Much of Donald Trump’s most recent rally—his first of 2022—involved speakers saying just what you would expect: The election was stolen. The crowd at this rally was so huge that he must have won the last election. He’s being persecuted. COVID is real but the Democrats are making it worse by discriminating against white people for vaccines and COVID treatment. Everything is rigged against him. Some bombast, some bluster, a never-ending stream of lies. And of course, conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory—the Big Lie, always, but also conspiracies about what happened on January 6th.
Trump allies such as Mike Lindell and Andy Biggs showed up alongside him, and Steve Bannon, of course, took to his webshow to claim the rally would lead to the 2020 election being decertified—something for which, of course, no mechanism exists. Kari Lake, the likely winner of the Arizona GOP’s gubernatorial primary, called for Dr. Anthony Fauci and “anybody who was involved in that corrupt shady, shoddy election of 2020” to be locked up. And Rep. Paul Gosar sent up the QAnon Bat signal: “Can you feel the storm building? It’s America.” The apocalyptic endpoint of QAnon’s conspiracies are where all of their political opponents are arrested and then murdered, and here was the former president surrounding himself with implicit hints and explicit statements of those aims.
As Charlie Sykes summarized on Monday, the rally was a glimpse of the Republican future, and “it looks very much like the past, but even more deplorable. And, frankly duller.”
In some ways, though, the rally may signal a subtle shift in Trump World. The people who turn out for his rallies now are not the same as the Republicans-sick-of-Republican-leadership who turned out in 2016. They have even shifted from the MAGA/KAG crowds of 2020. The fights over Jan. 6th and over vaccination policy have further radicalized them. They are, in some respects, evolving past Trump. And they are tired of hearing the same old thing. Some of the people in the crowd wanted a lot more.