early and often

Trump’s Latest Rally Was Even Weirder Than Usual

Can you finger it out? Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Trump rallies are still in some ways a singular phenomenon in American politics, but rarely does anything truly unexpected happen at them. The events typically feature more of the same, from the vivid demonstrations of Donald Trump’s cult of personality, to the all-too-familiar grievances and claims that make up the bulk of the former president’s long, rambling, partially improvised speeches. These days, Trump is just as likely to go on and on (and on) about the 2020 election and Hunter Biden and the Mar-a-Lago raid as he is likely to barely mention whatever GOP candidate he’s ostensibly appearing to support. But Trump’s rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday night broke some new weird ground — surprising even longtime observers of the events.

At the end of his speech, eerie music began to play on the loudspeakers as Trump reached the part of his remarks where he ominously goes through a list of all the many ways America and the world are becoming an apocalyptic hellscape without him as president. The music was a song inspired by the QAnon conspiracy theory. And while this was happening, many in the crowd raised their arms and pointed a finger upward. It’s not clear what the gesture meant.

The song, as the New York Times pointed out Sunday, was nearly identical to a track named “Wwg1wga” — an abbreviation of the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all.” The same song — which Trump aides told the Times was called “Mirrors” — was used in a recent Trump video his team produced and was played at the end of Trump’s recent rally in Pennsylvania, too.

In a statement to the Times, a Trump spokesman reiterated the claim that the track was just “a royalty-free song from a popular audio library platform.” He waved off criticism of them using the music as “a pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America.” Last month, VICE News reported that the two songs were definitely one and the same, according to several analyses, and that regardless of what the Trump team claims, many QAnon supporters view the use of the track as a not-so-hidden message meant for them.

Meanwhile, the finger-pointing gesture that spontaneously broke out among the crowd on Saturday night seems to have professional Trump-rally watchers and extremism analysts stumped, at least for now. The Times reported that “scores of people in the crowd raised fingers in the air in an apparent reference to the ‘1’ in what they thought was the song’s title,” and “It was the first time in the memory of some Trump aides that such a display had occurred at one of his rallies.”

No one else had seen it before, either, so there was a lot of head scratching afterward. It could have been a QAnon thing, or some kind of America First thing, or another demonstration of the ascent of Christian nationalism in the MAGA-era GOP.

Regardless, as the Associated Press reported Friday, Trump is no longer just winking at the QAnon contingent of the MAGA faithful; more and more, he’s at least posing as their fellow traveler. The former president posted an image of himself wearing a Q lapel pin on Truth Social on Tuesday and has been sharing dozens of other posts that directly or indirectly reference the conspiracy theory. Whether he buys into the dark and disturbing fantasy himself or not, Trump clearly wants the believers to continue to buy into him.

This post has been updated.

Trump’s Latest Rally Was Even Weirder Than Usual