Campaign rallies held by President Trump amid the coronavirus pandemic have led to more than 30,000 new COVID cases and more than 700 deaths, according to a recent study.
A team of Stanford researchers looked at the after-effects of 18 of the president’s re-election rallies and concluded the COVID casualties would not have happened if the events hadn’t happened.
Media coverage of the rallies showed little effort to follow social distancing guidelines.
Mask use was also optional for attendees of the rallies, who regularly numbered in the thousands.
As Trump faces an uncertain future, so do his signature campaign rallies.
They are a phenomenon that has spawned friendships, businesses and a way of life for Trump’s most dedicated supporters.
His fans have traveled the country to be part of what they describe as a movement that could outlive his time in office.
Some have attended so many rallies they’ve lost count, road-tripping from arena to arena like rock groupies. They come for the energy, the validation of being surrounded by like-minded people, the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves.
Sociologists and historians see elements of a religious following.
They are people like Cynthia Reidler, 55, who has been a Trump supporter since he announced his candidacy. She has been to nearly 20 Trump events, from rallies to Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall.
“The feeling — like it just grabs you,” she said as she waited near the front of the line Monday morning, dressed in a red poncho and headband with tinsel and lights that no longer lit up because of the rain. “I always say it’s better than a rock concert. And it’s free.”
Reidler, who lives in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, arrived at Lancaster Airport around 2:30 p.m. the day before the rally and camped out overnight so she could snag her favorite spot up front. The waiting game, for her, is part of the fun.
“It’s just a whole lot of excitement that I don’t think you can explain. It brings back a time when our country was just so happy and so positive,” she said, comparing the feeling to the time she marched in a bicentennial parade as a Girl Scout when she was 11.
And what of the threat from the coronavirus pandemic?
“I know the statistics. It is a risk,” said Reidler, who works in health care. But “the thought of not having him as a president is more of a fear to me than the alternative.”
Tears welled in her eyes as she entertained the prospect.