Donald Trump’s rally here began with the candidate asking all attendees to raise their hands and take an oath to vote for him, while extended barriers cordoned off the press and plainclothes private intelligence officers scoured the crowd for [protesters]. ...
... On Friday, two members of Trump’s private security team wore street clothes to a rally in New Orleans. One of them, Eddie Deck, explained to reporters that his duties were now weighted towards intelligence work researching potential protesters and assisting uniformed security personnel under the direction of Trump’s head of security.
Later in the piece, Schreckinger notes, "At Monday’s rally [in North Carolina] and at [a] Friday rally in New Orleans, press pens were constructed with barriers that created long avenues of exit and entry, forcing members of the media to enter and exit away from the floors of the venues."
Regardless of what you think of Trump — and virtually everyone has a strongly held opinion — this is the sort of stuff that should make you nervous about the approach he is taking in his campaign lately.
It is absolutely true that Trump's events are more often interrupted by protesters than, say, Sen. Marco Rubio's. At the same time, sending plainclothes security personnel through the crowd to sniff out these protesters — how, exactly, is it determined that they are protesting or planning to do so? — seems like a step toward something unsavory and less than democratic.
Same goes for asking at the start of a campaign event for attendees to recite a loyalty pledge; people should be allowed to go to hear Trump whether they like him and his views or whether they have decided whom to vote for. And, again, the idea that if you don't recite the loyalty pledge you don't belong at a Trump rally — or "shouldn't" be there — has frightening potential consequences.
Trump's treatment of the news media recently is also concerning. Penning off reporters is nothing new for Trump, and he's not the only candidate who has used such tactics to keep the media away from supporters. (We all remember the Hillary Clinton rope trick.) But the aggressiveness with which Trump's security detail is enforcing this barrier and the channeling of reporters away from actual people attending the rallies are anathema to a free and unrestrained media.
These are people just trying to do their jobs. And part of the job of a reporter is talking to people who attend campaign rallies about why they are there, what they liked or didn't, and how they are thinking about the race and the broader state of the country. Barring reporters from doing that makes reporting from Trump rallies, at best, incomplete.
That Trump is disdainful of the media or anyone whom he perceives is "against" him is old hat by now. And it is his right to say what he wants about the people covering him or the people protesting at his events. But to actively work to curtail reporters' ability to do their jobs or peoples' ability to attend events solely because they may disagree with you is something else entirely.
There's a tendency with Trump to dismiss anything he says or does as "Donald being Donald." But Trump isn't just a private citizen anymore. (If he ever was.) He is the front-runner to be the Republican presidential nominee this fall. With that lofty position comes responsibilities regarding how you treat people — those who agree with you, those who don't and those who cover you. Yet Trump seems unwilling to acknowledge that.