‘Hello, Trump Warriors!’ Little-Known Preachers and Rabble Rousers are the Unregulated Id of the Felon’s First Rally

“I don’t care about you, I just want your vote.”

That’s the clip from Trump’s Sunday rally in Vegas that went viral: ex-president, navy blazer; open-necked white shirt, the sagging orange lizard hide shadowed by a bright red MAGA cap beneath the 105 degree noonday sun. His first rally as a felon.

The felon works his hands like a bellows fanning the flames as he reveals his true intentionsor baited the press, as he says in his next breath: “See, now, the press will take that”—he points back to the press pen, the metal cage into which the media herds itself at every Trump rally, too lazy to rethink the old political rules Trump’s gamed to turn them into a prop—“and say, ‘he said a horrible thing.’”

The crowd laughs. It’s funny, if you’re a Trumper, because it’s true. It’s a subtle move, because it is true, all of it at once: the felon does not care; and he says what he says to bait the press; and the press will take the bait (as I write, I hear MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace repeating the bait as if it’s a gotcha); and his followers know they will. Which makes it okay that it’s also true, that he doesn’t care about them, because it’s worth it, to play those bastards for once. Trump plays them for you, which is why it’s okay that he doesn’t care about you. Because clearly he does; he hits them for you. “Funny” because it’s true.

I’ve seen it happen before, and I thought I’d see it again in Vegas, made plans to travel. Then I heard “heat advisory,” and I remembered a Trump rally I’d reported back in 2016, Arizona, hours in line, no shade, no water, sweat dripping, seniors wilting into ambulances, an old woman pulled away in what looked like a children’s wagon.

So I watch from afar, in rainy Vermont, on one of the lesser rightwing channels. It begins, just like in real life, in line. “Costumes of sorts,” proclaims one of the two broadcasters, Vanessa Broussard. Then, as if on cue, right behind her, a “costume.” [See: featured image up top.]

Vanessa’s partner is a recent Cornell law school grad named Paul Ingrassia. Hair by Don, Jr., an Adam’s apple bobbing like it’s Halloween. Paul’s the thinker of the two. “The battle lines between good and evil have already been drawn,” he writes on his Substack,

…the Right stands for God and Christianity, the Left tramples on public displays of religious devotion, to say nothing of the practices and doctrines that Christians are obligated to follow, both in their private lives and within in the public square.

Yes, like thumbs-upping in a sombrero.

Just as I would if I were there, they work the line. Vanessa talks to a man wearing a black t-shirt with the words “CUTESY TIME IS OVER,” a vaguely menacing slogan of the Dan Bongino Show, one of the most popular MAGA (and thus one of the most popular) shows in the US. Paul stumbles through an interview with a man who wants to talk trash about immigrants but can’t find the words, so Paul tries to provide them. Vanessa holds a mike to a Vietnamese immigrant who travels rally to rally on the Trump train. “We are living in the time of evil vs. humanity,” she says. “‘Democracy’ means communism, not America.”

An old saw on the Right maintains that the US isn’t a democracy but a republic, (which is false), but this woman, like more and more Trumpers, takes a step further: democracy = communism = an evil that needs no explanation and merits no mercy.

Our correspondents keep moving. “I have a close connection to President Trump, as a teacher,” a middle-aged White woman named Janice, caped in a Trump flag, tells Paul. It dates back to her student-teacher days, when her teacher “taught” her “everything about Trump.” Now, she says, she’s at a Las Vegas charter school where she, too, passes on Trump’s wisdom, and teaches the youth “actual” “civil disobedience,” the “pro-American” kind vs. the “communist” variety preached in government schools.

It sounds alarming, but Janice’s top priority is cursive handwriting.

Paul’s eyes glaze. “Illegals,” he croaks, trying to get back to what matters.

He finds more fruitful material with a small, White mustachio’d man named Mark. “My body was hacked into multiple pieces,” Mark says, drawing a line from his jaw, over his bush hat, to his spine, as if he’d been sliced in half. He says he’d been attempting to stop a gang of “illegals” from robbing mailboxes. They’d dressed all in black and had worn matching ski masks in August, which had tipped Mark off to their shenanigans. Then he recognized them as his neighbors, which is why, if I follow, they tried to murder him with machetes.

“Twenty million are expected to cross over between now and November,” interjects Paul, conjuring an image of the world’s largest machete mob. (This would require a roughly 2,000% increase over last year’s rates.) Mark says 2,000 “illegals” are massed under the the city, as if ready to rise up, C.H.U.D.-style. In fact, an estimated 1,500 houseless people are said to live in tunnels beneath Las Vegas, but those whom a pair of Swiss journalists encountered were mostly White people suffering from profound addiction. America First, except when it comes to MAGA’s fever dream of what lies beneath. The myth of the “illegal” permits the erasure of the poverty Whiteness finds too embarrassing.

“The Gathering of the MAGAlos,” says Chris of the expanding crowd, comparing it to an Insane Clown Posse concert. But the “illegal” problem is growing, too, just since Paul talked to Mark; now it’s “tens of millions,” the entire populations of El Salvador and Guatemala pouring over the “Biden border” as they speak.

“Yeah!” agrees Chris. “We’re being invaded by foreign armies of all different countries.” He looks like he’s wearing a disguise. A bucket hat and shades and a long-sleeved gray t-shirt, an outfit designed to be anonymous. He looks like Slenderman undercover. “It’ll break out in violence,” he says matter-of-factly, as if bloodshed were just tomorrow’s weather.

Chris, in a bucket hat.

But one of the first speakers, “television personality” Wayne Allyn Root, a Jewish convert to evangelicalism who hosts a show on Mike “My Pillow” Lindell’s network, disagrees. When he opened a Trump rally in 2018, he claimed that the White supremacist convicted of murdering protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville was likely an actor paid by George Soros. “No conservative I’ve ever met commits violence. Ever.”

“Hello, Trump warriors!” he shouts now, shaking his fist. “This is the moment of our lives! This is the reason you were born!” Your purpose on earth to put Trump in power. “Fight like cornered wolverines!” Root is, literally, a blockhead, the natural squareness of his oversize head emphasized by a dull red buzzcut that looks like Lego hair. “Attack! Attack like General George Patton! Never accept defeat!” He grins as he shouts. “A battle for the ages! A battle inspired by God!”

Root rose to notoriety as a birther, his claim to fame being that he’d been in Obama’s class at Columbia but had never met or heard of him, thus proving Obama’s true identity as a Muslim sleeper agent from the mostly Christian nation of Kenya. If a White man doesn’t see a Black man, does the Black man even exist?

“I will give you my country,” Root is shouting, his fist high above his head now, “when you pry it from my cold. Dead. Hands!” He gathers up the screaming crowd. “Will you fight! Will you fight! Are! You! Warriors! For Trump! Are you the Trump Army?” Of course they are. Thus their reward: “Do you support the greatest, and largest, mass deportation in world history?” Of course they do.

It’s worth noting that Root’s speech won’t make any major media coverage of the rally. The Washington Post will follow the horse race, noting Trump’s endorsement of a senate candidate. Both CNN and the New York Times will add wonkiness, highlighting a Trump pledge to end taxes on tips for hospitality workers, as if policy had brought the thousands out screaming for Trump in triple degree sun. The proper political press rarely pays much attention to Trump’s warm-up acts. But the openers are the unregulated id of a Trump rally, messier expressions of the main event, demonstrations for the faithful of the correct expression of fealty. Trump’s people love him; the little-known preachers and rabble rousers like Root show them how to love their man best.

Now comes MTG, Marjorie Taylor Greene, striding on stage in aviators and a sleeveless mini-skirted dress in khaki, as if she’s supposed to be a sexier George Patton. Her walk-on music is a song called “Gladiator” by pop metal singer Zayde Wolf:

Gladiator, gladiator, gladiator
Picked a fight with the gods, I’m the giant slayer
Bone shaker, dominator

It’s a kind of reality show standard, a song that “rocks” just enough to signal unscripted but pre-planned badassery. You might have heard it on Teen Mom OG, or Are You the One?, or Love Island, on which contestants must couple up for survival, making of romance a mercenary transaction.

MTG says “hell” a lot. She finishes many of her sentences with a kind of chortle, earnest and sneering at the same time. She flashes her bright white teeth. She knows how to let her hair catch a breeze; squint from a distance, and she’s a ’70s album cover, Marjorie Taylor Greene Comes Alive! These are not oratorical feats, but they are secrets of her success—which, as much as it boggles the non-MAGA portion of humanity, is significant. Is massive. The political press charts her waxing and waning “legislative” strength—even at its weakest 100 times greater than anyone imagined when she first came to Washington—but the real measure of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s value, her ability to love Trump extra-plus, sparkly and big, is on stages such as this, where she’s weighed on MAGA scales, not as politician but as avatar, a minor deity compared to Trump but divine nonetheless. And thus a worthy herald.

A friend asks if I’m decoding Marjorie Taylor Greene. I don’t think so, I say. I think I’m tuning my dial. I think I’m receiving the transmission. I don’t like the tune but the signal is strong.

Today, her mission is to destroy; her target is New York. “I am especially pissed off at the state of New York!” Its crime: the release of the illegal, “this monster,” who went to Georgia and killed “our girl,” Laken Riley. Therefore, New York’s courts have no standing: They dispatch brown-skinned killers (he was released after an arrest for operating a car dangerously with a child) to murder pretty White girls and yet convict a president for, what, scoring with a pretty White girl? Here is the topsy-turvy world of American liberalism: a bad man rewarded—released—to hunt women; a good man punished for “appreciating beautiful women.”

It’s also the MAGA indignation time warp, a loop in which an “illegal” is and was and always will be illegal and thus always, as essential as race, a criminal; his further crimes preordained. And the manliness of Trump in particular and red-blooded (read: White) men in general is eternal, unburdened by minor matters such as marriage or newborns or the decades between Trump and the hottie who went to Trump’s hotel room of her own “totally legal” volition. This is the crime? To be a man?

“Bullshit!” cries MTG.

“Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!” responds the crowd.

MTG nods, raises her fist. “Yeah, that’s right!”

Chortle. Teeth. “Oh, I like Nevada!” Cheers. “You guys are great!”

Her face hardens. She has to keep both the leer and the rage thrumming, fascist pistons. “It is bullshit!”

Then comes a theological turn. How does she get to be so crude and still posture as a Christian? Consider the sacred and the profane not as opposites but as conjoined.

“The fake news media want to constantly talk about”—she raises both hands, pointing inward at herself. You wanna piece of me? She drops her voice, it’s very important at the upper echelons of Trumpworld to be able to do voices. “‘Oh, President Trump is a convicted felon.’ Well, you wanna know something?” Both hands raise, she points with each at the blank Vegas sky. “The man I worship is also a convicted felon!” Beat. “And he was murdered on a Roman cross!”

When Trump ran in 2016, the political press didn’t get his religion. It was the prosperity gospel, “health and wealth,” kick some cash up to the preacher so he can drive a Rolls and prepare to receive God’s blessings. In 2020 it was the bastardized American gnostic gospel, secrets within secrets, Deep State conspiracies like the “waterless canals” spoken of in the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, a metaphor for the sterile corruption of the powers-that-be, the establishment that only pretends to virtue.

But even then he was moving toward martyrdom, reciting at his rallies roll calls of “Americans”—a pretty blonde, a promising football player—murdered by “illegals.” But it wasn’t until January 6 and the death of Ashli Babbitt in his name—Trump’s—that MAGA’s age of martyrs began in earnest. Babbitt was always a placeholder, just as were the January 6 “political prisoners,” their role in this passion play merely to keep the cross warm until Trump was ready.

He’s ready.

He’s coming.

The state GOP chair—an ex-cop long linked to Proud Boys and III Percenters, a fat man with criminal strip-club ties, Boss Hog in a black suit—walks on to AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” Head rocking. “Thank God we’re here in Sunset Park, to worship and bring back the greatest President we’ve ever known!”

He’s here.

If I showed you a picture of him, you’d see a baggy-eyed scowler with a clenched little rictus for a mouth, an ill-fitting suit, fake hair, fake tan, a stupid hat. But if you were close to the front in Las Vegas—if you believed? My god, a good-looking man, so full of force and humor, pride and thick, dense masculine fury. Open-necked white shirt, shoulders like a house, a sweep of blond hair; who cares if it’s dyed, it’s how you carry the color that counts, and he carries it like he’s going to make you carry it for him. Which you will, because it’ll feel like a blessing to be bullied—to be chosen—by the strongman. Only now he’s not just strong. “I would crawl over glass to vote for him now,” says a conservative editor who’s never voted for him before. Look at Trump’s eyes. A man with a gaze. Down from the cross, and he has brought with him The Word:


What a beautiful word! So funny, so mad. “Bullshit-Bullshit-Bullshit!” They don’t even know what he means, or, they do—bullshit. The world is so packed with deception, raw deals, rigged games, lying bitches, lost chances, idiot bosses, fucking morons, your own shitty kids. Other people’s victories. Trump says it like it is. “He says what we all want to say.” He says: “bullshit.”

His people roar. He steps back. “Oh!” he says, his voice startled, because he’s humble even in his pride. He turns to take in the men behind him shouting bullshit like wind in his sails, the word making him strong.

That this is, in fact, bullshit, just ordinary BS, a hustle and a bad act, should go without saying. The point of this story isn’t to claim that Trump possesses magic powers. Trump doesn’t really possess anything anymore. He traded it all in for bullshit. He’s barely even a singular man now. Instead he’s a million little Trumps, standing on each other’s shoulders inside a Trump suit. That’s why the suits are so awkward and boxy. It’s a balancing act, what the million little Trumps are doing. They wobble sometimes. They wobble a lot, really. That’s what we need to look for: the wobble. It’s there. Thirty-four times guilty—they wobbled. Trump’s own wattling chin—they wobble.

But the bullshit is strong. The rest of his speech? Bullshit, of course.

You can read about in the papers. They’ll speak of “familiar refrains” like that’s a weakness. Like he’s ever had more than one thing to sell, and like he hasn’t managed to sell it over and over again, like a whole lot of us won’t keep buying. There are no new products. But there have for so long been so many new buyers. That’s what a Trump rally is. “A gathering of the MAGAlos.” A recognition, a relationship, the thousands all buying it together. You can see it in their faces. He can see it in their faces. That’s why the million little Trumps in the Trump suit are still standing, even as they wobble. He is his people.

This article was originally published on Jeff Sharlet’s Substack, Scenes from a Slow Civil War. Read and subscribe here.