During Barack Obama’s presidency, conservative doomsday peddlers cashed in on the paranoia they helped spread, selling firearms, prepper food, and survivalist gear to the followers they convinced that the end was near. Now, these apocalypse hucksters are facing a dilemma in the form of Donald Trump. While most enthusiastically supported Trump’s presidential run—some even hailing him as a savior—the Trump presidency has been damaging to their bottom lines.
Gun sales, for example, have nosedived now that far-right activists can't claim that Obama or Hillary Clinton is this close to confiscating guns and rounding up gun owners.
Michael Snyder, a conservative pundit and prepper, wrote in December that "sales of emergency food and supplies have been crashing since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory."
"In fact," he wrote, "it is like a nuclear bomb went off in the prepping community."
It's understandable that these merchants of doom would run into some problems following Trump's election. Many on the extreme Right predicted that Obama was dead set on imposing tyranny, cracking down on dissent, and crushing freedom, whether by invading Texas under the guise of the Jade Helm 15 military exercise or setting up death panels with a hidden provision of Obamacare.
Republican politicians and gun activists frequently warned voters that Obama was itching to do away with gun ownership.
Trump, quick to recognize the power of this fearmongering tactic, claimed on the campaign trail that Obama was "thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away." He also asserted—falsely—that Hillary Clinton intended to "abolish the Second Amendment," "take your guns away," and "take your bullets away."
Trump was far from the only Republican leader pushing this myth. Ted Cruz'scampaign warned that "Obama wants your guns." In a mailer for the National Association for Gun Rights, Rand Paul egregiously misquoted Obama to claim that the president had said he would ban guns.
Without Obama or Clinton in the White House, gun activists have had to find new ways to scare people into stocking up on guns.
Now, they say, the threat isn’t coming from the government, but from streets packed with anti-Trump protesters.
Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association told CPAC, one of the largest annual right-wing conferences, that militant leftists are rioting and committing acts of violence across the country. He warned that conservatives are being targeted as part of an anti-Trump "purge."
"Our long nightmare may not be over," he said. "The fact is, it may just be beginning, because right now we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us."
Join the NRA, he said, to defend yourself against "the violent left" that seeks to bring "their terror to our communities."
Jim Bakker, a televangelist notorious for his relentless promotion of prepper products—especially buckets of survival food—has warned viewers that those in the streets "blaspheming" Trump are "demon-possessed" and bent on violence, potentially to the point of launching a new civil war.
"If you want to be safe and there’s rioting in your street, what are you going to do? Is your mom going to walk down through where they’re burning and killing and all?" he asked.
Bakker also called on people who lived in Democratic areas of the country to prepare for the worst because God will punish their states for voting against Trump and "the will of God."
If the violent leftist rampages never materialize, these doomsday peddlers will surely find a new reason for you to buy what they're selling.
Brian Tashman is a senior research analyst at People For the American Way.