GOP's Biggest Losers of 2023: Donald "Smells Like A Butt" Trump and his fellow insurrectionists

It ain't over, but an avalanche of court losses exposed these would-be warriors as overcompensating clowns

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published December 30, 2023 6:00AM (EST)

Donald Trump | Members of the Proud Boys march towards Freedom Plaza during a protest in Washington, DC.  (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Members of the Proud Boys march towards Freedom Plaza during a protest in Washington, DC. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

This is the last in a five-day series. Read part one, part two, part three, and part four. 

There are many reasons Donald Trump is turning up the rhetoric about being a fascist dictator, even bragging on social media that "revenge" and "dictator" are the top words people use to describe him. It's a campaign strategy to win over Republican primary voters who wish to purge the country of that which they despise, such as tap-dancing jazz dancers. It's a feint, an effort to scare his opponents into believing his ascension is unstoppable, so they stop fighting him. It's also a threat to keep fellow Republicans in line, so they don't start backing challengers who aren't under 91 felony indictments. 

But it's also an attempt to hide that he smells like a butt.

"Take armpits, ketchup, a butt and makeup and put that all in a blender," former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said of Trump's odor. It's a visceral description to be certain, but also beautiful because everyone immediately knows it must be true. Trump's narcissism has led him to believe he knows everything, so he has no need to learn. By the same logic, he no doubt imagines his body, which he has routinely described as perfect, is in no need of regular cleaning. Plus, every shower means seeing his imperfect naked body in the mirror, followed by having to sit still for hours to restore his elaborate hair and make-up. We all know how he feels about that. I have to imagine he skips quite a few.

Plus, Trump knows you can't smell him through the camera, only see his glowering orange visage. Trump's faith is not in God, but that bellicosity and image management can overcome anything: Democracy, his body odor, people noticing he can barely read. It's why, despite failing to end democracy last time, Trump is running for president again, and even more explicitly as a fascist. He and his supporters believe that the will to power, expressed mainly through volume and bombast — backed with a threat of violence — will be enough to finish the insurrection of January 6. 

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We have 11 months to find out if this paper tiger can become a real one. People are, understandably, frightened. But it's also worth looking back over 2023, when the legal system finally started to catch up to Trump and his fellow insurrectionists. While there's been setbacks and delays, overall, there's a reason to find hope. The courtroom has been — though far too slowly — relatively successful at stripping away all chest-beating theatrics of the MAGA insurrectionists, revealing the odorous, overcompensating men (and a few women) underneath. 

Neither liberals nor pundits can pry their eyes from the polls where Trump is running slightly ahead of President Joe Biden. The full weight of what it means for Trump to be facing 91 felony indictments in four different courtrooms has yet to really sink in. We keep holding out for a single incident — some kind of political kill shot — that will take Trump out. He is still blowing ungrammatical hot air on Truth Social while his minions swoon in cultish ecstasy, so there's a tendency to assume none of this matters. 

Trump, however, is clearly afraid, as the increasingly ear-piercing decibel levels of his whining demonstrate. His lawyers keep making ridiculous arguments, such as that attempting a coup is a legitimate presidential duty. They're not taking the long shot strategy out of an abundance of confidence. It's almost certainly because they know the evidence of Trump's guilt is overwhelming, and will do anything they can to keep a jury from hearing it. 

Indeed, the past year has been one story after another about how, when Trump and stooges actually have to show up in court, it does not go well for them. Trump was found liable for defaming and sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll, despite his repeated bragging that he'd easily defeat her in court. His bluster did nothing to stop a judge from finding the Trump Organization guilty of fraud, and the expectation is the judgment next month will be staggering. 

More importantly, the plethora of cases related to the attempted coup and January 6 insurrection show that, stripped of their lies and hysterics, the insurrectionists fare poorly in the courtroom. The high-profile cases started to finally — finally — moved towards resolution this year. The leadership of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia that shaped the storming of the Capitol, were handed sentences ranging from 3 to 18 years. The Proud Boys, who acted on Trump's order to "stand back and stand by," saw sentences up to 22 years. It wasn't just the sentences, however. The trials of these two gangs exposed the losers lurking beneath all camo gear and action movie talk. It turned out two things could be true: These guys were a genuine threat to democracy, but also pathetic try-hards trying to cover up for their myriad of personal failures. 

Same story in the Georgia case pressed by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. She indicted Trump and 18 co-defendants for attempting to steal the 2020 election. While many of them tried to play act supervillains in their mug shots, any fool could see these were mostly a bunch of pampered country club types who got caught up in the drama of a criminal conspiracy. Sure enough, the guilty pleas started to roll in. Trump's lawyer Jenna Ellis was especially entertaining, as she blubbered in self-pity while admitting she really had no idea that things would go so badly for her. She just thought it was cool to follow Rudy Giuliani in his seditious plotting. 

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As for Giuliani, it turns out that there are always new lows the most pathetic man in politics can reach. We rounded out the year with the welcome news that he owes $148 million after losing a defamation lawsuit filed by two Georgia election workers he picked at random to falsely accuse of stealing the 2020 election for Biden. Giuliani responded by defaming the women again. His pickled mind no doubt thinks he's imitating his idol. Trump also believes the best way to win is never to admit failure or defeat, but to keep flouting the law until everyone gives up trying to stop you.

But Giuliani has long shown the flaw in the "never let them see you sweat" strategy: Sometimes the sweat breaks out anyway, pouring down your face in long black streaks of hair dye that stain your face. Sometimes the fact that people can't smell you through the camera stops mattering, as your incoherent patter and shiny-yet-sallow skin tone forces them to imagine it anyway. Giuliani's bravado cannot stop our subconscious brains from conjuring what he must smell like. My mind always goes to a midtown Manhattan subway platform the morning of New Year's Day, or the gutters of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

Trump hasn't been as thoroughly exposed as Giuliani to be a grasping nitwit. There is still too much coverage that focuses on his fascism, without reminding people of the worthlessness the strongman act is designed to hide. But try as he and his followers might to pretend Trump looks awesome at a defense table or in a mugshot or whingeing to anyone who will listen outside courtroom doors, the justice system has an illuminating effect. He looks like a stinky old sociopathic narcissist, a pouty child stuck in the body of a senior citizen who wears the same ill-fitting suit every day. Like a blacklight uncovering all the sticky secrets lurking beneath the thin gold veneers at Trump Tower, the courtroom has that power to expose who Trump really is. 

Let's just hope that the system holds and Trump spends a lot more time inside the court than out of it in 2024. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Commentary Donald Trump Jenna Ellis Oath Keepers Proud Boys Rudy Giuliani