After former President Donald Trump regurgitated the racist "great replacement" theory, and otherwise trashed America in an odd endorsement of Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance, portions of a crowd of more than 6,000 attendees raised their single fingers in the air. It was an alarming move for social media users who described the gesture as remarkably similar to the Nazi salute. Investor and journalist Morten Overbye called the crowd a "fascist cult." CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem said the hand symbol was the sign of conspiracy theorists championing the QAnon theory.
"This is the week when Trump became Qanon,” Kayyem tweeted. “This isn’t a political statement; it just is, however, disturbing. The week began with images of Trump on Truth Social wearing a Q pin and promoting their slogans, it ends with Q music and the Q ‘one’ sign by crowd at his rally."
Exactly what members of the Youngstown crowd were trying to communicate by raising their fingers in the air may be up for debate, but the message from the former president at the rally was far less subjective. He supports Vance but not nearly as much as Trump supports himself.
Journalist Andrea Pitzer reported that although Trump bragged about a sold-out crowd during the rally, the arena, which has a capacity of less than 10,000 people, had a back section that was empty.
So, praise to those who did report it already. And a word of caution to those so horrified by the culty/Q aspects of last night that they reposted audience pictures that make it look like a sea of people. It wasn't a lot of people, but it's easy to accidentally further the myth.
— Andrea Pitzer (@andreapitzer) September 18, 2022
Trump's rally in Youngstown, Ohio, ends with the dramatic music playing. Strange vibes. pic.twitter.com/wMQwAJ5QfU
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 18, 2022
Trump described himself as a victim of an “unhinged persecution” in which witnesses of the January 6 insurrection he is accused of inciting were forced to turn against him. “They take good people and they say, ‘You’re going to jail for 10 years … unless you say something bad about Trump, in which case you won’t have to go to jail,'” Trump said.
He also alleged that the government "spied" on his campaign, "and nobody wants to do anything about it."
“Can you imagine if I spied on the campaign of—forget Biden—how about Obama’s campaign?” Trump asked. “Can you imagine what (the punishment) would be? Maybe it would be death. They’d bring back the death penalty.”
Trump, so absorbed in his own public defense, even seemed to forget the reason he was at the rally and started taking shots at Vance. “J.D. is kissing my ass,” Trump said. “He wants my support so bad!”
It wasn’t a completely off-base political analysis. The number of Republicans overly devoted to the insurrectionist former president seems to be ever-growing, with some of the more prominent ones also in attendance at the Ohio rally.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Trump the “one true leader” of the Republican Party. “He’s the one we elected in 2016 and the one we re-elected in 2020, who won the election,” she said, promoting utter lies. While "fresh off appearing to kick a climate activist on video" as Rolling Stone put it, Greene also mocked Democrats concerned about climate change.
“We know that cheap gas won’t last,” Greene said at the rally. “You want to know why? Democrats worship the climate. We worship God.”
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, another Trump supporter, also referenced God in saying he “prayed” then-Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff would win in runoff elections last January because it helped cement the claim of widespread "election crime" happening in the United States.
There is no such evidence of widespread election fraud, by the way—a fun fact Republicans choose to ignore alongside their fear-inducing leader.
Mike Lindell spoke for 1 hour and 26 minutes minutes straight outside the Trump rally in OH today. Here, he says he prayed to God for Warnock and Ossoff to win their Senate races, because that proved to people once and for all that elections were rigged. pic.twitter.com/21FOuSiORE
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) September 17, 2022
“We are a nation in decline,” Trump said at the close of his speech. He failed to mention he’s a large reason why.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.