Trump Rallies Aren’t Even Really About Politics at This Point

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For all of Donald Trump’s rhetorical quirks, personality quirks, and Suspected criminal actWhat made him truly unique as a politician was his fusion of fan culture with American politics. It’s not unusual for Americans to idolize presidents — Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are still revered by many — but no other president has inspired the same commercial lines or car brands. The MAGA bumper sticker is often not simply a statement of loyalty; The Dancing Bear bumper sticker is as much an indicator of community culture as a fan of the Grateful Dead.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Trump meetings. He turned his campaign events into something more akin to a Bruce Springsteen concert than a Harry Truman whistle-stop tour.

The Trump rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in late November was as good an example of the genre as any. Held in a blue-collar town about 30 miles off the interstate, attendees began lining up early for the chance to see Trump in a high school gym decorated with banners celebrating winning softball and bowling teams.

An access line wraps around the school parking lot and forms an elongated C that extends from the building entrance around the lot. Throughout, there were vendors selling Trump and MAGA branded clothing. Some set up entire bazaars with shot glasses and key chains for sale alongside baseball caps and t-shirts. Others have provided the most popular accessories for driving carts up and down. There was a food truck nearby for the hungry.

Attendees were willing to stand for hours to get in, even if they doubted they would get a chance to see the candidate. Pam Bygness of Coalville, Iowa was at the back of the line. She attends Fort Dodge Senior High and didn’t think the gym could hold all the people waiting to get in. But she’s still willing to wait hours for her chance to see Trump. “He’s really a patriot,” she said. “Tell me what someone else has to go through to keep fighting for this country.”

At least half of the attendees were enthusiastic about their fashion choices – including taking advantage of the vendors at the parade. John Miller of Fort Dodge, wearing a new T-shirt, showed Trump holding an American flag and giving the middle finger with both hands above the slogan “One for Biden.” One for Harris.

Ashley Long of Des Moines arrived wearing a Trump hat and a T-shirt with a picture of the former president and the word “revenge.” These were sold by a right-wing podcaster, and Long described the shirt as “a joke” and “the opposite of Obama’s ‘hope’ slogan.” (Trump’s legal problems have made Long more supportive of him, but she warned that she would still support someone else if Trump did “something really disgusting.” “There has to be a video of Trump hitting a baby. He shouldn’t be my guy,” she said.)

Chris Seedorf, of Albert Lea, Minnesota, wore an American flag cowboy hat and a shirt with a Trump cartoon shot on an Elmer Fudd model and the slogan “Be very quiet, I’m pissing off liberals.” Seedorf said he would “take a shot” at Trump, and that Trump is the only politician who would commit a self-sacrificing act. “He does it for everybody else,” Seedorf said of the former president.

Ben Jacobs

Once the audience was ushered into the high school gym, folding chairs were spread across the basketball court, and the brooms were stacked up to the ceilings. During Trump’s first presidential campaign, the soundtrack that supported the late Elton John now leans toward the late Elvis. The music was interrupted by a pre-programme of government officials imitating Trump’s public speeches as best they could to entertain the crowd. One state representative began his speech by telling “transgender men” to “put their jockstraps back on” and ended with a lengthy Yoda impersonation, while another mocked former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a “disrespectful little piece of trash.” But they were under the best card.

Trump has long attracted a community of superfans called “Front Row Joes,” who host his events in a similar fashion to the Muttheads hosting a live show. Jim and Sandy Pamper of St. Paul, Minnesota, were not in that community—Sandy attended eight Trump rallies, Jim only three, including the one he canceled in Iowa earlier this year—and it was still an important event for them. The newlyweds, who got married in Eureka Springs, Arkansas just weeks ago, caught Trump’s parade as part of the ceremony. As Sandy told Pamper, “There’s no better place for a honeymoon. Dressed in Trump gear and given prime seats, the couple enjoyed having their photo taken with the former president after the event.

Finally, finally, Trump took the stage, and the crowd gave a standing ovation as Lee Greenwood shouted from the speakers. Not everyone was seated until the former president was 20 minutes into his speech, all of which was slurred over the darkly crowded text of the all-too-familiar difference: “American carnage.” Filled with lines like “Crook Joe Biden is also waging a misguided crusade to end Iowa ethanol” and topics like the 2018 Florida gubernatorial primary, Xi Jinping’s granite-like physique, or the low crime rate in Fort Dodge. (You don’t have people falling over their heads like Trump in a north central Iowa town.)

At other typical caucus events, candidates face at least a few questions from voters, but here there were none. After all, while one might ask Ron DeSantis about his foreign policy after his stump speech, no one would dare ask Mick Jagger what key he sang after a concert.

Instead, Trump stood, clapped and cheered as he shook off longtime foes like California Democrat Adam Schiff (“we call her lead-neck,” Trump guffawed), mocked transgender athletes participating in women’s sports, and shared humorous banter. Salute to the infamous 2016 Steele Dossier. Trump said of himself, hotels and haulers, “I’m not into the golden shower as they call it – they call it.” He is not. “I don’t like this idea.”

After that, the audience quickly streamed out. They watched the show, bought their merchandise, and took selfies to prove they were there. For hardcore Trump devotees, their marking was another milestone. And for the less committed, it was a rare opportunity not to be missed. After all, presidential candidates come to Iowa all the time — but how often does Donald Trump come to your town?

Trump loyalists don’t have the majority of Republican primary voters or general election voters, let alone those motivated enough to attend the rallies. But they represent a key faction in the GOP and may be a key reason for Trump’s political strength—even after 91 criminal indictments, four years of instability in the White House, and one attempt to storm the Capitol and overturn a presidential election. Even when Trump’s political fortunes were against them The lowest ebb After leaving office, he still had a foundation based not on politics, but on personality and what this personality represents.

Winning next year’s general election alone isn’t enough — after all, Trump didn’t get much of the popular vote against Clinton or Biden. But it is enough to explain the current strength of the Republican primaries, where a significant fraction of GOP voters are devoted to him. For all his rivals’ efforts to oust him from the presidency, every television ad touting their virtues and an endless stream of court cases and legal documents detailing Trump’s failures has one advantage they won’t touch.

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley have sidekicks. Donald Trump has. Supporters.

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