea. That brought a rebuke from the moderator. On Monday, speaking before Donald Jr, he went further.

The other side, he said has a hatred for our president for our country. Ill tell you some more, my wife and I saw it again today. They have a hatred for God.

Lamb has been almost painfully non-controversial. Speaking to the Guardian on Saturday, he went out of his way to avoid questions about Trumps rally.

Ive been telling people what Im for on the issues, he said, not what Im against.

In a Trump-voting district, that may be the best strategy of all.

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The half-Hispanic grandson and nephew of presidents faces a tough fight in a state where his surname is no longer an asset

George P Bush is the young, half-Hispanic, grandson of the 41st president, nephew of the 43rd and son of a former Florida governor.

When he was elected Texas land commissioner four years ago, that background gave him a significant advantage as a fledgling Republican candidate seemingly on a fast track to stardom. Now, with conservative politics turned on its head by Trumpism, Bush is facing a tough primary election that threatens to doom his political career and with it, bring to a close his familys 70-year political dynasty.

The land commissioner job which manages state-owned land was perceived to be a stepping stone to higher office, but the evisceration of his father, Jeb, in the 2016 Republican presidential primary showed that as it lurched to the right and was seduced by sound and fury, the GOP was no longer in the market for a quiet moderate named Bush.

Though he has far more campaign cash than his rivals and has reportedly spent $2m in the past month, Bush has run an anaemic one might say low-energy campaign, with scant media availability and no events listed on his website. He is still the favourite, but if he fails to get above 50% of the vote on 6 March when Texas holds the countrys first primaries ahead of the 2018 midterms he will face a potentially dangerous runoff.

Its quite possible that the Bush political dynasty, at least for this generation, could end in the spring of 2018 because if George P Bush fails to win the GOP nomination for land commissioner its tough to see him coming back from that any time soon, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University. The dynasty began with Prescott Bush George Ps great-grandfather becoming senator for Connecticut in 1952.

Though Democratic turnout for early voting has soared this year compared with last time, no Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, making the primaries all-important.

The last stand of Bushs political career could be the Alamo. His predecessor and main rival, Jerry Patterson a history buff who used to carry guns in his cowboy boots and cultivated a relationship with the pop star and leading Alamo artefact collector, Phil Collins has made Bushs supposed failure as a steward of the historical battlefield site into a key campaign issue. Bush has also drawn criticism for the slow pace of disaster recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey.

A Bush spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign.

The guy is cloistered, Patterson said of Bush in the Houston Chronicle. Hes kind of like Kim Jong-un he doesnt get out much unless its in a real secure environment.

I think were going to have him in a runoff and then no matter how much money he has, hes toast, Patterson told the Guardian. Commissioner Bush has essentially cratered what I considered to have been the best agency in Texas government.

Even in Texas, being a Bush is no longer much of an asset in an election that typically sees a high turnout from a base of far-right conservatives.

The Bush name hurts George P Bush more than it helps him with Republican primary voters, Jones said. That may explain why, despite the insults flung at Jeb Bush, and though George HW and George W Bush hold the present occupant of the White House in low esteem, lthe 41-year-old embraced Trump a couple of months before the presidential election.

I say [to Hispanic people], tranquilo. Its going to be OK, Bush told NBC DFW soon after Trump beat Hillary Clinton in November 2016. I think Donald Trumps vision will incorporate all America. He has reached out in a unifying tone as of last night and hes going to take advantage of that and reach across party aisles, reach across to all communities to make sure we are taking on our biggest issues.

Trump reciprocated on Tuesday. Amid a flurry of endorsements of Texas candidates on Tuesday, he tweeted: Texas LC George P. Bush backed me when it wasnt the politically correct thing to do, and I back him now.

Bush responded: Thank you @POTUS as we work in Texas to #MAGA and support your agenda to make it happen.

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There was a thrill to reading Bannons attack on Trump. But I had to remind myself that he is a bad guy too, writes Guardian columnist Emma Brockes

If the enemy of your enemy is your friend, watching the spectacle of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon trying to dismantle each other this week was a joyful but complicated experience. As details from Fire and Fury, Michael Wolffs book, poured out, hearing Bannon describe Trumps son as treasonous and daughter Ivanka as dumb as a brick was deeply satisfying. But it also triggered an uncomfortable response: some small surge of identification with the man. A ping of gratitude that took a second to squash, once I remembered who it was who was speaking.

Bannons power is still real. He may have been fired from the White House and fallen foul of some of Trumps supporters (Don Jrs tweet on Wednesday drew attention to that barometer of national opinion, the comments section on Breitbart, with the observation, When Bannon has lost Breitbart, hes left with umm, nothing), but the nationalist project he spearheaded has hardly gone away, and what pleasure there might have been in watching him turn on his former master was undercut by a sense of the threat Bannon continues to pose.

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Fire and Fury: Key explosive quotes from the new Trump book – video

Still, his remarks had about them that shocking, Bulworth-quality of unsayable truth that Trump himself sometimes inadvertently strays into. One of the oddest things about this presidency has been the way in which it marries bald falsehood with bald truth if one takes the presidents unfiltered brain guff to be a kind of verisimilitude. The bizarreness of the my buttons bigger than your button exchange between Trump and the North Koreans this week literalised a time-old assumption that war, or threats of war, act as proxies for challenged masculinity; and for all its crassness and political risk, there was something extraordinary about watching this made explicit.

Clearly, mistaking rudeness for honesty doesnt lead anywhere good its led to President Trump but it does remind one of where Trumps appeal lies. He is like the Jim Carrey figure in Liar Liar, whose punishment for being an evil lawyer is that he cant tell a lie for 24 hours, and says monstrous things to everyone he loves. In the movie, he learns a valuable lesson about kindness and decorum. For Bannon, Trump and their gang, one assumes no such denouement awaits.

A world of glorious words

Battery Park in New York City, which has been experiencing a winter weather storm. Photograph: Alba Vigaray/EPA

Simpler pleasures came in the form of some little-known weather terms this week, ahead of the kind of big weather the Americans do so well. I still get a thrill from thunder snow, which sounds like it should line up beside Lion-O and Panthro before going off to fight Mumm-Ra.

As winter storms swept the eastern seaboard, the media talked of bombogenesis, in which a rapid deepening of pressure creates an explosive strengthening of the storm, or as the National Ocean Service put it, a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours.

Like areas of the shipping forecast, these terms have a quality that soothes on the basis of their obscurity; there are things in this world you and I may not understand, but rest assured someone does. The mesoscale convective complex, the positive vorticity advection, and, for simplicity, the polar vortex, all carry with them the absolving idea of systems bigger than we are, and over which we have no control but the power to name.

Music to my ears

Dmitri Shostakovich. Photograph: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images

Im not susceptible to diet or exercise resolutions at New Year, but I often fall for the other great cliche of 1 January: strenuous cultural improvement. For the past few days Ive switched from news radio in the morning to WQXR, New Yorks classical music station, and Im convinced my household is in a better mood for it. Before 9am we hear nothing of Trump, or Bannon, or taxes, or disaster.

Instead, a nice man with a soothing voice tells us about things that happened in the 18th century, or when things get really racy, the 19th. Its blissful, and the start of a whole new me. Im going to read a book about Shostakovich. I am. (Right after I finish this one about Lenin.)

Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist

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This week 3,000 college students met near Trumps Mar-a-Lago resort for a summit on free speech, the culture wars, and the dangers posed by the left

Its an American tradition that any large gathering of students usually ends up in a party. Such a convocation in Florida this week, barely a stones throw from Donald Trumps opulent winter retreat at Mar-a-Lago, was billed as a political action summit for young conservatives. In the event, amid a multitude of Make America Great Again caps and Trump for America flags, it was essentially a raucous celebration of the president himself.

About 3,000 students from campuses nationwide gathered on Trumps doorstep at the Palm Beach County convention center for the four-day winter summit, hosted by Turning Point USA. The mission statement of that young persons activist group promotes non-partisan debate, dialogue and discussion. But its leanings were signalled pretty clearly in the quasi-official motto that was printed on placards placed on every seat: Big government sucks.

A succession of Trumps biggest cheerleaders joined the party as headline speakers, from former White House staffers Sebastian Gorka and Anthony Scaramucci to rightwing commentators and broadcasters including Dennis Prager and Tomi Lahren. Each warned the eager young loyalists of the dangers posed by the left.

Some of the loudest appreciation was, however, reserved for the presidents son Donald Trump Jr, who came to tell the students that faceless government officials were behind special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

There is, and there are, people at the highest levels of government that dont want to let America be America, Trump Jr told his enthusiastic audience. My father talked about rigged system during the campaign, and it is. Now were seeing it.

Charlie Kirk, the 24-year-old founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, is seen as a rising star of the right. He bristled at the suggestion his lineup of speakers was weighted to deliver a strongly pro-Trump message.

Its actually a very diverse group, racially diverse, ethnically diverse and philosophically diverse, he told the Guardian, shortly before taking to the stage with Trump Jr.

One of these dishonest reporters I was talking to a couple of weeks ago said, Hey Charlie, it seems your speaker lineup is all people who love Trump and work for Fox News. I said, Thats one of the most intellectually dishonest statements Ive ever seen.

Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren was among the speakers at the Turning Point USA summit. Photograph: Colin Young-Wolff/Invision/AP

We have Austin Petersen, who ran for president under the Libertarian party, who is a total Never Trumper. We have Ben Shapiro, who is like the leading Never Trump voice, we have libertarian speakers such as Dave Rubin.

We want big names, people that draw attention, and you know what? Theres going to be a lot of contradictory statements. Were cool with that. Theres going to be Alex Epstein in a shirt that says I love fossil fuels and were going to have speakers talking about how conservatives should better embrace the idea of climate change. It shows that we as Turning Point we embrace conservatives, libertarians, people in the middle.

So why the need for an action summit when Trump won the election 13 months ago and conservatives control both houses of Congress?

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

The President has accomplished some absolutely historic things during this past year. Thank you Charlie Kirk of Turning Points USA. Sadly, the Fake Mainstream Media will NEVER talk about our accomplishments in their end of year reviews. We are compiling a long & beautiful list.

December 22, 2017

Ive found over the last couple of years how intolerant and dangerous college campuses have become for conservatives, Kirk said, citing a culture war he sees raging between left and right.

We find it unacceptable that students are kicked out of class for wearing Trump shirts or being ostracised for their beliefs. Were not going to accept the campus culture as it is. Were not going to play the victim card like we always accuse the left of doing. Were going to be saying, You know what? Yeah were under attack, lets punch back twice as hard.

Hastily, he added: Metaphorically, of course.

Fighting the PC police

On the floor, the opening night matched anything seen at a Trump campaign rally. Shouts of lock her up echoed whenever Hillary Clintons name was mentioned; there were chants of CNN sucks whenever anybody referenced the hated media. Prager, a conservative radio talkshow host and accomplished amateur conductor, warned the left was trying to hijack and kill off classical music. Trump Jr claimed it was now illegal in California to call a man with a beard sir if they identified as female.

One of the most popular themes of the night, if not the entire conference, was the perceived victimisation and persecution of conservative students and accompanying restrictions on free speech. It was a message reinforced by breakout sessions entitled Suing your school 101: knowing and defending the first amendment on campus and Fighting the PC police on your campus.

Supporters greet Donald Trump as he arrives at West Palm Beach airport on 22 December. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Trump Jr backed up Kirks claim of a culture war, with the nations colleges and universities as the battleground. You guys are on the frontlines, he said.

Greg Aselbekian, a 24-year-old studying business management at Nichols College, Massachusetts, said he had lost friends over his support for Trump.

I feel the whole country is even more divided, he said. You got the media, you got everybody telling you to vote for Hillary or vote Democrat, and the people who listen to them will not really listen to our side because they think the left side is the only way to be.

You have antifa destroying cities, youve got groups like Black Lives Matter and feminism just taking things way to a different level, all these marches and riots. Anyone whos white who voted for Trump is a white supremacist. Theres a price to pay when youre in favour of Trump or anything rightwing.

Joel Valdez, 18, a first-year political science major at the University of Illinois, said a campus incident in which a leftwing activist smashed his phone had only bolstered his resolve.

Im a Hispanic American and theyre calling me white supremacist, he said. After the election of Donald Trump the left was really shaken up. [But] the conservative message is going to resonate with people who felt left out by the Democrats.

Hannah Bickford, 21, a music student at Montana State University, was dressed in a Trump hat and college Republican shirt to signal her support for the president. She declared she was very happy with his performance so far.

Im here to network with people and hear from amazing speakers and people who share similar ideas, learn from each other and grow as a group of people, she said. Im open to anything, to listen and discuss.

You cant really learn unless youre open to new things.

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Band released a statement asking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to cease all use immediately after Trump played two of their songs

The Rolling Stones have asked presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to stop playing their songs at his campaign events.

In a statement on Wednesday, the rock band said they have not given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment or say whether they had a license to play their songs.

Trump, an avid music fan, has featured Rolling Stones songs at his rallies for months as part of a diverse soundtrack that includes Elton John, opera and classic rock songs. The Rolling Stones 1969 classic You Cant Always Get What You Want was a popular song for his events, and during an event on Tuesday night, the campaign played Start Me Up.

Adele and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler both asked the candidate to stop using their recorded songs to fire up crowds. Neil Young also objected when the real estate mogul used Rockin in the Free World during his campaign kick-off announcement last year. In those cases, the Trump campaign stopped using the songs.

Political campaigns dont need artists permission to play their songs at rallies as long as the political organization or the venue has gotten whats known as a blanket license from the performing rights organizations Ascap and BMI for all the music in the licensing groups repertoire.

But artists do have some recourse. BMI, for example, has said it has a provision in its license agreement that allows BMI songwriters or publishers to object to the use of their songs and they have the ability to exclude those songs from the blanket license.

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As storm clouds gathered over the White House, the president retreated to his safe space: a stadium rally to rile his base and celebrate Trump the showman

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma
Take me home, country roads

The crowd erupted as John Denvers 1971 song filled the arena. Behind a black curtain, beneath a blue Make America great again! sign, Donald Trump was preparing to make his grand entrance.

I know when hes waiting to come out his heart is pounding because hes coming to a field of love, said Gene Huber, 47, a former used car salesman who was attending his seventh Trump rally. The rallies fuel him up.

Enter the showman, big, besuited, orange-topped, slowly traversing a black ramp to centre stage. The American president was greeted by roars as if for a rock star or sporting hero. He clapped in time to chants of Trump! Trump! Trump! from the 9,000-strong crowd. When he held aloft a black sign that said Trump digs coal, the cheers somehow became even louder.

The election might have finished nine months ago but Trump is still on the road and still bashing Hillary Clinton. Thursday nights rally in Huntington, West Virginia, was his seventh since becoming president, each in a different state that voted for him. With a formidable domestic and foreign policy in-tray waiting for him back at the White House, why does he still do them?

Trumps ego, his love of televised spectacle, his need for a shot of adrenaline and his hunger for another victory in 2020 are all part of the story, but in Huntington there appeared to be a more utilitarian some would say sinister purpose. Hours after it was revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington to investigate the Trump campaigns alleged collusion with Russia, the president rallied his base against what he claimed is a politically motivated ruse.

We didnt win because of Russia; we won because of you, he insisted. Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians?

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Despite major reservations about my partys candidate, hearing us all dismissed by other voters in line at the polls inspired me to support him

The commercials have stopped airing. The votes have been cast. The people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.

I was reluctant to back Trump even though I am a Republican, because right or wrong, he caters to many Americans desire to the see the progress in the world slow down a bit just so they can catch up. I also have grave concerns about building walls around our country, and I fear what the impact will be when we start isolating our economy from others. But in the end, I voted for him.

As I walked into my polling place, I simply planned on skipping the ballot for president and voting on down ballot races. We had a very important Senate race in Georgia, and maintaining control of that body for conservatives was, far and away, the most important goal I had this election cycle on the federal level. We also had important local races and amendments to the state constitution that I felt compelled to vote on.

I arrived at my polling place early enough to avoid the lines, or so I thought. Although I was half an hour early, the line snaked around a corner and down a long schoolhouse hallway. Because I forgot my headphones, I couldnt listen to music as a I waited. And the reception was spotty in the building so I couldnt peruse social media, either. So I waited and listened. Most folks maintained conversations with neighbors they knew or just sat quietly. However, two individuals nearby were engaged in a conversation that I wish I never heard.

From what I did overhear, they resented the very existence of the Republican party, and their scorn was reserved most for people who didnt have the strength to stop this man from being even the nominee. Their banter contained the usual unfounded complaints about Republicans were racists and misogynists but also included comments about how truly weak they thought we were as people.

This was in no way reflective of the party I love. As chairman of the Georgia Young Republicans, I struggled to strike a balance between our membership that campaigned vigorously for Trump and those that felt alienated from the party by his nomination. I defend the brand that my organization has of demonstrating support for the Republican ticket but maintaining enough independence that our members have a place to learn, discuss and disagree.

Fellow Republicans I know are, by and large, hardworking people. They love their families, and they cherish the privilege of being Americans. They hurt when their neighbors are suffering. They rejoice when those same neighbors find success in their life. More importantly, they genuinely just want all Americans to have an opportunity at a better life and justifiably are concerned that dream has become a nightmare for far too many Americans. The Republicans I know and work with were not the Republicans I heard these people talking about.

Now, Ill fully admit I never even saw these peoples faces, and they engaged in other topics of political conversation as the line inched closer to the ballot boxes, but I couldnt help but continue to listen anytime Republicans were brought up. And what I heard kept making me angrier.

So I voted for Trump. I wanted to prove a point and vote against those types of people who had nothing good to say about us. But it also felt good to me to support the good people I know worked so hard in an election they were told was a losing cause from the very beginning. They fought for whats right and treated me with a lot of respect even though I remained skeptical about our Republican nominee from the outset.

Just to support them, I wish I had come around sooner than 15 minutes before I pressed the button to cast my ballot. Nonetheless, today its a vote I proudly stand behind to honor them. Now we get to continue the hard work of encourage positive reforms and holding our elected officials accountable when they fall short of expectations.

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