In this work of daring and immersive contemporary anthropology, Carl Hoffman, who has written about the most dangerous and remote corners of the world, journeys deep inside Donald Trump’s rallies seeking to understand the strange and powerful tribe that forms the president’s base.
This book proceeds from the premise that Donald J. Trump's rallies are a singular and defining force—a kind of Rosetta stone to understanding the Age of Trump. Yet while much remarked upon, the rallies are, in fact, little examined, with the focus almost always on Trump’s latest outrageous statement. But who are the tens of thousands of people who fill America’s stadiums and arenas? What do they see in Trump? And what curious alchemy—between president and adoring crowd—happens there that might explain Trump’s rise?
To those on the Left, the rallies are a Black Mass of American politics at which Trump plays high priest, recklessly summoning the darkest forces within the nation. To the MAGA faithful, the rallies are a form of pilgrimage, a joyous ceremony that like all rituals binds people together and makes them feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Both sides would acknowledge that this travelling roadshow (the Wall Street Journal reports there have been more than 550 ticketed campaign events since 2015) is the pressurised, combustible core of Trump’s political power, a meeting of the faithful where Trump is unshackled and his rhetoric reaches its most extreme, with downstream consequences for the rest of the nation.
To date, no reporter has sought to understand the rallies as a sociological phenomenon examined from the bottom up. In 2019, Carl Hoffman began to do just this and embedded himself in the Trump rallies. He has stood in line for days with crowds of supporters; he has traveled across the country from Minnesota to Texas to Mississippi interviewing hundreds of attendees and immersing himself in their culture. A former contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, Hoffman has travelled to 80 countries on assignment; he has written about cannibals in New Guinea, Mumbai’s railways (the deadliest in the world), and the indigenous tribes of Borneo. Now he trains his unique eye on his own country.