Historian explains collective insanity behind lack of social distancing at Florida Trump rally
Trump supporter at a rally in Sanford, Florida (screengrab).

On Monday, October 12, President Donald Trump — who was recently hospitalized with the COVID-19 coronavirus — held a MAGA rally in Sanford, Florida. Social distancing was virtually nonexistent at the event, protective face masks were few and far between, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis high-fived Trump supporters before rubbing his nose with his hand. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday, host Joe Scarborough asked presidential historian Jonathan Meacham how things got to the point where part of the U.S. population is willing to engage in suicidal behavior in support of a president — and Meacham offered some historic insights.


Meacham, a frequent guest on "Morning Joe" and other MSNBC programs, said of the GOP and Trump's MAGA base, "It's a cult instead of a party at this point….. You're fighting an irrational force, an elemental force."

The historian went on to explain that Trump's base is willing to reject "reason and expertise" as well as "science" because "globalization" has made them feel alienated — so alienated that they will even risk their lives during a pandemic. Meacham added that some Americans who "look like me" — in other words, white Americans — believe that "globalization" is leaving them behind as the U.S. becomes increasingly diverse.

Scarborough commented that seeing all the Trump supporters in Florida packaged so close together — most of them not wearing masks — during a pandemic that has killed more than 215,000 people in the U.S. reminds him of old black-and-white footage of crowds of people mindlessly rallying behind authoritarian figures of the past. Meacham didn't disagree, telling Scarborough and fellow "Morning Joe" host Mika Brzezinski, "It's about a broken faith…. We're out of balance. I think it's about globalization."