register here Get up on politics in your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Richmond, Va. — In the main auditorium for a conservative rally called “Take Back Virginia” this week in the state capital, speakers promoted election conspiracy theories, warned of an impending civil war with liberal states, and declared President Biden arrested Must go treason.
But in the back room of the event, that grim stint led former President Donald J. One of Trump’s signature rallies – food, drink and laughter often found way to give way to the darker festive tone. The sound of the football tailgate is converging with political grievances.
As a politics reporter for The New York Times, I’ve been to about two dozen such events as Mr. Trump’s stadium rallies, small events like this, or makeshift festivals. “Trumpstock” for Mr. Trump’s Super Fans in Northern Arizona. Every so often, I am reminded of how these occasions are made to feel like a political event.
Mr. Trump has his signature rally playlist – which his staunch supporters have come to remember – filled with a wide range of music, from musical “Cats” to opera, rock and even “Memories”.
The event in Virginia, where Mr Trump gave an address by phone, served meatballs and cheese plates and had a cash bar where customers could watch the speaker from another room. At one point, the two patrons exchanged petitions about electoral integrity, ordering a glass of wine while updating each other on ongoing efforts to reverse the 2020 election.
However, the most noticeable reflection of how Trump’s most ardent fans have taken to his personality and grievances is in the clothing. Among the few attendees, going to an event named after Mr. Trump is not enough; His appearance also requires wearing something that mimics some of his political calling cards – mocking his political opponents, using hate speech and openly embracing political wrongdoing. In some incidents, I’ve seen people especially those with cross t-shirts have their own photo lines, as others are queuing for selfies for selfies.
In Virginia, I talked to three men—all dressed fairly in general for such an event—what they decided to wear, and how their clothing reflected their political beliefs.
These interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
James Thornton, 47, of Virginia
“I’m open to both sides. But when I go to the other side, they don’t like me. I want to hear their side and they can hear my side. That’s how society should be. Not closing things because You can’t answer.”
“Education is the biggest thing for me. Critical race theory and LGBT which I don’t mind. I don’t care if you’re gay. This is what happens when you push your thoughts on my thoughts. Where do your rights begin and where do my rights end?”
“It’s not that I hate Democrats. It’s their agenda and what they put forward. I’m a hard worker. And I see that my tax dollars aren’t benefiting me. This one Benefits the person who doesn’t want to give 100 percent and wants to put in the effort. I know not everyone is like that. Some people need help, no doubt. But when I tell a 27 year old man this ‘I get help,’ I go, ‘What! I’m paying for it.’ You know I used to have a sticker that said, ‘Keep working – millions of people depend on it for welfare.'”
Val Yurachek, 52, of Virginia
“I’m worried about our freedom. What the American people want is what this country is based on, which is our freedom. And all these mandates and forced vaccinations, this is not America and this is not freedom and this is our God-given right. No. Rights come from God. And that’s what the Constitution is based on.”
We do not want to follow the path of socialist or communist country. My family comes from a place that had this kind of governance, and that’s not something we want here.”
“I was in the Marine Corps. And my father was also in the Marine Corps. And as Americans we love our country, and the flag and eagle represent it. I don’t want to put a blanket over everyone and say that only one party supports it. But if you’re going to support America, and you’re going to support patriotism, the conservative side — the Constitution side — is the group to do that. The Left has gone far beyond communism and socialism.”
Robert Levy, 62, of New Jersey
“We started the T-shirt company last summer. First it was two shirts, and then we put up a sign fighting Covid restrictions – and it was a big hit. “
“Selling anti-Biden stuff just got easier. Because of the terrible things he is doing, people on both sides of the aisle are sick of what he is doing. If you’re not brain-dead, you don’t support these kinds of policies.”
“We have to go to events like this, because if we tried to sell on Facebook, we would be kicked out. Because they don’t like the message. We have to dance to the music. We have to find people who have our political beliefs. be.”
“Our biggest seller is a shirt that says ‘Stolen Property’ with a picture of the White House.”