Late-Stage Cult: Trump at the Capitol Hill Club

Failed coup

Waiting outside the Capitol Hill Club for Trump to show up, a parade of pasty septegenuarians in suits traipsed by to kiss the ring of the aspiring dictator.

Gray hair, blue suit, red tie. All vaguely familiar, once-powerful men who had reduced themselves to being bit players in our nation’s psychodrama. What’s the point of being elected to Congress if all you do is follow orders?

I waited with my camera, careful not to block the sidewalk (this was Capitol Police territory) and trying to stay out of the way of the professional media.

A car pulled up and a scrum of reporters surrounded it. Someone important, though I couldn’t see who, as they disappeared amid a crowd into the Capitol Hill Club.

“Who was that?” I asked.

A photographer showed me the back of his camera. On the screen was a stooped figure with a mess of gray hair. Newt Gingrich, this 90s-era mediocrity trying to reinvent himself as a statesman.

Bill Christesen, a local protester (you’ve seen his signs at Trump trials and Supreme Court hearings), was standing by the entrance to the club, with a message for the supplicants.

FAILED COUP, it read, big black letters on white posterboard.

Another protester arrived, holding signs that she had cleverly made out of cardboard bags. They read:

Is this the meeting of felonious sex offenders and their enablers?

GOP is to Putin as Squeaky Fromme is to Manson.

And then there was the bear. A climate change demonstrator in a bear costume, adding a surreal touch to the background of photos of Republicans arriving to meet their master.

Tim Burchett and Matt Gaetz

Members of Congress began to show up, including some I recognized. Troy Nehls, a Texas blowhard, famous for his Trump socks and now infamous for stolen valor. Tim Burchett from Tennessee, whose folksy demeanor hides a firm commitment to fascism. Matt Gaetz with his puffed-up hair, almost as if he’s trying to live out the Butthead meme.

And then, appearing in my viewfinder, a face that made me gasp: Marjorie Traitor Greene.

Marjorie Traitor Greene

As they went inside for their ritual show of devotion, Bill warned: “Don’t drink the Koolaid.”

“Haha, you got me,” Burchett replied. He’s the witty one of the House GOP, known for losing verbal battles to Jared Moskowitz from FL.

But it was a very low-key affair, held in voices barely above a whisper. No crowds of Trump supporters. No MAGA hats. None of the local chuds who demonstrate outside the DC Jail, despite Trump’s vow to free violent January 6ers.

I couldn’t stay and left before Trump’s arrival. Not that I missed anything – they brought him in through the alley, avoiding reporters and protesters alike.

At the Capitol Hill Club, he gave a talk that even his supporters described as rambling, with praise for Hannibal Lecter and weird asides about Nancy Pelosi.

They must know it’s almost over, that the life force of this shared delusion is dissipating as its supporters age and die, that the cult leader is befuddled and confused, that the whole thing is going to end badly, most likely with a crushing defeat in November.

It would require an act of courage and independence to leave now. It would be the end of their careers – and possibly their lives.

So they cling to the fantasy, like the followers of Jim Jones and Charles Manson once did, intending to win or bring the whole world down around them.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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