The Ebb of Trumpism

Trump flags are coming down. Gradually.

At the height of the November Election season, about half of the homes in our area had political propaganda of one sort or another. Some were standard campaign-issue yard signs. Others were larger, homemade banners, billboards, and shrines. And then, of course, there were the flags. Mostly blue flags, with white letters and red accents demonstrating support for the re-election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. I saw one or two flags in support of Joe Biden, too, but the vast majority of political propaganda flags were for Trump.

I thought it was interesting the way that the Trump Campaign used flags. Some were on traditional flagpoles, right beneath the American flag, or hung from balconies and porch rails. Others flew from make-shift PVC poles mounted in the back of pick-up trucks. They were even regularly worn as capes or waved by hand. The flag thing was different from any other U.S. candidate for office that I’ve ever observed.

More than the intrigue behind the way that these flags went up, however, I’ve been fascinated to observe the way that these flags have been coming down. Partly from a political perspective, but even more from a sociological or anthropological perspective.

November Election Day / Week?

Not many flags came down in the first week of November. A few campaign signs got pulled up from lawns. But the flags stayed. Probably something like 99 percent of the people who had originally displayed Trump flags continued to do so after Election Day. I thought this was somewhat understandable, given the confusion caused by delays in counting the vote that came by mail at historic levels.

After media outlets called the election for Joe Biden at the end of that week, a few more signs came down. But the flags stayed. Maybe something in the range of 95 percent of the original constituency. Donald Trump clearly didn’t want to accept those results. And his supporters followed his lead. Consequently, the focus shifted to the vote certification process.

Mid-December Vote Certification?

Recounts and legal appeals and investigations led to minimal disruption of the process. As time went on, Biden’s claim to the presidency solidified. By mid-December, the results were all-but-official. Still the flags stayed. I might estimate, from my own unscientific observations, that maybe a total of ten percent of Trump flags were down by the end of December. But not many. Trump kept pointing to the January 6th certification in Washington as a rallying point. And again, 90 percent of his flag-waving, most ardent supporters stuck with him.

January 6th Events at the U.S. Capitol?

I was saddened by the violent turn to the public demonstration in Washington D.C. on January 6th. It felt like the natural outworking of the previous five years of rhetoric, but it still shocked me. And the nation. I thought that such a climactic event would result in more of those Trump flags coming down. But the flags stayed. Maybe another 15 percent were intentionally lowered (or allowed to be battered by the wind and winter conditions). Still, I’m guessing that 75 percent of Donald Trump’s flag-waving, core constituency stayed loyal through the early part of January.

January 20th Inauguration Day?

I wondered if there might be a readiness to retire the Trump flags after his term in office officially came to an end. The inauguration of a new administration (which was publicly acknowledged by Trump himself) seemed like as good a time as any to make the switch. But I watched the houses in my neighborhood to see what would happen — and at most another 5 percent of Trump flags came down. I started to wonder if people would still be flying Trump 2020 flags in 2022 or 2023. I just didn’t know where the “off-ramp” would be with 70 percent of the original constituency still flying their flags at the start of a new administration.

February Realization

I anticipated so many possible flag-lowering dates that I decided to give up on guessing. So I’ve been surprised in the last week to notice that several of the more prominent Trump flag houses in my area have suddenly taken the flags down. Maybe it was connected to his acquittal by the U.S. Senate? Maybe a slight warming pattern, with temperatures rising just above freezing? Maybe there was some internal communication sent out by the Trump campaign? Perhaps it’s just the truism about how a “watched pot never boils.” All of the sudden, though, I’d say we’re down between 25 and 35 percent of Donald Trump’s flag-waving, most ardent supporters continuing to wave their flags. There are still notable stand-outs, and I’ll be curious to see how long they stay.

But maybe Trumpism will eventually fade. Who knows?

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