There’s something new happening in this presidential election cycle. Yes, Donald Trump has upended political convention in just about every way imaginable. But as a celebrity-cum-politician he’s allowed a new kind of 21st century populist revelry to take root: Political cosplay.
Sure, there are some precedents for people dressing up as their favorite political candidate in the past. But compared with what we’re seeing in 2016, there’s no contest. When people wore Richard Nixon masks back in the 1970s they weren’t celebrating the man so much as ridiculing the establishment and the crookedness of it all.
The idea of political candidate dress-up as celebration rather than farce can only happen when your system is so upside down that candidates are beyond parody. Such is the case with Trump—obviously. He’s made of Teflon. He’s a cartoon character, and his younger supporters are more than happy to step into the man’s coif.
This is the natural future of American politics, as Trump has exposed the ridiculousness of it all. Politics has always been a circus. But Americans have fully embraced the opportunity to dress up as the clowns, with confidence that they’re not the punchline—the idea that the system isn’t rigged is the joke.
Even when protestors dress up as Trump you can’t tell that they’re protesting. They look exactly like the supporters. I honestly can’t tell if this guy at a Trump rally in New Hampshire back in February is a supporter or a protester:
Or take a look at the guy below. Getty Images identifies him as a protester. But can you really tell the difference?
Of course, this Trump cosplayer in Virginia looks like a solid supporter:
And there’s this guy at a Trump rally in Mobile, Alabama, who’s obviously a supporter, even if his wig is a bit too crimson:
And here’s a supporter from a rally in Lowell, Massachusetts:
And another at a rally in South Carolina:
Many of the people dressing up as Trump look like teens, well-versed in cosplay culture. Then there’s the children. Oh Lord, think of the children. They, of course, have no say in the matter. But their parents are dressing them up as Lil’ Trumps across the nation.
And some of them sure are cute, politics aside. But not all of them are happy about it.
Whatever impact Trump has on the future of politics, it would seem that there’s something even more important than being a political outsider: Being a character on par with a comic book villain so that cosplayers can dress up to support you.
During a Trump administration every day is Comic-Con, and it’s the biggest, best Comic-Con in history.
Update March 13th, 3:15pm: I guess if you can’t get a selfie with Trump, the guy dressed like Trump selling unlicensed merchandise will have to do.
Update, March 14th, 6:00pm: Here’s another Trump cosplayer at a campaign event today in Tampa, Florida.
Update, March 20th, 2:50pm: This guy looks pretty bummed that he can’t wear his Donald Trump mask into a rally in Arizona.
From the Associated Press: “A supporter is told by police he can’t wear his Trump face mask before a campaign rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Fountain Hills, Ariz.”