Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6. (REUTERS)
Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6. (REUTERS)

The psychology of Trump’s supporters

As President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the United States (US) Capitol on January 6, I wondered if a man I had interviewed at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania was among them.
By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:35 PM IST

As President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the United States (US) Capitol on January 6, I wondered if a man I had interviewed at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania was among them. “I don’t think we’re going to lose,” he had said when I asked what he thought Trump would do if he lost. Would he accept defeat? And concede? Trump had been famously evasive about it multiple times he was asked. “But if he does lose, and he doesn’t want to go, I will have his back a 1,000%, a 100,000%. If he told us to get out in the streets, anything. Literally, anything. There is nothing I wouldn’t do, if he decided he wanted to stay in office.”

Ryan S and I spoke on October 31, three days before the close of polling. That was weeks before the Capitol assault. I am hesitant to identify him fully because I am not sure if he will still say the things he did, knowing what happened.

Ryan S was willing to break the law and violate the Constitution and the very essence of democracy. It was, in hindsight, a stunningly prescient preview of what was to follow.

Why would he say that? “Because I think the Democrats are evil and insane. … I don’t care. I don’t want them in power. There is nothing I would not do. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do. If Trump calls for the sorts of protests, we have been seeing from the Left, anything like that man, I will be behind him 1,000%.”

Including violence, I pressed him.

“Well, uhh …” Don’t forget, you have a pregnant wife at home, I said to him.

Ryan S still did not say, “No”. And after a long pause, he said, “I would say this. I don’t think it would come to that. I think we would win. But if he wanted to stay in office … I wouldn’t be any more violent than the Left has been for the past six months.”

Ryan S was referring to the racial injustice protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a White police officer in Minnesota in May 2020.

Ryan S, a white man who appeared to be in his late 20s, had worked in chemical manufacturing before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Living in New York state, which was hit the hardest, he quit so as to not bring the virus home. He and his wife were expecting twins. He had done well since, with cryptocurrency.

Ryan S had already voted for Trump when we spoke, but he had driven four hours to just attend a Trump rally, his first and, probably the last the president would address whether he won or lost. He had never been to one before.

On January 6, I wondered if Ryan S was there at the Capitol, doing the “anything” he had said he would if the president asked, upon losing.

But I also remembered Ryan S had seemed convinced Trump “is not going to want to stay in office” if he loses. “He is not that guy.”

I wonder what Ryan S is thinking now.

The views expressed are personal

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