The Trump fandom is stronger than ever

This week, Trump launched a second NFT collection. This time, he’s selling pieces of the suit he wore in his famous mugshot, along with trading cards, a dinner at Mar-A-Lago, and for a lucky few, a cocktail reception with Mr. Trump himself. 

If you’re surprised to hear about this latest drop, you’re not alone. There has been a palpable lack of conversation about the NFT collection, even among the type of people you’d imagine would talk about it. 

There was barely a peep about it on X (formerly Twitter); we weren’t flooded with think pieces about the occult meaning of Trump deciding to sell scraps of his suit from the seemingly infinite cadre of Trump haters; no shoutouts on Big Name podcasts. It could simply be that NFTs just aren’t headline-worthy anymore. The crypto bubble burst earlier this year and hasn’t recovered yet. Besides that, the days of the overhyped and overvalued NFTs are so 2021. 

But it could also be a testament to the dual role Trump plays. 

There are his public performances – his singles, his “Billboard hits,” so to speak – and then there’s the fan service. It’s not that the NFTs didn’t do well: they sold out, basically immediately, and in a climate where NFTs are struggling. 

That we’re not talking about the collection in the mainstream may not be a testament to waning relevancy or a publicity stunt that failed, as Newsweek tactily suggested in their coverage. Counterintuitively, it might be a sign of the Trump fandom’s enduring strength. The same analysis might also be true of Truth Social. 

Truth Social is a failure if you view it through the lens of an ordinary social media platform, like Instagram or X. But if you understand it as a massive fan club, Trump may not have reached Taylor Swift levels of astronomical following, but he isn’t doing too badly for himself. In fact, he’s doing remarkably well. Any content creator can tell you about the importance of being able to nurture an engaged, “gated community” of dedicated fans. 

There’s an argument to be made that Obama or Clinton, who remained in the public eye after their presidencies (to a much greater extent than W. Bush), are more popular than Trump. During the height of the NFT craze, Shepard Fairey, who designed Obama’s iconic Hope poster, auctioned the image off as an NFT and made a record-setting $750,000. The Obama and Clinton Foundations both carry an air of prestige: there’s still a cachet in being associated with either one in a way Trump doesn’t have.

But on the other hand, these comparisons aren’t completely fair.  While Obama and Clinton may bask in prestige, Trump has a truly dedicated – and personally invested – fandom. Trump isn’t just a “former president.” He’s Elvis. This isn’t to say Trump’s relevance rests solely on the shoulders of his devotees; a cult of delusional fans. But it’ll be interesting to see how he’s able to mobilise that power come election season. This NFT collection isn’t the weakness the press – the few of them that noticed, at least – paints it out to be. It’s a sign of Trump’s endurance.

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