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Can You Find God in a Bikini? Olivia Reingold



About a dozen members of Secular Sabbath take a break between cold plunges at Voda Spa in West Hollywood. (All photos by Philip Cheung for The Free Press)

LOS ANGELES — A woman dressed in a kimono tiptoes between the tattooed limbs of about fifty influencers, musicians, and yogis lying on the floor of a spa in West Hollywood. They’re in the homestretch of a breathing exercise that’s lasted twenty minutes. By now they’ve become one organism, breathing to the rhythm of a jungle beat on the stereo, their stomachs rising and falling like a hive mind. 

“At the end of this,” the instructor prepares the crowd, “we’re going to have the opportunity to create sound—to move what needs to be moved.”

The participants, which includes one of Demi Moore’s daughters, a DJ with face tattoos named Diablo, the singer Kesha, and “Krotchy,” a model known for her two differently colored eyes, breathe more deeply into their white robes, creating a song on top of the song with their huffing: Oh-ah, oh-ah-oh. 

Then the instructor, wearing silver hoops the size of cantaloupes, gives a quick countdown: “Three, two, one.”

Suddenly everyone is screaming. 

Girls arch their backs and howl up at the ceiling. When a few run out of air, they almost moan. That’s when some start to clap; others cheer. And one man breaks through with the staccato call of a dolphin.

That last sound is emanating from Diplo, the Grammy award-winning DJ, supine on the floor with one hand draped across the chest of his musician pal Rhye, who has 2.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify

“I started doing some animal noises at the end,” Diplo later explains when we’re in the sauna together. “The energy was strong.”

Scout LaRue Willis meditates with foam noodles.

Welcome to Secular Sabbath, the members-only club that hosts bimonthly events, usually in Los Angeles but also in Iceland and Mexico City—and, at the end of the year, Antarctica. Colorful images of its young, beautiful (and sometimes famous) adherents have quickly spread the word of its mission on Instagram. For Genevieve Medow-Jenkins, the community’s 32-year-old founder, Secular Sabbath is a continuation of her youth spent at The Esalen Institute, a wellness retreat in Big Sur, California, which was famously portrayed in the final scenes of Mad Men.

Her parents were “bodyworkers” at Esalen, where her mother developed a new kind of massage “based on the atmosphere” and her father meditated, sometimes for days at a time. And even though she says most people raised in Big Sur never leave, she knew she had a higher calling. 

“I knew that I had to share my upbringing with the world,” Medow-Jenkins tells me. “And Secular Sabbath is this chrysalis of what Esalen was in the ’90s, when I was growing up.”

She says Esalen has since become “commercialized,” selling workshops that last a few days but can cost upward of $10,000, unless you snag a “sleeping bag space” for a few hundred bucks. In 2016, she started distilling its spirit for a new audience, offering pop-up experiences at spas, Joshua Tree, and private homes. A $180 annual membership fee allows anyone to purchase a ticket to her events, which generally cost $75 to $400, and feature breathwork, cacao ceremonies, and soundbaths, often played by Rhye (real name: Michael Milosh). 

Three hours into the event, there’s no mention of God, but plenty of people are feeling the love.

The purpose of her Secular Sabbath sessions is to connect her “couple hundred” members to a higher power, at a time when attendance at religious services across the country is dwindling. 

“I hope that they connect with a sense of purpose, through God or something greater than just themselves in this world,” she told me.

In other words, even though Americans are increasingly giving up on church, they’re still looking for God—even in a sauna with Diplo. Medow-Jenkins, who was raised Jewish, says she rarely goes to temple now, but still finds God all around her. 

“The other day, I was upset about something. And in that moment, I asked God for help,” she says. “In moments of vulnerability, it always does in some way come back to God.” 

The Secular Sabbath began with a 30-minute breathwork session.

Since the 1990s, the number of Americans who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular” has more than doubled from 9 percent of the population to 21 percent, where it stands today. If the trend continues, Pew predicts that religious “nones” could represent a majority of the country by 2070. Part of what’s pushing people away from religion, Medow-Jenkins says, is its dogma—something that briefly soured her on Judaism when she was young. 

Once, while visiting her Orthodox relatives in the Midwest, Medow-Jenkins remembers them asking her not to eat with them, because her Subway sandwich wasn’t kosher. 

“It was so negative for me because it was so rule-bound,” she says. “And I knew when I created Secular Sabbath, I didn’t want it to have many rules. I wanted it to feel like you could be any version of something and still be included.”

There are no rules listed on the Secular Sabbath website. Though drugs or alcohol aren’t provided or encouraged at her sabbaths, Medow-Jenkins also says she won’t “take it away from them.” (And judging from the pure ecstasy of today’s crowd, it wouldn’t surprise me if the vibe is pharmaceutically enhanced). Her events don’t even have to occur on the Sabbath—this event, for example, is happening on a Tuesday night. 

But she does try to steer clear from any connections to Western religions like Christianity, and instead borrows from Eastern traditions, because people are “more open to it.” 

More than anything, she wants to dispel the idea that God is uncool. 

“In American culture, we are so disconnected from feeling passionately about things—because it’s terrifying to care,” she says. “People are afraid to feel into spirituality.”

Inside the West Hollywood spa, women swaddled in robes are drawing a giant rainbow slug on a piece of paper laid out like a rug. Nearby, Juliana King, a blonde 37-year-old acupuncturist, says there was a time when the word God made her bristle. 

Diplo, toweling off after a cold plunge, says Jesus is his biggest spiritual inspiration. “He was a perfect person. His ambition was to be the best person you could be.”

“I had to reclaim the word God,” she tells me, sitting by the pool, listening to Rhye, who’s ten feet in front of her humming into a microphone. “Because God felt like this man in the sky that tells you how to be, and so I was uncomfortable with the word for a long time.”

King, who has a hint of mascara smudged beneath her eyes after a cold plunge, tells me she grew up in Texas, by the Mexico border, in a small city of about 150,000 called McAllen. There, she attended a Presbyterian church. 

“I technically went to church,” she says. “But it was just a place I showed up.”

Now, she says she’s a “cafeteria spiritualist” who picks and chooses which practices work for her.

“I want to find God and know God in my own way,” she says. “I don’t want anyone to tell me the quality of God or how to worship or anything, I want all that to be my own experience.”

Macy Baker with her plant symphony.

Around the corner, a woman is tending to a “plant symphony”—a group of potted ferns and succulents attached to sensors, which track the movement of water through their systems, turning it into sound. The result is like the single note of an organ ringing out, punctuated by the twinkle of a chime.

“It feels like a natural high,” says the woman, who is wrapped in a spa robe, her light hair draped across her shoulders. 

She tells me her name is Macy Baker, and she says ten years ago, when she was 18, she probably would’ve been at a bar by now, but the beauty of Secular Sabbath is it gives attendees an alternative to booze. 

“I feel like we’ve put a lot of emphasis into unconsciousness, with alcohol and drugs and things, to ensure that we stay lost,” she says. “Like people could be out at bars, and instead they’re here at a spa, listening to plants generate music and doing breathwork and sipping cacao. How awesome is that?”

Then Baker meets my eyes in the dim light: “But now, we’re in this new great awakening.”

Three hours into the evening, there’s been no mention of God in the official programming. It feels more like Coachella than church. A brunette chases a man into the hot tub, asking, “Are you my soulmate?” Over in the pool, Scout LaRue Willis is floating atop six foam noodles, meditating with her eyes closed. A crowd in the steam room, led by Rhye, is singing variations of one line for thirty minutes: “Somebody to love.” They’re all drinking canned water, which one man describes as “magic.” 

“This is, like, take off the clothes of your day and be more you,” says Tamara Rodriguez.

Tamara Rodriguez, a 33-year-old actress who was born in Mexico, watches the scene as she dangles her feet in the water. She says she knows how this all looks. 

“Oh, these are just some Hollywood kids living their yoga life,” she imagines a stranger might say. 

Hell, she even thought that when she came to her first Secular Sabbath, held at Joshua Tree. But then she dispensed with her judgment when she realized how good it all felt.

“The first time I saw pictures of this, I was like, mostly everyone is white, so you’re like, ‘What is this yogi community that’s trying to create—some sort of cool kids club?’ But then you go into it with an open mind and see through it.”

Now, she says, she considers Secular Sabbath a “church,” but the kind where no one has to say anything specific or meet a certain dress code to belong. In some ways, it’s similar to Hillsong, the evangelical megachurch in Hollywood that once attracted Justin Bieber, Kevin Durant, and Kylie Jenner with its emphasis on rock music and a party atmosphere. Although that movement died down after its pastor became the subject of multiple scandals, including cheating on his wife, its lesson prevails: people will come to church, if it’s a place to be seen. 

“This is, like, take off the clothes of your day and be more you,” Rodriguez added. “Be more human, authentic, so you can return to the world and something more truthful to you.”

DJ Diablo, front and center, prepares to scream with the crowd.

Back in the sauna, I’m sitting in the dark on a wooden bench with Diplo, who is still in his khakis, Crocs, and t-shirt. He tells me that he grew up attending an Episcopal church back home in Daytona Beach, Florida, when he was still known as Thomas Wesley Pentz, and even now, at 44, he looks to Jesus Christ as an inspiration. 

“He was a perfect person. He was kind. His ambition was to be the best person you could be.”

Since his mom and sister passed away recently, he says he’s been back in church. But he doesn’t believe God can be found only there.

“Everyday is church for me,” he tells me. “I’m always like, at the club”—then he cocks his head to think. “That is the church because people go there to deal with their problems.”

He adds: “Anything that makes you feel like you’re celebrating life is a church.” 

Olivia Reingold is a writer for The Free Press. Read her dispatch from the Asbury Revival, “Why Students in Kentucky Have Been Praying for 250 Hours.”

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May 24, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson





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May 24, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson




On Wednesday, May 22, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who had been the candidate for anti-Trump Republicans, said she will vote for Trump. Haley ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination and maintained a steady stream of criticism of him, calling him “unstable,” “unhinged” and “a disaster…for our party.” Since she suspended her campaign in early March, she has continued to poll at around 20% of Republican primary voters. 

There are two ways to look at Haley’s capitulation. It might show that Trump is so strong that he has captured the entire party and is sweeping it before him. In contrast, it might show that Trump is weak, and Haley made this concession to his voters either in hopes of stepping into his place or in a desperate move to cobble the party, whose leaders are keenly aware they are an unpopular minority in the country, together. 

The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war. The last of the establishment Republican leaders who controlled the party before 2016 are trying to wrest control of it back from Trump’s MAGA Republicans, who have taken control of the key official positions. At the same time, Trump’s MAGA voters, while a key part of the Republican base, have pushed the party so far right they have left the majority of Americans—including Republicans—far behind.

Abortion remains a major political problem for Republicans. Trump appointed the three Supreme Court justices who provided the votes to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, and he has boasted repeatedly that he ended Roe. This pleases his white evangelical base but not the majority of the American people.

According to a recent Pew poll, 63% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while only 36% think it should be illegal in most or all cases. But Republicans are continuing to push unpopular antiabortion legislation. On Thursday, Louisiana lawmakers approved a law classifying mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs commonly used in abortions, as dangerous drugs—a category usually reserved for addictive medications—making it a crime to possess abortion pills without a prescription. 

Louisiana prohibits abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases in which the fetus has a condition incompatible with life. The law requires doctors to get a special license to prescribe the drugs, one of which is used for routine reproductive care as well as abortions. The state would then keep a record of those prescriptions, effectively a database to monitor women’s pregnancies and the doctors who treat them. Louisiana governor Jeff Landry, a Republican, is expected to sign the measure into law. 

Trump has repeatedly promised to weigh in on the mifepristone question but, likely aware that he cannot please both his base and voters, has not done so. On Tuesday, May 21, though, he stepped into a related problem. Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade, antiabortion activists have begun to talk about contraception as abortion, with some warning that it is “unbiblical.” But in February, 80% of voters polled said that contraception was “deeply important” to them, including 72% of Republican voters. On Tuesday, Trump said he was open to regulating contraception and that his campaign would issue a policy statement on contraception “very shortly.” He later walked back his earlier comments, saying they had been misinterpreted.

On May 19 the same judge who tried to remove mifepristone from the market by rescinding the FDA approval of it, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, blocked the Biden administration from implementing a new rule that requires sellers at gun shows and online to get licenses and conduct background checks. The rule closes what’s known as the “gun show loophole.” According to the Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy, 86% of Americans want mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. 

Trump himself is a problem for the party. His base is absolutely loyal, but he is a deeply problematic candidate for anyone else. As Susan Glasser outlined in the New Yorker yesterday, in the past week he chickened out of testifying in his ongoing criminal trial for paying hush money to an adult film actress to keep damaging information from voters in 2016 after insisting for weeks that he would. He talked about staying in office for a third term, ran a video promising that the United States will become a “unified Reich” when he wins reelection, and accused President Joe Biden of trying to have him assassinated. He will be 78 in a few weeks and is having trouble speaking.

In addition to his ongoing criminal trial, on Tuesday a filing unsealed in the case of Trump’s retention of classified documents showed that a federal judge, Beryl Howell, believed investigators had “strong evidence” that Trump “intended” to hide those documents from the federal government.

Also revealed were new photographs of Trump’s personal aide Walt Nauta moving document boxes before one of Trump’s lawyers arrived to review what Trump had, along with the information that once Trump realized that the men moving the boxes could be captured on Mar-a-Lago’s security cameras, he allegedly made sure they would avoid the cameras. The new details suggest that prosecutors have more evidence than has been made public. 

This might explain why, as Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley of Rolling Stone reported today, Trump is pressuring Republicans to pass a law shielding presidents from prosecution in state or local courts, moving prosecutions to federal courts where a president could stop them.

Yesterday, Marilyn W. Thompson of ProPublica reported on yet another potentially harmful legal story. There were a number of discrimination and harassment complaints made against the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2020 that Trump tried to keep quiet with nondisclosure agreements. A federal magistrate judge has ordered the Trump campaign to produce a list of the complaints by May 31. Those complaints include the charge that the 2016 campaign paid women less than men and that Trump kissed a woman without her consent. 

Trump’s current behavior is not likely to reassure voters. 

Yesterday he wrote on social media that “Evan Gershkovich, the Reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the Election, but definitely before I assume Office. He will be HOME, SAFE, AND WITH HIS FAMILY. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do that for me, but not for anyone else, and WE WILL BE PAYING NOTHING!”

There is no good interpretation of this post. If Trump does have that sort of leverage with Putin, why? And why not use it immediately? Is he openly signaling to Putin to ignore the Biden administration’s ongoing negotiations for Gershkovich’s release? Trevor Reed, who was arrested in Russia in 2019 when visiting his girlfriend in Moscow, noted: “As a former wrongful detainee in Russia, I would just like to remind everyone that President Trump had the ability to get myself and Paul Whelan out of Russia for years and chose not to. I would be skeptical of any claims about getting Evan Gershkovich back in a day.”  

Reed was freed in 2022 as part of a prisoner swap arranged by the Biden administration. 

Last night, at a rally in New York, Trump accepted the endorsement of alleged gang members, rappers Michael Williams (Sheff G) and Tegan Chambers (Sleepy Hallow). In 2023 the two men were indicted with 30 other people on 140 counts, including murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of firearms, and at least a dozen shootings. Sheff G was released from jail in April after posting a $1.5 million bond. 

Then, Trump’s people claimed that 25,000 people turned out for the rally, but they requested a permit for only 3,500, and only 3,400 tickets were issued. Aerial shots suggest there were 800–1,500 people there. 

MAGA voters don’t care about any of this, apparently, but non-MAGA Republicans and Independents do. And this might be behind Haley’s promise to vote for Trump. The unpopularity of the MAGA faction might allow Haley to step in if Trump crashes and burns, so long as she kowtows to Trump and his base. Or it might be calculated to try to repair the rift in hopes that the party can cobble together some kind of unity by November. As The Shallow State noted on X, Haley’s announcement showed that “Trump is fragile.”

But Haley’s statement that she will vote for Trump does not necessarily mean her voters will follow her. Deputy political director for the Biden campaign Juan Peñalosa met with Haley supporters in a prescheduled zoom call hours after Haley’s announcement. On Thursday afternoon the campaign issued a press release titled: “To Haley Voters: There’s a Home For You on Team Biden-Harris.”

MAGA Republicans know their agenda is unpopular, and they are working to seize power through voter suppression, violence, gerrymandering, and packing the legal system. But there are signs a bipartisan defense of democracy may be gathering strength.  









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Could Trump Turn the Bronx Red? Olivia Reingold




Former president Donald Trump greets supporters at his rally in the Bronx’s Crotona Park on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Jabin Botsford via Getty Images)

In an overgrown field in the Bronx, a borough that has not voted red in a presidential election since 1924, Orthodox Jews, fraternity brothers, George Santos, Dominican immigrants, off-duty firefighters, and thousands of others are craning their necks for a view of Donald J. Trump. 

“Thank you, thank you,” Trump mouths to the crowd over the tune of “God Bless the USA.” 

He strides up to the podium, in a breeze that rattles the American flags behind him but is no match for his frozen blond quiff. Thousands of hands spring into the air, pumping rhythmically to chants of “U! S! A!”

“Hello, New York City, and hello to all the incredible tough, strong, hardworking American patriots right here in the Bronx,” roars the former president. “Who would think—who would think?”

Who would think, indeed. Not Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who for the past five weeks has been trying to pin a felony conviction on Trump involving hush money he allegedly gave to a porn star. Two days earlier, Trump had shuffled out of the courtroom, quiet except for a quick interview where he told reporters, “Remember. . . I’m not allowed to say what I’d really like to say,” referring to the gag order barring him from publicly commenting on the case. 

“Hello, New York City, and hello to all the incredible tough, strong, hardworking American patriots right here in the Bronx,” roared the former president. “Who would think—who would think?” (Jim Watson via Getty Images)

But now, in front of a sea of at least 8,000 in Crotona Park, the prospect of becoming a convicted felon seems far from Trump’s mind. “We are going to turn New York City around, and we are going to turn it around very, very quickly!” he proclaims to cheers from the crowd.

Though New Yorkers are famously Democratic, more of them seem to be warming to Trump’s America First message. Perhaps it’s the rising crime, or the migrants who are increasingly begging in the streets, or the fact that it now takes a family of four at least $318,000 a year to live here. Whatever it is, according to a Siena College poll this month, Joe Biden has lost 20 points in New York City, compared to his 2020 victory when he won 76 percent of the vote in Trump’s hometown. Meanwhile, Trump is up seven points, with Biden’s lead cut to single digits in the 2024 race for president.

One New Yorker who needed no convincing is John Wang, a 44-year-old acupuncturist born in China who became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and has already voted for Trump twice. He says people like him—Trump voters—are the “silent majority.” He brought along his 7-year-old son, who played in the grass with a fake million-dollar bill bearing the face of the billionaire from Queens.

“I’m from communism, I know how bad it is,” says John Wang, a 44-year-old acupuncturist born in China who became a U.S. citizen in 2011. “Now I feel like here is getting like China.” (Photo by Olivia Reingold for The Free Press)

“He was born in Manhattan,” says Wang of his son, who can name every single American president throughout history, in order. “Then we moved to Queens, and by the time I had my third child, we moved to Long Island ’cause you can’t live in the city anymore—it’s too dangerous.”

Wang says he was sick of worrying about getting pushed onto the subway tracks, which is exactly how one New Yorker died in March, allegedly shoved by a perpetrator with a violent past who was out on bail. Wang, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in order to become a citizen, tells me he was drawn to the U.S. because it would allow him to openly practice his Christian faith. Now, he’s troubled by the media, which “tells people Donald Trump is a dictator,” and by the anti-Israel mobs who cover their faces and “don’t know what they’re screaming for.”

“I’m from communism, I know how bad it is,” says Wang, wearing a bright red MAGA hat and work boots stamped with the Stars and Stripes. “Now I feel like here is getting like China.”

Top Democrats thought this wouldn’t happen on their turf. The morning of the rally, Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents the portion of the South Bronx that includes Crotona Park, told an MSNBC panel that he’s “confident that the people of the Bronx are not going to buy the snake oil he’s selling.” U.S. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also told a local affiliate that Trump could not “trick” Bronx residents into supporting him. “It is truly an embarrassment to him, and I am looking forward to the response of everyday Bronxites talking about how they feel about him coming to their backyard,” said the congresswoman, whose district is east of the park.

But the people of the Bronx—and New Jersey, and Queens, and Long Island, and upstate New York, many of whom traveled miles to come see the former president whip the crowd into a frenzy—told me otherwise. 

Adam Solis, a 33-year-old who’s half-Dominican and half–Puerto Rican, says AOC does not represent even “one percent” of the values of the Bronx, where he’s lived his entire life. 

“A lot of the morals and the traditions that come out of the Bronx have always been right-leaning and conservative,” he says, his two diamond earrings glistening in the sun. “We all believe in God here in the Bronx, we believe in tradition, we believe in family values, the nuclear family—these are all pillars of our existence.”

Trump supporters in the Bronx chant “U! S! A!” (Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

I hear members of the crowd murmuring in multiple languages—Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, and possibly Portuguese. “Ay, dios mío,” gasps one middle-aged woman, her enormous false eyelashes peeking from beneath the brim of a MAGA hat. Deeper into the crowd, a twentysomething woman perches on a man’s shoulders as if at a music festival, calling out in ecstasy: “Weeee love yooooou, Trump.” When Trump mentions New York, a redheaded boy cups his hands around his red cheeks to scream, “Yeah Trump, turn it red!”

While most other rallygoers are screaming at the top of their lungs, Samuel Heath-Quashie is less starstruck. Still, come November, the black 19-year-old student at Bergen Community College in New Jersey tells me he plans to cast his first-ever vote for Trump.

“It’s not like I look up to him like he’s my god,” the teen shrugs. “He’s a man—he does things I don’t agree with. But so does Biden, and at the end of the day, I want someone who’s going to help the American people.” 

One day, he says, he hopes to move out of his parents’ home in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, but inflation has tanked those dreams. When I ask him if he’s found any apartments he’d be able to afford, he says, “Yeah—they’re not good. They have mold and they have bugs.” He pauses, grimacing. “And I don’t like mold or bugs.” 

“A lot of the morals and the traditions that come out of the Bronx have always been right-leaning and conservative,” said Adam Solis, 33. (Selcuk Acar via Getty Images)

Across the lawn, I find Mika Kol wandering around, asking if anyone has a lighter she can borrow. She’s wearing micro jeans shorts and a hat bearing the legend “I <3 Jesus,” and I assume she’s a Fashion Institute of Technology student. Close: she tells me she’s an online seller of vintage designer clothes under the alias “trustfundgoth.”

“I voted for Biden last time because I thought it would make my mom happy, and she pays my bills,” shrugs Kol, 25, who tells me she is a Jew of Iraqi heritage born in Texas. 

She said she started having second thoughts during the summer of 2020, when other fashion sellers pressured her to give ten percent of her profits to Black Lives Matter, which she calls “Fraud, Inc.” “All that social pressure made me feel like, you know what, I can’t stand woke people. They’re just holding the left hostage.”

And then she realized: “I could say whatever I want around conservative people, and they’ll just be happy that I’m there.”

When I exit the park, I happen upon dozens of police officers in riot gear. Young men and women—draped in keffiyehs and many in N95 masks—are standing behind them on a giant rock, shaking a sign that says, “Fuck Trump / Fuck Biden / The people of the Bronx / We run this shit.”

Anti-Trump protesters gather outside the rally. “It’s just wasteful energy,” said Youssef Naim, 24, of the demonstrators. “Trump is going to win, for sure.” (Stephanie Keith via Getty Images)

“They don’t give a fuck about you,” the protesters chant at the Trump crowd, clapping between words. 

I ask a young man, standing next to me, dressed all in black, what he thinks of the scene. 

“It’s just wasteful energy,” says the man, who introduced himself as Youssef Naim, 24. He said no matter how loud the protesters chant, “Trump is going to win, for sure.”

“And that’s not me saying that’s because he’s a better person—that’s because of a multitude of things,” says Naim, an art teacher who adds that he’s nonetheless leaning toward voting for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

But he has no trouble explaining Trump’s appeal: “A lot of people had this experience that they did better when Trump was in office, paired with Biden shitting himself and having dementia.” 

I ask him if the protesters, who are now marching toward the subway, see what he sees, that the former president could actually become the sitting president once again. 

“Half of them probably don’t. The other half are here because their friends are here, and then a select few just don’t want to admit it.”

Olivia Reingold is a field reporter at The Free Press. Follow her on X @Olivia_Reingold and read her piece “They’re Black Democrats. And They’re Suing Chicago Over Migrants.” 

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