Trump's courthouse clown show can't hide it: There's barely any MAGA support in the streets

Don Jr. is getting so desperate he now claims people give him a "thumbs up hidden under their jacket"

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published May 22, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to press during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on April 30, 2024. (CURTIS MEANS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to press during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on April 30, 2024. (CURTIS MEANS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Donald Trump does not seem to feel his criminal case in Manhattan is going well for him. For the first few weeks, the defendant in this campaign finance fraud and election interference trial mostly stuck to the advice given to anyone facing a potential felony conviction: Sit still, be quiet, and let your attorneys do the talking. Concessions were made to Trump's narcissism, mainly in the form of letting him rant at reporters going in and out of trial. He played games with the gag orders until the threat of jail time shut him up. But by and large, Trump has kept a lid on the childish MAGA antics, even if that means his defense team lets him nap throughout the trial, much like one does with a toddler you're trying to keep from throwing a tantrum. 

MAGA loves Trump because they think he owns the liberals. When he looks more like he's the one getting owned, they keep their distance.

However, in the past week and a half — ever since adult film star Stormy Daniels offered her devastating testimony — Trump's need to turn every occasion into a clown show has taken over. Trump used to show up with no support besides his lawyers. Now he brings an increasingly obnoxious entourage of bootlickers with him every day. It started off with some of the more annoying Republican congressional members flocking to the courthouse to bark lies into the microphones. It's since devolved into bottom-feeders and actual gangsters like Chuck Zito of the Hell's Angels, convicted felon Bernie Kerik, and indicted co-conspirator Boris Epshteyn.

The purpose seems mostly to be disruptive, as these men talk loudly on their phones in court and wear matching outfits, trying to draw as much attention as possible. During breaks, the Trump surrogates rush to the microphones outside to bellyache more. The goal of the circus appears mostly to weave the illusion that Trump has a groundswell of support. But no matter how many Republican congressmen or identically dressed MAGA influencers march before the cameras, it has not resulted in what Trump clearly wishes for most of all: People in the streets to support him. 

Sure, there's a couple of people who show up to wave Trump flags. But in a city as big as New York you can always find some stray weirdoes. The common folk flocking to the trial are mostly there to hate Trump. Some get to go inside to gawk at him on trial. Some, however, are left outside to jeer the greedy shills whose "support" for Trump is based purely on ambition. 

Trump is so desperate he's returning to his lie that there are hordes of supporters who want to show up but are being mysteriously blocked by police. 

Donald Trump Jr. even made a video claiming that people in Manhattan give him a "thumbs up hidden under their jacket," a fantasy so sad that it's surprising that even the most Fox News-pilled viewers would pretend to believe it. 

These efforts to manifest supporters who aren't actually there come on the heels of new reporting from InsiderNJ that the crowd that attended the recent Trump rally in Wildwood, New Jersey was a small fraction of the size erroneously reported in the Associated Press. The apparently false number of 80,000-100,000 came from a Republican mayor, who admitted that he got it from the Trump campaign, which is known to lie about pretty much everything. Video footage from the actual rally, InsiderNJ notes, "reveals a crowd in the few thousands."

None of this is to deny the frightening poll reality, which shows a neck-in-neck race between Trump and President Joe Biden. Nor does it suggest the MAGA movement is receding in any meaningful way, though they remain a minority of Americans, as they always have been. But it's yet another reminder that Trump's narcissism blinds him to the true nature of his support. Trump runs around describing himself as a perfect person in body and mind, possessing an athletic physique, a genius-level intellect, and an inability to err in any way. He mistakenly feels that's what his voters see, as well, and so is perplexed when they don't flock to defend their orange-hued god from his supposed persecutors. But the MAGA movement has always viewed Trump more as a weapon against their perceived enemies than as a messiah figure. 

No doubt Trump's obnoxious personality and seeming impunity from consequences undergird his appeal to MAGA audiences, but mostly because they want to instrumentalize these qualities for their political ends. They enjoy his criminality when it seems useful to them, such as when Trump was trying to steal an election or illegally deport people they don't like. His rallies draw crowds less because people care what he says — they don't seem to really listen, anyway, which is why they don't notice him babbling incoherently or praising fictional cannibal killers — but more for the typical fascist reason of wanting to display a show of force. 

This trial, however, is something most MAGA people want to think about as little as possible. It's a bummer being reminded their leader is a pitiful man who has to bully women into bed to get laid. It's not inspiring to hear him whine non-stop every time he has a chance. They like Trump when he's making them feel like winners, with his baseless boasting and empty promises. Even with his faithless entourage around him, though, he just feels like a tired old man who won't even admit he had sex with Stormy Daniels, which would at least impress some of his more incel-oriented followers. Anecdotally, I've seen a shift in the social media postings from GOP-voting relatives, who seldom mention Trump now, choosing instead to mostly bag on President Joe Biden.

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It's not just Trump's opponents who are holding their breath, waiting for a verdict. His supporters are, as well. What little information they're getting about this trial, if any at all, can't feel good for them. Trump's caterwauling and lies are reaching unbearable decibels. Even the most loyal redhats have to know he's worried, correctly, the prosecution made their case. Their only hope is a MAGA ringer snuck on the jury to hang it. 

Trump was able to rally a huge crowd on Jan. 6 for two reasons: First, because they felt the riot was about them, not him. Second, because Trump apparently convinced them that an insurrection would actually be successful. His pitch to his followers has always been that he has an uncanny talent for failing up. It's easy to see why they believe it, too. He's bankrupted his business multiple times, committed endless crimes, and ran a terrible campaign in 2016. Somehow he still manages to be a free, rich man and even lucked his way into the White House. Even his detractors often ascribe him near-magical abilities to be untouched by the consequences of his own terribleness. In that light, one can see how his followers convinced themselves he'd be able to steal an election and get away with it, as well. 

His pose of invulnerability seems a little harder to sell these days, even as he continues to enjoy the unfathomable levels of powerful support, such as from the Supreme Court, protecting him from anything close to the levels of accountability he deserves. He lost in the E. Jean Carroll trials and he lost his civil fraud trial. He could very well lose this trial. MAGA loves Trump because they think he owns the liberals. When he looks more like he's the one getting owned, they keep their distance.

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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