In the days leading up to 2020’s marathon presidential election night, incumbent Donald J. Trump’s maskless supporters faithfully appeared by the thousands at rallies in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Georgia. In Texas, they surrounded a Biden-Harris campaign bus with pickup trucks, forcing the bus to reduce its speed and causing Democrats to cancel an event planned that same evening out of safety concerns. In California, their large, Trump-flagged caravans paraded along a 60-mile route in Riverside County and specifically targeted a predominantly Black community in Marin City

On Nov. 3, the Trump train—which included the highest percentage of nonwhite voters of any GOP presidential contender in 60 years—prevented an anticipated blue wave of Democratic congressional candidates from assuming a majority in the Senate and switched multiple seats in the House of Representatives to red. But as the strong showing for Trump began to wane in contrast to former Vice President Joe Biden’s rising vote tally, Trump supporters echoed the voter fraud accusations of their beleaguered leader. Now that Trump is officially on his way out of office—without a concession, but with a promise to “keep up the good fight”—what will happen to all the MAGA people?

In the days following the election, armed Trumpers in Arizona gathered outside of a Phoenix counting center to question the validity of the results. More did the same in Atlanta, Bismarck, North Dakota, and Detroit. In Philadelphia, two armed men were taken into custody for a suspected plot to “straighten things out” at a vote center. An Alabaman police captain resigned after threatening violence against Biden voters on Facebook. On Nov. 14, thousands gathered in D.C. to support Trump’s erroneous voter fraud claims at the Million MAGA March. Each one of these events indicates Trump voters' willingness to fight for their dear leader, and certainly not make nice under Biden’s imminent direction. These regular Joes aren’t alone in their dig-in mentality, either.

When the Associated Press called the election in Biden’s favor, Senators Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz and Representative Kevin McCarthy refused to acknowledge his win. Senator Lindsey Graham urged Trump to refuse to concede. Meanwhile, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler called for the resignation of Georgia’s Secretary of State in the wake of the state’s flip from red to blue. To further complicate matters, the Trump-appointed administrator of the General Services Administration delayed paperwork necessary to advance a peaceful transition of power. It took several days before top GOP leaders, besides Senator Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush, acknowledged Biden as the president-elect and indicated that ongoing legal challenges were futile.

How could anyone with such a tenuous relationship with truth or decency be the proclaimed hero of a party of evangelical Christians? 

This sanity-defying loyalty to the Trump brand despite his blatant lies, incompetency, and mishandling of the pandemic is particularly alarming. The losing side of any American presidential contest has always closed ranks around the new leader in the name of national pride and security. Yet Trump followers claim that anything other than Trump’s continued leadership is a threat to American democracy in and of itself. To outsiders looking in, it’s difficult to understand the logic. How could anyone with such a tenuous relationship with truth or decency be the hero of evangelical Christians

While Trump is far from being a model citizen, he has successfully exploited the fears of white, religious blue-collar workers. He isn’t the first to do so. Both Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush suggested that their opponents would usher in an age of crime and allow violent criminals to run rampant. Ronald Reagan suggested that con artists and freeloaders abused the welfare system to the detriment of hard-working American taxpayers and the economy itself. George W. Bush insinuated that America would fall prey to terrorism and other foreign threats without his leadership. Throughout his presidency and both elections, Trump combined all of these “threats” and more to concoct a savory soup of horror. And Trump’s base sopped it up while ignoring the hand that ladled it, because fear is a hell of a drug.

We all understand how fear triggers that gnawing in the belly and the urge to run or throw ’bows. But maybe we haven’t realized how much fear leaves us susceptible to the shiniest fool who comes along with a too-good-to-be-true solution. As the political embodiment of Saved by the Bell’s Zack Morris, Eastbound & Down’s Kenny Powers, and You’s Joe, Trump is that scrap-happy, glinting-toothed tough guy who has managed to escape prosecution, impeachment, and the worst of a deadly virus to champion white conservatism in the face of growing diversity. Never mind that he’s a soft-handed, failed businessman rich guy from New York who is married to a woman from an ex-socialist nation. He unabashedly touts ’MURICA, so he’s the hero, no matter how horrible he is.

Despite Trump’s presidential loss, his movement and his people have claimed a significant place in American politics, and his supporters are effectively standing back and standing by.

But perhaps Trump is the wakeup call this country needed and continues to need. To be clear, he definitely should not be anywhere near the White House for many reasons, including his lack of action in response to more than 12 million-plus confirmed cases of COVID-19 in America. Besides inspiring more political engagement on both sides of the aisle, Trump has been extremely useful in revealing the racial, gender, and economic inequalities that still plague this nation. His presence has also shown that voters of color are as diverse in their political leanings as white voters.

America’s main problem with diversity is its assumption that its diversity is somehow new, limited, and fundamentally bad unless it’s exploited by the dominant group. This is not a new problem; it’s so old and accepted as truth that many Americans don’t even recognize it for what it is. We can’t correct a problem whose existence we refuse to acknowledge. If we are to behave as a unified body, we have to remedy this deep, damaging fracture in particular. We must first recognize our differences, see the inherent value in them, and figure out the best way to unite in the face of them.

We also must address the complacency that has existed in American politics for far too long. Back in 2012, when 93 million eligible Americans didn’t vote, we all should have done some soul searching. Instead, we sat by and listened to political officials talk a good game while underdelivering. MAGA supporters may have misplaced their trust in Donald Trump, but their overall skepticism in business-as-usual politics is well warranted. Sure, the new wave of folks tuning into C-SPAN may be misguided, but despite what may be a frail grasp of politics, their voices will continue to play a part in the conversation.

Still, as the new presidential term begins, Trump will hopefully not rule the headlines as he’s done over the past four years. But with hints of a possible 2024 run, who knows? With any sort of ongoing political presence, supporters are going to continue to follow Trump because he acts like he’s listening to them, regurgitates their concerns with zeal, and regularly gifts them small favors. He’s an abusive boyfriend who knows how to tell a good joke and give an excellent back rub. If Washington, D.C., doesn’t come correct with an appropriate intervention and market it correctly to the masses, Trump will be back.

Despite Trump’s presidential loss, his movement and his people have claimed a significant place in American politics, and his supporters are effectively standing back and standing by.