[Trump rally regulars] describe, in different ways, a euphoric flow of emotions between themselves and the president, a sort of adrenaline-fueled, psychic cleansing that follows 90 minutes of chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded Trump junkies.— Michael C. Bender, Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2019
“Once you start going, it’s kind of like an addiction, honestly,” said April Owens, a 49-year-old financial manager in Kingsport, Tenn., who has been to 11 rallies. “I love the energy. I wouldn’t stand in line for 26 hours to see any rock band. He’s the only person I would do this for, and I’ll be here as many times as I can.”
Sixteen months before the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, Donald Trump was already in the midst of touring the southeastern US, holding rallies to support his 2020 re-election bid. During his initial run for the 2016 election, he held 323 rallies, creating a wake of fans who held onto every one of his words, whether by speech, interview, or tweet. Some diehards would even follow him across the country like deadheads following The Grateful Dead, attending dozens of rallies.
There’s no doubt that Trump is charismatic and has mesmerized a particular segment of the American populace. His approval ratings during his presidency never dropped below 34%. They admire his willingness to shake up the system and say what’s on his mind, unafraid of backlash for being politically incorrect.
But Trump is a media-savvy Svengali who has been cultivating his public persona for decades. He went from being a frequent mention in the New York City tabloids to national notoriety when his reality show, The Apprentice, portrayed him as a take-no-prisoners, self-made billionaire business tycoon. 1
His charm and ego carried him into the presidency in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College but losing the popular vote by 2.9 million. Once he became the most powerful man on the planet, Trump’s narcissistic tendencies only grew worse.
At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist who rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Trump reacted by saying there was “blame on both sides,” adding that he believed there were “very fine people on both sides.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Trump to be the country’s moral compass. “You’re the president of the United States. You have a moral leadership obligation to get this right and not declare there is a moral equivalency here.” But Trump fed on the adoration of his fans, saying, “These people love me. These are my people. I can’t backstab the people who support me.”
Donald Trump would shore up that support up to and after the 2020 election. On November 7, 2020, three days after Election Day, Joe Biden was declared the winner by the Associated Press, Fox News, and other major networks. Trump didn’t concede and would launch a campaign calling the election rigged and that he had won, without evidence.
There was no evidence of widespread election fraud. More than 50 lawsuits alleging fraud or irregularities were dismissed by the courts—many of whom were Trump appointees. But Trump, desperate to hold onto his power, fueled by his unbridled narcissism, called on his supporters to “stop the steal” by marching to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the day the election was to be certified by the United States Congress. On December 19, 2020, “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.
On January 6, 2021, a mob of angry Trump supporters descended onto the US Capitol after being riled up by a speech by President Donald Trump. They stormed the building, overwhelming the Capitol Police, injuring many of them, and causing lawmakers to flee for their lives.
The FBI estimates that as many as 2,000 people were involved in the attack. More than 850 people have been charged so far. Many told authorities that Donald Trump told them to go to Washington, DC that day, march on the Capitol, and disrupt the certification ceremony.
Donald Trump is now the subject of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, and is likely under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.
In Bellville, Texas, about an hour northwest of Houston, a shrine to Donald Trump was erected in 2020, months before the November election and the attack on the Capitol in January. A burger joint named Trump Burger sits next to a Cricket Wireless store and across from a triangular dirt lot. Among the open-flame grill and buns branded “TRUMP,” are photos of the smiling former president and T-shirts that say “Jesus is my savior. Donald Trump is my president.” The restaurant’s owner, a second-generation Lebanese-American, loves Trump’s economic policies while he was president. Moreover, he admires Trump’s businessman reputation since he is a business owner himself. Blue “Trump 2024” flags adorn most walls of the restaurant. Even tiny “Trump 2024” flags on toothpicks hold burgers together.
In her closing statement during the Select Committee’s July 21 hearing, Republican Representative Liz Cheney said, “And every American must consider this. Can a President who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6th ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?”
The followers of Donald Trump see him as a god. They decorate their homes and businesses with his likeness. They wait hours in line and gather to hear his sermons. They heed his every word. But he is a false god. His supporters may not realize or are willfully ignorant of Trump’s narcissism. He has been a menace to American democracy not because of his ideology, for he has none. Instead, he has brought our democratic experiment to the brink because of his lust for approval.
Trump will likely make another run to become president again. To save our country, we cannot allow that to happen, for he is who our Founders warned us about.
When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”— Alexander Hamilton, in a note to George Washington, August 18, 1792
I collaborated with Roberto Vescovi again, who modeled the Putin bust I used in the “Putin: False” poster. Mr. Vescovi sculpted the Trump bust. The final scene was composed in Cinema 4D and rendered using Redshift. The poster was assembled in Photoshop.
Bender, Michael C. “‘It’s Kind of Like an Addiction’: On the Road With Trump’s Rally Diehards.” Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2019.
“1980s: How Donald Trump Created Donald Trump.” NBC News, July 6, 2016.
Lempinen, Edward. “Despite drift toward authoritarianism, Trump voters stay loyal. Why?.” Berkeley News, December 7, 2020.
McAdams, Dan P. “A Theory for Why Trump’s Base Won’t Budge.” The Atlantic, December 2, 2019.
Clark, Doug Bock, Alexandra Berzon, Kirsten Berg. “Building the “Big Lie”: Inside the Creation of Trump’s Stolen Election Myth.” ProPublica, April 26, 2022.
Sherman, Amy. “A timeline of what Trump said before Jan. 6 Capitol riot.” PolitiFact, January 22, 2021.