Deflating the Trump Balloon

MAGA as a social-psychological phenomenon has always been about alienation. All kinds of smart observers of mass movements have said that people who are alienated from their communities and cultures are vulnerable to being sucked into authoritarian mass movements. Through such a movement people find connection, identity, and a feeling of power. They even find a sense of purpose, even if their only purpose is owning the libs.

This article in Scientific American was written shortly after Trump won the 2016 election, so it’s a tad dated, but it says a lot of useful things about Trump supporters. For example,

In simple terms, a Trump rally was a dramatic enactment of a specific vision of America. It enacted how Trump and his followers would like America to be. In a phrase, it was an identity festival that embodied a politics of hope.


When we put it all together, these figures tell us something important about leadership in general and about the 2016 leadership contest. They underline the point that leadership is never about the character of individuals as individuals. This is the “old psychology of leadership” that our own theoretical and empirical analysis has called into question. Instead leadership is about individuals as group members—whose success hinges on their capacity to create, represent, advance and embed a shared sense of “us.”

Another feature of Trumpism is the way he used his rallies to reinforce the sense that his alienated audience was under threat. The larger culture wasn’t just strange and uninviting to them; it was actually out to get them. There was safety only in banding together with like-minded folk and not asking questions.

That’s why it hardly matters to the true believers that Trump didn’t accomplish a single damn thing he promised to do when he was running in 2016. What matters is how he makes them feel about themselves. And a threat to Trump is felt as a threat to his culties. Their identities are fused with his.

Reuters reports that Trump followers are calling for violence because of the verdict.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump, enraged by his conviction on 34 felony counts by a New York jury, flooded pro-Trump websites with calls for riots, revolution and violent retribution.
After Trump became the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime, his supporters responded with dozens of violent online posts, according to a Reuters review of comments on three Trump-aligned websites: the former president’s own Truth Social platform, Patriots.Win and the Gateway Pundit.
Some called for attacks on jurors, the execution of the judge, Justice Juan Merchan, or outright civil war and armed insurrection.
“Someone in NY with nothing to lose needs to take care of Merchan,” wrote one commentator on Patriots.Win. “Hopefully he gets met with illegals with a machete,” the post said in reference to illegal immigrants.
On Gateway Pundit, one poster suggested shooting liberals after the verdict. “Time to start capping some leftys,” said the post. “This cannot be fixed by voting.

And so on. We’ve yet to see if this will go beyond talk, of course. Trump’s powers to call up riotous mobs haven’t worked all that well recently.

It’s a damn shame the Manhattan trial wasn’t televised. Watching Trump sit, obediently and often asleep, in the courtroom day after day might have put a big dent in his image. But the true believers probably heard little about the tamed and subdued Trump sitting in the court. I doubt that the trial that was reported, if it was reported, on right-wing media bore much resemblance to the trial that I was following in the New York Times and MSNBC. And for that reason I don’t know how much Quinta Jurecic’s observations in The Atlantic hold true:

Trump’s political appeal has always been tied to perceptions of his invincibility. He was a force of nature, the godlike manifestation of the people’s will unbound by law. Now, though, the Trump balloon has been punctured. The Übermensch is not so über. When Trump stepped out of the courtroom after the verdict to deliver remarks to the press, he walked with hunched shoulders, declaring his innocence in a flat, exhausted tone, as if he was struggling to summon his typical reserves of fury. He had a new look about him, unseen even after the 2020 election, when he lost but claimed victory; he looked defeated.

Trump will appeal, but that’s going to take time. In the meantime there will be a sentencing, and the title “convicted felon” will stick to Trump like dog poo on his shoes. The conviction may not have punctured his follower’s image of him, yet, but over the next few weeks it could start to sink in.

It’s also the case that while the true believers may rally around Trump, the conviction could have a different effect on more traditional conservative voters — such as the people still voting for Nikki Haley in primaries — and right-leaning independents. These are people who may share some hard-right opinions but whose personal identities aren’t centered on Trump.

Seriously, though, the only way to break the fever of Trumpism is for Trump to be revealed without doubt as vulnerable and fallable and a loser. If that ever happened, his “base” is likely to crumble.

Speaking of the appeal, Reuters reports that the appeal will center on Stormy Daniels’ testimony. That seems a weird choice. I wonder if that is Trump’s idea.

10 thoughts on “Deflating the Trump Balloon

  1. One good thing is that Trump can't file his appeal until after he is sentenced.

  2. Trump is going down, blow by blow:

    – E Jean Carroll defamation cases

    – Letitia James / Judge Erdogan fraudulent real estate valuations

    – Stormy Daniels / Judge Merchan case just concluded

    – Biden will mop the floor with Trump, first debate

    – the SCOTUS will soon issue an opinion about immunity, this will reactivate the J6 / Judge Chutkan case

    – I expect Aileen Cannon to be replaced soon, although it will take time for a new judge to get up to speed. If you look at her schedule, she's agreed to entertain motions over idiotic things, like whether the whole idea of a special counsel is valid or not. Next she'll hear arguments over the validity of the law of gravity or whether 2+2 always equals 4…

    Trump's deterioration is accelerating. The Republican convention is going to be total chaos, war between Trump, the various mini-Trumps, and the marginalized non MAGA Republicans who want their party back.

  3. The article about the psychology behind a Trump rally and the appeal of Trumpism in general seems like cosplay to me. Cosplay, for those not up on the art, is dressing up like a character, Iron Man or Wonder Woman, for example. But it's not just the wardrobe – it's performance art as they try to encapsulate the personality of the superhero (or villain.) 

    Trump is doing interactive cosplay with his audience – he pretends to be a bad-ass avenger, and they his loyal gangsters. The game peaked on January 6 when they stormed the Capitol Building. Then reality intruded – hundreds were identified, some by idiotic social media posts but many others through diligent investigation by progressive sleuths. Most got off with minor sentences, but they incurred a lot of stress and legal costs. MAGA declared the penalties were unfair, excessive, and constituted the persecution of MAGA. Which was/is BS. 

    A very few of the most violent offenders were kept in lock-up until their trials. ONLY those caught attacking cops or the Capitol Building were detained for any period of time. Sentences for the rest varied from probation to light jail time. The point being: the federal prosecutions were nuanced individually according to the evidence, almost all photographic. That's not the perception of MAGA and with the massive distortion, they shot themselves in the foot. MAGA isn't eager to cosplay in ways that will get them in criminal trouble. So the weeping and gnashing of teeth is quite theatrical but not very dangerous. (So far. And yes, there's always a lone wolf willing to self-destruct. But an army of MAGA ready for war – no.)

    Trump is going to continue to cosplay – MAGA will continue to eat it up. It's the low-info voter we have to reach with the truth about the criminal who Trump is, and the dangerous criminal gang of felons he's surrounded with, ready to destroy democracy in a REAL, not rhetorical way if Trump wins. COSPLAY is how we need to reach them, not rational arguments about issues. Portray Trump as he is – destroy the fictional image he's trying to project. 

  4.  Through such a movement people find connection, identity, and a feeling of power. 

    Reminds me of a YouTube video I once saw where they interviewed Germans who were in the Hitler youth movement. They spoke of their immense desire to become involved in the movement because they could participate in group activities like marching through the countryside singing patriotic songs of the fatherland. They would be outfitted with a nazi youth dagger and assorted indentifying badges giving them a sense of community and belonging. It was the place any young real German boy wanted to be because any boy who didn't join the Hitler youth was considered by the community at large to be an outcast. Non-Aryans were not allowed to join the group. The Hitler youth organization gave them a sense of pride, power, purpose, and belonging.

    Deutschland uber alles!   MAGA uber alles!

  5. All of this is too complicated.  We are at a time when the future cannot realistically be painted as one that favors our species as a whole or even the chosen ones by those who can see the trends and where things are headed.  This makes lies more popular and a follow a group mentality a proven survival strategy in this time of stress.  It is not a good thing when you cannot even honestly assure your children and/or younger family members of a brighter future than you had.  

    Just yesterday I had to adjust to these facts.

    We have the first ever presumptive presidential candidate that is a convicted felon.

    The temperature in India was recorded at 127 degrees.

    An agricultural show expert professor who saw no way humans could continue to eat at present standards into the future.  How does one explain to a young person they and their children may need to use insects as their primary protein source?

    The republican party is ready to trash our whole justice system rather than put the Donald in the rubber room he belongs in.  

    I haven't had a drink in a month.  I feel much better for it.  Still, I could use a good crutch to avoid dealing with all this.  

    Yes, the future of mankind is what we make it to be.  Unfortunately, we have regressed to the survival strategy of the lemming.  At least a large number of us will all go out together.  

  6. Paul Kane, in an article in the Washington Post used this quote as indicated in its context:

    Rollins, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Calvert two years ago, decried Calvert’s bid to curry favor with Trump.

    “We deserve a representative who cares more about the 750,000 of us in Riverside County than one convicted felon in New York,” he said.


    Might I suggest that quote as a model for all.  You may need to change the geographic area and the population figure to fit your district, but the rest is political gold.  


  7. Trump managed to rack up more felonies than John Wayne Gacy. Gacy only had 33 felonies to his count. Trump's felony count is something of the likes of which the world has never seen before….And everybody knows it!

  8. Over at Digby's blog there is a post about 2000 mules and today I had a guy spewing at me (trolling me?) about the "proof" of voter fraud directly from that show so the take-down orders don't matter. It is a collective mental illness disguised as patriotic cosplay. I am so tired of trying to do business and having non-facts become facts and tainting the business process. As soon as one of these yahoos turns the conversation to MAGA flat-earth scheiss my brain turns off and I think to myself "ok, I am done here, dry hole, no opportunity." The Trumpkins have no idea how bad their scheiss is for a normally functioning market economy. Heck, they will always blame someone else for the wreckage if their anti-free market BS. Markets rely on good information, bad information creates broken markets and all the MAGA folks have is bad info.

  9. According to the indispensable Aaron Rupar (via Digby), Trump is now denying he ever said "Lock her up." That might actually put a dent in his support.

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